Hilarious Jesters: One of the South’s First Integrated Men’s Basketball Teams

Below is the second of a two-part series about the Hilarious Jesters, a traveling team of former college players who broke racial barriers in the early 1960s. Most stories of integration in the South of this era highlight African Americans entering white worlds, but in this case the Jesters featured a couple white players  playing on a primarily black team vs. all-black teams.

The Little Rock-based group initially included core African-American players such as Chester Lane, Marion Rice and John Davis, as well as McPherson. McPherson later brought Ray Paladino aboard, along with another white player, Charles Taylor. As I mentioned the article, originally published in Arkansas Life, this group scrimmaged against high-level talent such as Harlem Globetrotter extraordinaire Geese Ausbie and NBA player Wayne Yates.

Likely central Arkansas’ first semi-professional integrated basketball team, the Jesters competed primarily against all-black squads of players hailing from communities such as Marked Tree, Marion, Clarendon, Holly Grove, Newport, England, Altheimer and other areas southeast of Little Rock.

McPherson says he had little trouble playing all-black opponents in front of all-black crowds: “First time I did something like that, I was a little bit nervous about how it would turn out, but shoot, nobody ever said a cross word to me.” Lane, however, remembers it slightly differently, recalling fans and even players who occasionally hurled racial taunts at the white players. It never got physical, though. A few times, the Jesters also played all-white teams in areas such as Benton, Conway and Menifee, and the taunting flowed the other way. “Sometimes it was nice, and sometimes we got a little razzing,” Lane says.

McPherson and Lane’s friendship centered on competition, whether basketball, chess or pingpong—which McPherson had learned from Poles while he was stationed in Europe. The two played pingpong in gyms before practices and games, and at Lane’s home, but Lane never visited McPherson’s home, even when he invited him. One day, McPherson called him out on it, asking Lane why he always had an excuse to avoid visiting. Lane said he believed his presence as an African-American man wouldn’t be welcomed by McPherson’s southwest Little Rock neighbors. “They’ll look down their noses at you,” McPherson recalls Lane saying. Lane didn’t want McPherson to experience negative feedback from his community on account of his presence. McPherson understood, appreciated Lane’s desire to protect him and never pushed the point again. “I felt like that was true friendship,” McPherson says.

Despite their name, the Hilarious Jesters provided serious competition for whomever they played. McPherson and Lane were both guards, but while McPherson specialized in shooting, Lane was an outstanding ballhandler as a result of a hip injury he had suffered while playing semiprofessional basketball after college. The injury limited his mobility, but Lane was able to compensate by developing his dribbling skills, McPherson says. “He could almost make a ball talk.”

The team didn’t profit from its games, although it occasionally got gas money and free meals through postgame picnic potlucks. Mainly, they played for love of the sport. Lane recalls a typical outing: a group of the guys jamming into a couple of Oldsmobiles, heading off to play a night game in some small northeast-Arkansas town, pure exhaustion setting in, his wife, Janet, taking the wheel for the long road back.


The Jesters folded after only a couple of years. The players’ lives had gotten too busy for the fun, unpaid times to last forever, but they left a legacy that has endured. By the 1970s, sports would be almost completely integrated, along with most spheres of Arkansas society. There can be little doubt that of the hundreds of all-white and all-black crowds who saw this integrated group of ballers play throughout the years, there would have been some men and women who would have seen in them a sign of a more hopeful future. McPherson, though, says he never thought about trying to change society. “I’m not trying to blow my horn. Race has never been an issue with me,” he says. “I was just playing ball, and color didn’t matter.”

Lane went on to coach high school basketball in Clarendon, then at Arkansas Baptist College in the 1970s. McPherson, who by the mid-1960s had four children, was on his way up the corporate ladder at Horner Boxes in southwest Little Rock. He stayed in the game by playing for corporate-sponsored Amateur Athletic Union teams and later refereed games at all levels, including AAU, high school and college games. Indeed, he recalls once refereeing an Arkansas Baptist game while Lane coached there.

Still, by that point, the friends no longer had the time to hit the courts. They had continued playing pickup at MacArthur Park and Dunbar throughout the 1960s, but those days are long gone. Occasionally, though, someone remembers them.
McPherson recalls, years later, running into a black man around town who knew him through basketball circles. The man told him he appreciated how, unlike other whites, McPherson didn’t act scared or hesitant around blacks. “We always thought you all had been afraid of us, and—little did you know—we were afraid of y’all, too,” he explained to McPherson. “It meant a lot for you to reach out.”

Nowadays, McPherson lives in Alexander and Lane in Sweet Home, south of Little Rock. They talk a few times a year and have attended a few reunions together for their old basketball buddies at Abe’s Ole Feedhouse in nearby Benton. One former on-and-off-again Jester, James Bledsoe, has died, but the others still make it. Granted, the bounce in their step is gone—Lane now enters the restaurant in a wheelchair, and many others limp—but they still know how to let the good times roll. They laugh, reminisce and joke about the old days while picking out fried catfish and hush puppies in the buffet line. Geese Ausbie, true to Globetrotters form, is still prone to clown around with servers, McPherson says.

Through it all, not a word about big-picture stuff like race relations and the group’s small but significant role in tearing down walls is ever uttered, McPherson adds. He refuses to acknowledge his own likely status as a pioneer. “I don’t want to make an issue of something now that wasn’t an issue then. That was not my intent.”

In November, his hope was to attend a basketball game at Philander Smith that would be attended by some of his old basketball buddies. Lane’s health had been off and on, so McPherson offered to stop by his old friend’s house and give him a ride.

As before, just a little pickup.

 

 


 

To read more about the Hilarious Jesters and Arkansas sports history in the content of race relations, make sure to check out the first part of the above article. 

Joe Barry Carroll, a No. 1 NBA Draft Pick, Straight Up Became a Fine Arts Connoisseur

Formerly “in the paint”; Now into painting.

Next month, Fort Smith native Jahlil Okafor could be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. If he is, the 6’11” center will be the third Arkansan native to go No. 1 in a major American team sport since Joe Barry Carroll in 1980. Okafor spent his childhood in the Ft. Smith area before moving to a bigger metro area in Chicago. Carroll, meanwhile, spent some of his elementary school days in Pine Bluff before his mother shepherded her large family to Denver.

There, among the Rockies, Carroll grew to seven feet tall and became a prized recruit. He then became a legendary player at Purdue, leading the Boilermakers to the 1980 Final Four while racking up 26.3 points a game.

I’ve written about Carroll’s lofty place among NBA Arkansans in multiple statistical categories, but I hadn’t seen much about his roots in Arkansas until the following news showed up in my inbox.

It turns out Carroll has become both a painter and writer who has been contemplating his Arkansan roots. Now living in Georgia, Carroll will return to his home state this fall for an exhibit in Little Rock:

“The Historic Arkansas Museum will host the contemporary art exhibit, “Growing Up . . . In Words and Images” by NBA All Star, Joe Barry Carroll. The exhibition will open in Historic Arkansas Museum’s Trinity Gallery for Arkansas Artists during 2nd Friday Art Night on September 11 from 5 to 8 pm. The opening reception will include a gallery talk with Carroll and a book signing in the Museum Store. 

The exhibition will include paintings from Carroll’s memoir coffee table book of the same name. The colorful and evocative acrylic and mixed media paintings have been described as “folk” and “impressionistic.” The paintings explore what Carroll refers to as “shared humanity”—childhood, dreams, family ties, southern culture and self-discovery.  In “Growing Up,” Carroll’s southern-comfort prose reveals the life of a boy who seemed “to not be enough of any one particular thing to be the right thing.”

Born the tenth of thirteen children, Carroll was raised in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and Denver, Colorado, where his mother supported the family as a domestic worker, fry cook, and eventually a nurse’s aide. He dreamed of saving the day for his family and writes, “Every time I witnessed my mother’s defeat and difficulty as another dream died, I resolved to make it all better one day.”

Carroll led the Purdue University Boilermakers to the Final Four in 1980 and graduated with a degree in Economics. Carroll was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1980 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors. He would go on to play for Milano (Italy), the Houston Rockets, New Jersey Nets, Denver Nuggets and the Phoenix Suns. Carroll is now a wealth advisor, philanthropist, painter and writer.

Historic Arkansas Museum is open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1 – 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission to the galleries and parking are free; admission to the historic grounds is $2.50 for adults, $1 for children under 18, $1.50 for senior citizens. The Historic Arkansas Museum Store is open 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1 – 4 p.m. on Sunday.”

Carroll, it turns out, had the seventh-highest scoring performance in NCAA Tournament history in 1980. Interestingly, the number one player on that list – Glen Rice – apparently was born in Jacksonville, Ark. before moving to Michigan as a baby or toddler. 

In the early 1980s, Carroll was one of league’s best men while playing for the Golden State Warriors, which is now the favorite to win the NBA Finals according to sports handicappers. He averaged more than twenty points per game in seven seasons there and made the All-Star Game in 1987.  Overall, Carroll played 12 seasons with a career high average of 24 points in the 1983-84 season. 
 
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ma84UIxVfcs&w=420&h=315]

Below is more about Carroll’s wide-ranging past, via his official biography:

Continue reading Joe Barry Carroll, a No. 1 NBA Draft Pick, Straight Up Became a Fine Arts Connoisseur

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Old-School UCLA vs. New-School Kentucky

russell block usf
“Talented Tommy Heinsohn gets his hook shot swatted into the third row of seats of Madison Square Garden” thanks to Bill Russell. (From the 1956 University of San Francisco yearbook)

I recently examined how good Kentucky’s defense has been this season compared to the best teams in college basketball history. The piece is in SLAM here.

Naturally, the great UCLA teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s (winners of 88 straight! Seven straight national championships!) were part of the analysis. And fortunately two of the best Bruins of this era – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jamaal Wilkes – provided me with some first-hand insight.

I found out that Abdul-Jabbar considered the best UCLA defense he played with to be different from what UCLA’s media guide indicates. Jabbar’s senior team (1968-69) held all of its opponents to an average  of 37.4 % field goal shooting and 63.8 points a game. Those numbers were at 38.4% and 67.2 ppg the previous season.

And yet it’s Kareem’s junior year, 1967-68, which he considers the best college defense he played on. He explains:

      “That was our most versatile team. The depth and the good athletes made that our best team.  The only loss we had was against the University of Houston because I had a sub par game having spent the previous week in the Jules Stein Eye Clinic with an injury. Everyone counted us out until we had the rematch in the NCAA Tournament and beat them by 32 points.
        I had kept the Sports Illustrated cover featuring Elvin [Hayes] hanging inside my locker for the rest of the season as a reminder and motivator. Since this was the first loss my UCLA teams experienced I didn’t want it to be a repeat occurrence. It must of worked because I only lost two games during my entire college career.”

I’m not one to argue with an authority like KAJ. It’s very possible the ’68 defense was actually better than ’69  relative to how strong its opponents were. Unfortunately, we don’t have the same kind of strength of schedule metric for teams of this era as we do for more recent teams.

The work around, as I detail in SLAM, is to look at how teams performed purely against Associated Press Top 25 foes. Those specific stats often take work to come by, but they are worth it.

Here are other excerpts from my January interview with Abdul-Jabbar, who recently authored the latest installment of his “StreetBall Crew” series for young adults:

Q: I know many rules have changed since the 1960s, but how do you think that [1967-68] defense would have fared against some of the top teams in modern NCAA basketball?

A) I think we would have been just as dominant as we were in the Sixties. I think the fact that our players had to stay in school and could not jump to the NBA enabled them to learn the game in-depth and the one and done players don’t have that type of complete fundamental preparation.

Q) Do you feel like the best UCLA team you played on would have been athletic enough, overall, to beat a modern elite NCAA team?

A) Modern elite NCAA teams do not feature players who have stayed through their junior and senior years and lack the in-depth competence of a team that has upper classmen. I still think we would  have to be considered as one of the best teams that ever played college ball.

Q) On the defensive end, what similarities do you see between the 2014-15 Kentucky team and your best defensive UCLA team? Are there any current Wildcats (or Wildcats on the 2010 or 1996 teams) that remind you of any Bruins on that team (in style of play, physicality or both)?

A) I haven’t seen the Wildcats play recently so I can’t compare them, but I do know that they are dominant team from the way they whipped UCLA and held them to 7 points in a half.

Q) In your opinion, what are the best two or three defensive teams in all of NCAA history?

A) Bill Russell’s 1956 USF team*, John Wooden’s first NCAA championship in 1964 and my UCLA 1968 team are the three best. None of the modern teams would have been able to compete with Bill Russell’s teams or the UCLA teams because they lack the cohesion you get from staying in a program for four years. Bill Russell’s team featured two of the best defensive players that ever played in the NBA, namely Bill Russell and K.C. Jones. The 1964 UCLA team was undefeated – need I say more ?


*I would love to see how this team performed against Top 25 foes. Unfortunately, those box scores appear to be missing as of now. We do know for sure is that USF ’56 was very, very good, holding all foes to 31% shooting and 52 points a game.

Stay tuned for more excerpts from the Jamaal Wilkes interview, and some details numbers from my all-time teams comparison.

Joe Kleine Breaks Down Bobby Portis’ Post Game, Discusses North Carolina

kleine2

I had the chance to talk to the Razorback legend for a North Carolina-Arkansas mini oral history which runs on Sporting Life Arkansas today. Kleine, who recently finished his eighth season as an assistant coach with UALR, was pivotal figure in leading Arkansas to an historic 1984 win over No. 1 UNC. I couldn’t help also ask him about what will happen in Saturday night’s second round game between the programs, in which Arkansas has a shot to break into its first Sweet 16 since 1996.

Q: What’s your take on the Tar Heels?

A: I think they’re talented. Especially Marcus Paige –  he’s a really good point guard. Any time you’re pressuring as much as Arkansas does, a really good point guard worries you. Because he gets through there, he can cause a lot of trouble.”

Q: Bobby Portis has had a great season, you agree. In order for him to take his game to the next, where do you think he must most improve?

A: I’m a little leery to critique him because I’m not there, seeing him every day. These are things I’ve noticed just one or two times – in his post play, as with all young post players, he’s got to develop a counter move with his left hand.

I’ve seen him do some things with his off hand but he’s got to get the point where he can put it up over his shoulder with Taken by Marc Henning of marcfhenning.comhis left hand as well as he does on the other side. Still, I love his face up game and his rebounding. He has a tenacity there that is a really, really good sign … He just has to continue to work on his face up game, get to the point where he can drive as well with his left hand as with his right.

Q: Sounds like he would do well to spend a little time in Hakeem Olajuwon’s post-up training academy.

A: I’m 53 years old, and I would be well served by spending time in that academy. That man is simply amazing.

Q: How good can Bobby be?

A: Worst case scenario, for Bobby Portis, I see Joe Kleine – a guy who can play a long time in the league, can spot shoot, can defend. Whether he can be a big time scorer, that remains to be seen. His ability to score against bigger, taller, more athletic guys is going to be indicative of what kind of career he’s going to have.

Q: Overall, who do you expect to win on Saturday night?

A: You could make an argument either way. You’ll have two good teams playing on edge, that have a lot to lose, with a lot of emotion. It’ll bring out the best in both of them … I’m a fan of Arkansas – that’s gonna push me toward them. I wouldn’t want to make a living having to pick the outcome of that game.

Q: UALR head coach Steve Shields was just let go. It’s hard for me not to ask: What are your plans now?

A: I want the job. I’ve thrown my name in, I’ll put that way.

Ranking All 46 NBA/ABA Arkansan Three-Pointer Shooters

In few realms does the state of Arkansas travel the Middle Way. In politics, we’re among the reddest of the red. In education, we’re near the bottom of nearly all national metrics. Income stats, too.

It’s hardly a long shot to say Arkansans don’t do moderation well.

Except when it comes to producing world-classily average deep shooters. Arkansas ranks No. 25 among 50 states in three-point shooting in the NBA and the now-defunct ABA. That’s an accuracy only ranking, tallied by adding up all three-point makes and attempts by all NBA/ABA players born in each state. New Hampshire, South Dakota and Nebraska are tops here, with New Mexico, Delaware and Wyoming groveling at the bottom. Click here to nerd out more on this stuff, as I did for SLAM.

Looking at only native Arkansans, we see one reason for the state’s supreme averageness is the lack of any elite deadeye gunners. No Kyle Korvers, Hubert Davises, Dell Currys – or even Martell Websters or Anthony Morrows -have ever come out of our state. While Joe Johnson did briefly hold the NBA record for three point makes in one quarter (8), he hasn’t consistently been able to sustain the elite accuracy he showed early in his career with the Phoenix Suns.

Indeed, when it comes to accuracy, the best Arkansan long bomber isn’t even know for being an Arkansan. Mike Conley, Jr., son of Razorback track great Mike Conley, moved in childhood from Fayetteville to Indiana.

14 Best NBA/ABA Arkansan Three Point Gunners

3 PT% Made Attempted Native Town
Jasper Wilson* 0.429 6 14 Camden
Mike Conley 0.376 630 1677 Fayetteville
Derek Fisher 0.374 1248 3341 Little Rock
Joe Johnson 0.372 1671 4497 Little Rock
Fred Jones 0.353 346 979 Malvern
Jimmy Oliver 0.34 17 50 Menifee
Marcus Brown 0.333 13 39 West Memphis
Quincy Lewis 0.333 37 111 Little Rock
Jeff Webster 0.333 2 6 Pine Bluff
James Anderson 0.33 173 525 El Dorado
Scottie Pippen 0.326 978 3002 Hamburg
Fat Lever 0.31 162 523 Pine Bluff
Dennis Nutt 0.294 5 17 Little Rock
Sidney Moncrief 0.284 110 387 Little Rock

*I don’t consider Jasper Wilson the most accurate NBA Arkansan three-point shooter of all time. He just lucked out with a small sample size. A “not-small” sample size, in the context of this ranking, should probably begin around 200 career attempts. 

Notice the rankings only consider birthplace, not where the player actually went to high school. That’s why even the most hardcore NBA Arkansan fan will see unfamiliar names on these lists. And while I technically shouldn’t have included Ronnie Brewer on account of his spending his first four years in Oregon, where his dad played basketball, I couldn’t help myself. Too many Arkansans would want the exception to be made.

Ronnie has never been known as a great shooter, so it comes as no surprise he ranks No. 14 in the

Worst 21 NBA/ABA Arkansan Three Point Shooters

Jeff Martin 0.282 29 103 Cherry Valley
Ronnie Brewer 0.254 90 335 Portland, OR
Andrew Lang 0.25 5 20 Pine Bluff
Ron Brewer 0.248 30 121 Fort Smith
Sonny Weems 0.241 19 79 West Memphis
Jim McElroy 0.206 7 34 Cotton Plant
Cory Carr 0.167 5 30 Fordyce
Keith Lee 0.167 2 12 West Memphis
Archie Goodwin 0.159 7 44 Little Rock
Jeremy Evans 0.143 1 7 Crossett
Wil Jones 0.143 12 84 McGehee
Corliss Williamson 0.136 6 44 Russellville
Caldwell Jones 0.123 7 57 McGehee
Major Jones 0.111 1 9 McGhee
Bryant Reeves 0.074 2 27 Fort Smith
Jeff Taylor 0 0 1 Blytheville
Jerry Rook 0 0 2 Jonesboro
Gaylon Nickerson 0 0 2 Osecola
Charles Jones 0 0 6 McGehee
Joe Barry Carroll 0 0 13 Pine Bluff
Michael Cage 0 0 25 West Memphis

More of a surprise is the depth to which second-year pro Archie Goodwin’s shooting has submarined. Sure, Goodwin’s strength has always been driving to the basket. But he had made strides shooting from deep his senior year at Sylvan Hills and was better than this in his lone season at Kentucky. We’ll see how much he improves with more minutes, and more opportunities to get in a groove.

I should also be noted Sonny Weems has in recent years become a 37% three-point shooter in the world’s second-most competitive league. 

Of course, some of the best NBA Arkansans never had a chance to prove their not-so-middling mettle in this realm. Below are mostly native Arkies who either played before played before 1979, when the NBA adopted the three-pointer, or who played but not in the ABA – which used the three from its 1967 get-go.

Continue reading Ranking All 46 NBA/ABA Arkansan Three-Pointer Shooters

KeVaughn Allen Was Considering Becoming a Hog in Late 2014, But Not in January 2015

Won't be jumping elsewhere.
Allen says he won’t be jumping elsewhere. [Photo by Jaison Sterling of PulaskiNews.net]
Just got off the phone with KeVaughn Allen, the North Little Rock High senior who’s one of the nation’s top shooting guards.  I was interviewing him for an upcoming story for SLAM magazine, but also wanted to know the latest on this two-time state champion’s recruitment status.

Last April, Allen committed to the University of Florida. His high school coach Johnny Rice told me that until that point Arkansas had heavily recruited him but backed off after he committed to play for Billy Donovan.

Arkansas coaches could have tried harder, though, according to Allen’s long-time AAU coach and trainer Kahn Cotton. Cotton, who has trained Allen most mornings for the last five years, recalls that coaches with Louisville, Florida, Connecticut, Baylor, Tennessee and Memphis had all personally visited Allen or watched one of his games more times than Arkansas coaches had before last April. “Florida had been here three times and Arkansas came once in that time period … Baylor had been down four times, Tennessee three times, Memphis five or six times by that time.”

Arkansas’ coaches can’t speak for themselves on this matter, as Allen hasn’t yet signed with a program. But it doesn’t seem Allen was as high of a priority for Mike Anderson and his staff as other in-state players like Bobby Portis and now Malik Monk (Anderson and every Razorback basketball player except Alandise Harris [who was ill] watched a December double-header which included a game between Monk’s Bentonville team and St. Louis Chaminade).

There was a flare of hope among Razorback fans a couple months ago when Allen – who according to Rice is averaging around 23 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.8 steals per game while shooting around 55% on field goals and 38% on threes – chose not to sign early with Florida. Also last fall Arkansas commit K.J. Hill, his classmate and teammate, told Sync’s Nate Olson he would try to persuade him to join him on the Hill.

Twice, at different points in the phone interview, I asked Allen if he was going to sign with Florida in the spring and twice he said “yes.” I asked him if he planned to visit any other campuses and he said “no.” When I asked Allen how many times Hill had tried to convince him to come to the UA, Allen said “two or three times.”

I then asked him what he said in response. “I’ll consider it,” he said, referring to what he told Hill. I asked him if he’s considering it {going to Arkansas} any longer and he said “no.” He reaffirmed his plan to sign with Florida and said he will not visit any other programs.

He added the only current or committed/signed Gator player he’s in contact with is big man Noah Dickerson. It’s unclear where 6-3 Allen would fit in next year. Florida’s 2015-16 guard returnees will likely include star Michael Frazier, fellow 4-star+ talents in Kasey Hill, Chris Chiozza and Brandone Francis, along with incoming transfer Eli Carter. That’s a loaded backcourt which has already factored in two players – Braxton Ogbueze and Dillon Graham – transferring out of the program.

That’s why some programs like Tennessee, Memphis, Texas A&M, Missouri, California and Arkansas (by phone) are still recruiting Allen, Cotton says. He believes Allen would have the likelihood of significantly more playing time at other programs*.


Meanwhile, on the football front, it’s not exactly set where K.J. Hill will land.

The future of the dynamic, four-star wide receiver who may also play guard in college basketball is in doubt after the departure of Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Cheney was announced this weekend. Hill had said Chaney was a major reason he chose Arkansas in the first place.

“Jim Chaney leaving Arkansas for the same job at Pittsburgh makes receiver K.J. Hill’s commitment uncertain at this time, according to his stepfather Montez Peterson,” the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Richard Davenport wrote. “He said they have also heard rumors of receivers coach Michael Smith leaving and Hill will keep his options open.”

Allen says he has not lately spoken to Hill about his collegiate future.

* Like Florida, Arkansas doesn’t have a clear-cut opening in its backcourt next season. The Hogs’ guard returnees are Anton Beard, Manuale Watkins, Anthlon Bell, Nick Babb and Jabril Durham. While the Hogs lose an anchor in Ky Madden, they gain sharp-shooting transfer Dusty Hannahs and Jimmy Whitt, a scoring prodigy who’s putting up more than 30 points and four steals a game for his Columbia, Mo. high school. 

All the same, plenty of programs could find minutes for a player the caliber of Allen. 

The First D1 Arkansan Basketball Player to Notch a 20/20/4/3 Stat Line in Decades

Anthony Livingston got a shout out from SportsCenter on Saturday night.
Anthony Livingston got a shout out from SportsCenter on Saturday night.

Arkansas State forward Anthony Livingston goes by the nickname “Big Ant” despite standing 6’8″ and weighing 230 pounds. He’s going to find hanging on to that alias even more difficult after notching a gargantuan stat line on Saturday, when he became the first Division 1 player in decades to score 20 points, grab 20 rebounds, dish four assists and block three shots for an Arkansas university.

The Red Wolves (4-4) needed every bit of the Washington D.C. native’s help against Marshall, too. Early in the second half, Arkansas State trailed the Thundering Herd by eight points but Livingston’s shooting helped key an 8-0 run while his energy on the boards helped the Red Wolves out-rebound Marshall by 15 in the second half.

Arkansas State won 67-58.

It was the second time since 1997 a Sun Belt player had a 20/20/4/3 and the most un-ant-like performance by an ASU big since January 1994 when 6’7″ Jeff Clifton lifted the program atop his shoulders and Incredible Hulked it to a 66-54 win against UALR with 43 points, 25 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks. That performance, which remains the most statistically dominant by a Division I big man at an Arkansas university in the last two decades, came on the heels of a UALR player boycott involving Derek Fisher.

Three years later, Trojan power forward Montrelle Dobbins put up 27 points, 20 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 3 steals and 5 turnovers in a 56-64 road loss to South Alabama. That same year, UAPB’s Fred Luckett had 22 points and 21 rebounds in a 68-116 road loss to Mississippi Valley State.

Since then, there had been only two 20/20 games by Division I Arkansans:

1. 1998

Nicky Davis (UA) – 24 points, 23 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 blocks, 2 steals, 6 turnovers

UA won 97-71 at home against Jackson State

2. 2005

Rashad Jones-Jennings (UALR) – 23 points, 30 rebounds*, 1 assist, 0 blocks, 3 steals, 3 turnovers

UALR won 72-54 at home versus UAPB

*Jones-Jennings’ 30 rebound night remains the second-highest total in D1 college basketball since 1997. How impressive is that? It’s the second-best output out of more than 1.8 million individual performances.

Just in case you’re curious – and I’m guessing you’re slightly curious if you’ve made it down here – below are all Division I players to reach at least 20 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks in a single game since 1997.

1. Tim Duncan (Wake Forest) 1997

2. Mike Sweetney (Georgetown) 2002

3. Brandon Hunter (Ohio) 2003

4. Yemi Nicholson (Denver) 2006

5. Michael Beasley (Kansas State) 2007

6. Matt Mullery 2009 (Brown)

7. Keith Benson 2010 (Oakland)

8. Tony Mitchell (North Texas) 2012

It’s very difficult to tell how many times – if any – an Arkansan student-athlete accomplished this stat line before Livingston. Former Razorback star Dean Tolson, for instance, had five games of 20 or more rebounds in the early 1970s, and it’s likely he also scored at least 20 points in some of those games. But it’s hard to find individual box scores from those games, and it’s time-consuming to search for them through newspaper microfilm. Plus, as my main HogStats.com man below points out, blocks and assists weren’t tracked in that era:

Team USA vs. Best Basketball Players of Europe, Asia & South America

http://globalitesports.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/france-beats-lithuania-to-win-bronze-at-fiba-world-cup-in-spain/
Apart, they’re good. Together, they’d be great. (Via Globalitesports.com)

OK, rest of the world. It’s time to cry “uncle” already.

I’m an American, who appreciates winning, steak, Will Ferrell, and all the rest. But I am tiring of the headlock Team USA has every other nation in. On Sunday, the United States beat Serbia 129-92 in a FIBA World Cup title game that after six minutes held about as much drama as “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.” The U.S. has now reeled off 63 straight wins, a run that was cool at first, when we had something to prove in basketball after losing three Olympic games a decade ago. Yes, the whole “Redeem Team” thing was fantastic. Millions of Americans tuned in to see the U.S. make a resounding statement in the 2008 Olympics to reclaim Gold.

Less enthralling was the “Confirmation Team” of the 2010 FIBA World Cup. Or Confirmation Team 2.0, or 3.0. We get it: America is unequivocally the sport’s King once more. It’s clear that since American basketball powers actually put their mind to it, the U.S. simply has too large a pool of hyper-skilled, hyper-athletic players – headlined by hyper-athletic, hyper-skilled young superstars ( e.g. Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis) – that no other single nation can hope to match.

Spain, of course, appeared to pose a threat this summer. They boasted multiple NBA All-Stars, and a roster that in total had logged more NBA games (3,223) than even the American roster (3,213). But the host nation went cold at the wrong time, against a French team with enough athletic wing players to disrupt the Spanish perimeter offense. With far more disruptive, quicker players, the Americans would have beaten Spain too.

Now that the sun is setting on Spain’s Golden Generation, as it already has with Argentina’s, the United States is accelerating beyond the teams that have hung with them in recent years. “If anything, the gap is widening,” ESPN announcer Fran Fraschilla said last week during the Americans’ semifinal win against Lithuania. To the point where no nation poses a legit threat to Team USA at the 2016 Olympics.

France could look best on paper, but they would need four Nicolas Batums to hope to slow a team with firepower including Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Paul George. If the San Antonio Spurs, a favorite to repeat as NBA champions this coming season, were allowed entry they would pose the biggest threat. But despite the Spurs’ Texan roots, they appear unlikely to seek political autonomy any time soon.

Instead of messing with the Olympics, it’s time to form another major international tournament that provides actual compelling and competitive basketball. Provide a venue in which the best players from non-U.S. nations team up by continent. Call it basketball’s “Pan-Continental Cup.”

On their own, Marc Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Ricky Rubio et al won’t beat the U.S. in the coming years. Spain doesn’t have wing players big and athletic enough to defend the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant. But with France’s Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw on their side, they have a legit shot. Add long, imposing players like Joakim Noah, an intermittent French national team member, or England’s Luol Deng to the mix, and the U.S. would finally face a foe that rivals it in terms of skill, athleticism and size.

Pan-continental teams work. Look at golf, where the Ryder Cup has pitted a Team USA vs. a Team Europe since 1979.  Meanwhile, bowling has its own USA vs. Europe competition. In each sport, over the years, the two sides have proven to be pretty much even.

The idea is already a reality at the youth basketball level. FIBA sanctions the Nike Global Challenge, an annual event in which a Pan-Asian team has competed against other nations including the U.S., and a Pan-African team still does. Another event, the Nike Hoop Summit, goes one step farther: It pits some of the United States’ best high school players against the best similarly aged players from all other nations. Just like in golf and bowling, this setup helps raise the game of both sides and provides better competition. Each side has won three games each in the last six years.

Continue reading Team USA vs. Best Basketball Players of Europe, Asia & South America

Who is in Malik Monk’s Inner Circle?

Yam Supreme on Make A Gif

This young man needs his own silhouette logo.

Great work by the folks at Courtside Films, who put together an authoritative summer highlight package on Malik Monk – the springy Bentonville High junior who is developing into one of the most highly recruited players in state history regardless of sport.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bs1ERE3uxJg&w=560&h=315]

Here are two interesting take-aways from an interview in the video:

1. It’s unclear exactly how high Malik can jump these days, but he had a running vertical jump of 42 inches in the eighth grade. He told me last spring he helped develop some of that extraordinary leg power by running through the mud that would form in the rural backyard after it rained.

2. His home – before 10th grade – was in Lepanto, Ark., the Monks’ native town to which Malik gives a shout out in the above video. He also gave an shout out to The Woods, the neighborhood he grew up in (across the street from his cousin, Razorback guard Ky Madden). Finally, he gave props to “SYM,” which is something I want to find out more about.

“SYM” stands the Lepanto friends of Malik and his older Marcus Monk, Marcus told me via text. Marcus Monk, as well their mother Jackie, are definitely at the top of the Malik Monk Inner Circle Hierarchy (which I refuse to henceforth refer to as the I.C.H.)

Back in Lepanto, the family has a lot of close friends and relatives, including the Maddens (Indeed, Ky Madden often Tweets out #sym) and Malik’s brothers Byron and Aaron Scales. On Malik’s Twitter page, Malik pays homage to his cousin Troy Tucker, who died three years ago from complications of sickle cell anemia. Next week, in an interview for Letterman Magazine, I’ll ask him and Marcus more about who/what “SYM” are, but Malik might have thrown out a clue by mentioning two people below:

I don’t know who @Dero7_GH is, but it appears that Rod Winkler is a University of Arkansas student who loves himself some basketball. Based on the profile image of his Twitter account, this appears to be the same Rod Winkler who caused a minor stir last January by getting into a heated, impromptu defensive positioning tutorial with Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison after UK lost to Arkansas in Fayetteville:

harrisonarkfan1

It doesn’t appear Winkler is from Lepanto (his Twitter feed and this article cite Little Rock as his hometown), but I don’t want to speculate. Maybe he lived in the Lepanto area earlier in life, after all. He probably never lived in Auburn Hills, Michigan, as the following image created by Kentucky Sports Radio of Winkler taking his game to the proverbial next level would have the simpletons among us believe.

Source: http://kentuckysportsradio.com/main/rod-winkler-vs-the-world/

Thank you for your explosive dunking, Malik Monk. And so long as you don’t get involved in actual Malice in any sort of Palace, I also give thanks to you, Rod Winkler, for making our world a less boring place.

Nolan Richardson’s Official HOF Enshrinement Program Profile Part 2

As far as I know, this is the only version of the 4-page thing available online. Here’s the first half. Below’s the second:

Good times all around.
Good times all around.

[Below is text not entirely visible in the above and below sections]:

He coached five seasons at Tulsa, going 119-37 for a searing .763 winning percentage. But every great character in American literature faces adversity … faces heartbreak. And so it was for Nolan Richardson.

“It was Monday, right after the NCAA pairings were released (in 1985) and we thought our daughter Yvonne was sick with the flu,” he said. “We were getting ready to play UTEP in the NCAA Tournament…

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