Alabama versus Arkansas: A Statistical Breakdown of Recruiting

The venues, helmets and results stay the same.
All that changes, it seems, are the stitches on the back of their opponents’ jerseys.
By falling to Alabama 38-14, Arkansas lost its bid to join college football’s VIP club for the fifth time in three years. Forget Arkansas-LSU: that annual late-season showdown is always close, and the Hogs will win their fair share.
But the SEC money games which could catapult the Razorbacks into national title contention occur in the season’s first few weeks, and the Hogs have whiffed on Alabama the last three seasons, Florida in 2009 and Auburn in 2010.
Each time, there’s a recurring theme: Arkansas’ opponents unleash game changers with talent the Razorbacks simply can’t match.

Archie’s choice: Good win for Kentucky. How bad a loss for Arkansas?

Archie's still holding onto Kentucky after dropping Arkansas, Memphis, UConn and Kansas. photo credit: Sync magazine

Tuesday night, Archie Goodwin became the first commitment of Kentucky‘s class of 2012.

With the single single tap of a “Tweet” button, the prep basketball star elated thousands of Wildcats fans while crushing the hopes of those wanting him to commit to Memphis or Arkansas.  He told ESPN’s Dave Telep the choice was a “business decision,” a phrase reflecting his desire to prepare himself for the NBA and a belief Kentucky provides the best, and most efficient, platform for that.

Even before he begins his senior year of high school, though, the decision appears to have paid off in terms of boosting Goodwin’s personal brand. In the 16 hours following the 11 p.m. tweet,  Goodwin picked up about 2,000 Twitter followers.

Meanwhile, Arkansas Razorback fans lamented. Many hoped Goodwin would team with Rashad Madden and B.J. Young next year to form what would likely become one of the best back courts in program history. Some fans believe it’s still a possibility. Oral commitments are nonbinding, which allows a last-second change of mind before a recruit signs a letter of intent.

Austin Rivers, last year’s top prep recruit, took advantage of this to back out of a commitment to Florida and become a Blue Devil.

Still, the sheer amount of blue-blooded love flowing between Goodwin and Kentucky followers on Twitter makes his reneging seem doubtful.

If Goodwin does end up signing with Kentucky, he’ll go down as one of the biggest “what-ifs” in Arkansas basketball program history. It’s likely fans haven’t been this disappointed since Al Jefferson, the immensely talented big man from Mississippi, decided to declare for the 2004 NBA Draft rather than play for the Hogs.

Goodwin “is the biggest recruit Arkansas has ever lost on,” says Tim Cooper, prep basketball editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Which opens up a question of Goodwin’ competition for this designation.

So, who are the best in-state Arkansas  recruits to sign with other programs?

1. Keith Lee (West Memphis High School) Lee, a spindly 6-10, 190-pound power forward, helped West Memphis win a state-record 60 consecutive games and averaged 22.9 points and 17.6 rebounds his senior year (1980-1981). He was ranked as one of the nation’s best 15 players by Street and Smith’s magazine and pursued by schools such as UCLA, Louisville and Memphis State. Arkansas coach

Continue reading Archie’s choice: Good win for Kentucky. How bad a loss for Arkansas?

Who wins UCA vs. ASU?

Finally, it’s here.

The week we wash from our eyes the residue of an off-season deluge of stories touching on the fact that, yes, Arkansas State’s football head coach Hugh Freeze was depicted in the The Blind Side, one of 2009’s surprise hits.

That movie briefly shows the role Freeze played in the development of Michael Oher, who went from a homeless and traumatized boy to first round NFL draft pick. Freeze coached him at a  private high school in Memphis, soon after Oher had been adopted by a caring woman and her family.

But a central story-line this week concerns the new identity ASU’s program has adopted  under Freeze, and all the new fans its high-powered spread offense could win considering the unprecedented platform Saturday’s ASU-UCA game has been given.

As for the current fans, they’re already having plenty fun with the resurrection of this 95-year-old rivalry. It’s about time, too.

There are way too few games played between Division I programs in Arkansas, and kudos to the big wigs for making this one happen. I mean, what else besides heated in-state rivalry could inspire comparisons between UCA’s kicker to Frodo Baggins, or a recent Bears transfer to the Cheshire Cat? Something tells me Sun Belt opponent Florida Atlantic ain’t getting this kind of attention from the ASU faithful.

The game, to be played in Jonesboro, should be fun to watch. Going in, ASU holds advantages beyond its home field.

The school is a full-fledged member of the FBS (Division I-A) while UCA is an FCS (Division I-AA) program. ASU is allowed to grant scholarships to 85 players; UCA can give a maximum of 63 scholarships.

So, from a talent standpoint, ASU walks into this shootout with more ammunition.

Another problem for the the Bears: star senior quarterback Nathan Dick, a former Razorback who had been playing the best ball of his career early this season, was knocked out of Saturday’s loss to Sam Houston State with a concussion. His status against ASU is questionable.

{Since} If Dick can’t play, or isn’t effective, then sophomore Wynrick Smothers steps in. “~Im me~”, Smothers declares on his My Space profile, and indeed if Smothers is to be himself on Saturday, ASU will see a better athlete and more dangerous running threat than Dick. But the game will also be the inexperienced Smothers’ first start.

There is capable talent surrounding the quarterbacks, including running back Jackie Hinton (who is recovering from a hamstring injury) and wunderkind wide receiver Jesse Grandy, who starred at Ole Miss last year. An ankle injury kept star linebacker Frank Newsome from playing Saturday but he’s expected to return against ASU.

A final plus for the Bears, this one psychological: the last time these teams played, in 1997, UCA barely lost to ASU 36-35. UCA was then Division II and allowed only 36 scholarships for its football players.

So, yes, it walks into this match-up with significantly more talent.

But that should be offset by another ASU advantage. With its statewide broadcast, this game presents a perfect opportunity for Hugh Freeze to elevate his local reputation from “the coach who was in that Sandra Bullock movie” to “offensive mastermind” and in the process open doors to some of Arkansas’ better high school recruits. To take advantage of this exposure, look for Freeze to throw most – if not all – of his playbook at the Bears.

My prediction: ASU 48, UCA 28

What’s yours?

Score some movie tickets and T-shirt sweetness by leaving your best guess at

UCA Bears nearly beat one of nation’s best soccer teams

Louisville Athletics | Jeff Reinking

UCA men’s soccer team nearly toppled national power Louisville on Sunday.

One of the enduring hot topics of this college football season will be SEC expansion, and which team(s) may soon be joining the conference assuming the Aggies get in.

TV market, academic reputation, strength of football and basketball programs are all major criteria by which this next SEC members will be chosen. While soccer program strength isn’t a major factor, it’s still interesting to imagine what would happen if powerhouse teams from the Big East or ACC joined the SEC. Would the addition of a Maryland, Louisville, North Carolina State or North Carolina make the SEC more likely to sanction men’s soccer competition among its members?

If so, teams like Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama would likely have the initial advantage, considering those states’ large number of elite high school players relative to other SEC states and their U.S. Development Academy club teams.

At first glance, it seems the Arkansas Razorbacks’ hypothetical men’s soccer team would suffer from the relative lack of talent available in a small state like Arkansas. Its key would be capitalizing on the large number of talented players in Oklahoma and north Texas.

But here in real life world, there is only one Division I men’s soccer program in the state, and its success is in part determined by how many of those very same players it can pluck. UCA soccer is the southern-most team in the Missouri Valley Conference, one of the mid-major soccer conferences in the nation. Although only in its second full year of Division I, the Bears are slowly evolving into a regionally competitive program.

On Sunday, UCA traveled to Kentucky and lost 3-2 to a Louisville team ranked #2 in the nation, according to Soccer America  and College Soccer News. It was the second highest-ranked team any UCA sports program had ever faced, following a college baskeball game against #1 Kansas early in the 2009-10 season. UCA lost 94-44 that night and only led for two minutes of the game.

The soccer Bears led most of the match against Louisville, but had to play a man short for the final 26 minutes after Stephen Williams’ ejection following his second yellow card. The Cardinals scored with 56 seconds left.

Still, this is a major local soccer story. And it of course got swallowed by football coverage in local media outlets.

Nearly three thousand people watched the match, which more than doubles the previous attendance record for any UCA men’s match, according to UCA spokeperson Josh Goff. He added: “This might be topped soon, since we play at Creighton on Oct. 29 and they’re averaging about 4800 in their 6000-seat stadium in their two home games this season.”

Extras from Archie Goodwin interview: Nike, adidas and why it matters

Many media types rolled their eyes at the crazily colored uniforms the football teams of Georgia and Maryland wore last weekend.

Most of us long ago put away our East Bay catalogs. We can’t imagine trying to wear something hatched in a shroom-induced nightmare shared by Phil Knight and the Mad Hatter:

But if you get into the mind of a teenager, these uniforms can seem pretty sweet. Brand names, color, design – all this stuff can really matter when you’re a recruit in an increasingly image-saturated sports culture.

That’s something I had to remind myself when talking with high school senior Archie Goodwin, one of the nation’s most highly sought basketball recruits. Goodwin, of course, recently narrowed his list to Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis and Connecticut.

But I was most interested in the reasons he eliminated other top schools from consideration. Such reasons, after all, may provide insight into Goodwin’s priorities when assessing schools, and give clues to his eventual choice.

Here’s the breakdown:

Texas – “I did away with Texas simply because I didn’t feel like my relationship was strong enough with Coach Barnes. I can see myself playing for Texas but I didn’t feel comfortable with him as my coach.”

Missouri – “I talked to the assistant coaches all the time. Coach Tim Fuller is one of the coolest assistant coaches I’ve ever known, but as far as the head coach, I really didn’t know his name. I couldn’t tell you the head coach’s name. He talked to me on the phone, but Tim was the one that mostly called.”

Baylor – “Coach Scott Drew is a great guy. I love Coach Drew. They were one of the first schools that were recruiting me. But I didn’t  like that they were an adidas team, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t go to Kansas because Kansas is a great team.  I can look over the adidas thing – I own some adidas stuff. [Goodwin played recent summers with the Arkansas Wings Elite team, which is sponsored by Nike] I didn’t like their colors, either. I don’t like green and gold. That’s ugly …. When you got ugly colors like that, you gotta be Nike. …. Baylor has some ugly shoes, too.”

“On top of that, the one assistant coach I did really know – Coach Morefield, he moved on to doing something in the NBA so once they lost him I didn’t feel too comfortable with any other assistants on their team.”

“And then, I don’t like it that they play a 2-3 zone. I would rather play man[-to-man defense] than zone because you don’t play zone in the NBA. It’s 95% man.”

Check out of full Sync magazine interview here

I have read a lot of comments on multiple sites, especially Yahoo Rivals, attacking Goodwin as a person for the above statements. Most of the people making these nasty attacks seem to believe the only reason Goodwin chose to eliminate Baylor from contention was aesthetic concerns. This is obviously false, since he gave other reasons. It’s unfortunate that his comments were stripped from their original context on this blog, but I also understand that is an inherent risk with anything written online for public consumption.

My job isn’t to be an apologist, or promoter, for Goodwin. It’s simply to serve as a way for him to tell the world about the life of a modern elite college recruit. He’s done that, and done it well, for six Sync player’s diaries now. 

People who take the time to read these diaries, or listen to other Goodwin interviews online, will quickly realize he’s a personable, intelligent teenager. But he’s a teenager. In the spring, he was watching “SpongeBob” and “Fairly Odd Parents”. He likes to goof around. And yeah, he likes some colors and shoe styles over others.

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, even those spewing ill-informed garbage all over major outlets’ comment sections. It’s a lot easier, after all, to form opinions without first going through the trouble of getting correct context and proper background information.

But it takes curiosity and intelligence to even understand when such effort is necessary. 

The Yahoo Rivals comment section shows those qualities are absent in a disturbingly large number of people. 

Judo master inducted into Hall of Fame at Little Rock ceremony

Dr. He-Young Kimm has done a lot in his 71 years.

The South Korean helped win the Seoul National High School Yudo (Korean Judo) Championships in 1958.

He became a marine lieutenant.

And in 1963, he arrived in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to teach Judo at a local college. He hardly spoke a lick of English, and was the first east Asian many people in his town had ever seen. Small kids, brimming with curiosity, followed him in the streets.

Kimm stayed in Missouri, eventually becoming one of the United States’ best Judo teachers. He’s visited dozens of nations and written eight books on Korean martial arts and philosophy.

But until Friday, he had never been inducted into a Multi-Ethnic Hall of Fame. That changed at the Arkansas ceremony of, well, the Multi-Ethnic Hall of Fame. This was the second time the international organization had been held in Little Rock, which is also headquarters of the worldwide American Taekwando Association.  (Kimm’s taekwando colleagues were partly responsible for the adopted Missourian’s inclusion into the Arkansas ceremony).

Check out Kimm’s induction speech below.

Sports in Arkansas and Podunk Russia: Real War, Fake War & the Real Money of Both

Arkansas is not so unlike Dagestan.

Both are southern, predominantly rural states/republics in much, much bigger nations – Arkansas in the United States, Dagestan in Russia.

Both have just under 3 million people, and about 90% of those people believe in monotheism – Christianity in Arkansas, Islam in Dagestan.

These places also tend to be stereotyped as backwater by the big-city fancy pants of their respective nations. But not when it comes to sports, where football rules in either area – a la American in Arkansas, soccer in Dagestan. Natives of both places, less wealthy and educated than most other areas in their nations, through this game can notch instant, vicarious respect in their nation’s cultural consciousness.

You’d better believe plenty Arkies inwardly nodded and smiled when an acclaimed columnist of the world’s largest sports outlet tabbed the Razorbacks as this season’s college football champions.

And I’m thinking more than just a few Dagestanis pressed the internal “like” button when they heard recent news that in Arkansas football terms would translate to something like this:  Heisman hopefuls Andrew Luck and Dont’a Hightower are transferring to the University of Arkansas, and the NCAA has granted immediate eligibility to play for the Hogs. That’s the kind of impact expected from landing possibly the best player in the sport, as Dagestan’s biggest soccer club did by signing soccer superstar Samuel Eto’o to one of the richest contracts in sports history. He gives the club a legitimate shot at upending the Russian League big boys from Moscow and St. Petersburg.

But here’s where all that similarity talk collapses.

Most Arkansans are poor in American terms, while most Dagestanis are poor in Russian terms. That’s a world of difference.

Look closer and you’ll find Dagestan more  resembles the guerilla war-torn Ozarks circa 1860s than anything like modern Arkansas.

With its mountainous terrain, the area is a hodgepodge of various ethnic groups and a breeding ground of myriad religious tensions often erupting into violence and terrorism. Most Arkansans, unlike Dagestanis, don’t belong to one tribe or another. They don’t have to worry about rampant governmental corruption, a flourishing black market and a clan-based economic system stunting their homeland’s development.

As football season churns up locally, I am reminded of the stark differences between these two areas of the world and how those differences are magnified by their most popular sports.
Continue reading Sports in Arkansas and Podunk Russia: Real War, Fake War & the Real Money of Both

Razorback assistants discuss possibility of Hogs playing with pros and preps in a summer fundraiser

At the Little Rock Razorback club meeting, I was able to ask Razorbacks assistant coaches Matt Zimmerman and T.J. Cleveland about the idea I floated in this week’s Sync column for an NCAA-sanctioned summer basketball event involving high school, college and pro players. There is currently no summer league (or summer tournament) in which current college players are allowed to play, although Scotty Thurman said that Little Rock’s Dunbar Recreational Center used to have such a league.

My essential point in the piece was that the fame of college players, especially Razorbacks (even Razorback recruits) can be leveraged for a good cause: a fundraiser game.

Central Arkansas doesn’t have enough NBA players living in the area to support a multi-month league with the talent of a Bluff City Classic. Instead, when it comes to drumming up public interest, focus should be given to the players at elite Division I colleges and the high school players likely to be joining them. If you made an effort to see David Rivers (Nebraska), A.J. Walton (Baylor), or Jamal Jones (Ole Miss) star at local high schools, you likely still want to see them play. Especially if they take the court with some of the area’s best current prep players — guys like Archie Goodwin (Kentucky, Arkansas recruit), I.J. Ready (Nebraska signee) and Bobby Portis and Dederick Lee (Razorbacks signees).

By charging admission to a gym the size of North Little Rock High or Hall High, thousands of dollars could be raised for something like obesity prevention or diabetes awareness. Moreover, a non-profit association affiliated with those causes could give halftime speeches and pass out literature along with game tickets. Finally, the players responsible for drawing such large crowds would have satisfaction in knowing they’re essentially volunteering their time and abilities to help others.

Razorback assistants Matt Zimmerman and T.J. Cleveland said they’re for anything that helps their players sharpen skills against good competition within NCAA rules – fundraiser tournament included. Zimmerman, a former Missouri assistant coach, said some of his Mizzou players played in a summer league with pros in Kansas City, and that helped them tremendously.

The major problem boils down to college players’ availability if  they were allowed to play in such an event in central Arkansas. Even if the event was only a 2-day tournament, coordinating everybody’s schedule could be an issue. Especially since two summer terms of classes mean a lot of the Razorback players have two weeks away from campus during the summer.

Still, I have to believe if you’re a true baller, you make this happen. Especially if it means getting the chance to play in the same game – in front of thousands of fans – with a guy like Joe Johnson, Sonny Weems or whoever the hot-shot high schooler of the moment is.

In North Little Rock, Blake Eddins lets loose; Mike Anderson discusses Hog freshmen


Preaching to the Faithful

Mike Anderson and former Razorbacks Pat Bradley, Ernie Murry, Blake Eddins, Sunday Adebayo and Scotty Thurman were some of the featured guests at Thursday night’s Little Rock Razorback club dinner at the Park Hill Baptist Church in North Little Rock.

Blake Eddins let loose in his introductory speech, and delivered some gems. Following are choice excerpts.

He opened talking about Nolan’s ouster nearly a decade ago and his reaction when he discovered the powers-that-be weren’t yet ready to make Anderson his permanent replacement:

I was junior on the team the year Coach Richardson got fired. When that happened the team kind of went into scramble mode. The team had a meeting and for some reason wanted me to the spokesperson to the press. So I go out as this idiot 21-year-old and am thinking “Oh, we got this.” I talked to the press. You know, ‘God bless America and all that good stuff.

I leave that deal thinking “Man, I think we’re gonna get this deal, it’s gonna be great.” I find out the next day [the Anderson hiring is] not gonna happen and go to Coach Anderson. I got tears in my eyes. I love the guy. And all I keep saying is ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry coach.’ And Coach A kind of grabbed me by my shoulders and doesn’t blink, doesn’t anything. And in his wonderful, sometimes third-person dialect he said ‘Blake, you don’t worry about Mike Anderson. Mike Anderson’s gonna be fine. Mike Anderson and his family are gonna go get a good job. Mike Anderson’s gonna win some damn ballgames.”

On the legacies of Mike Anderson, Norm Stewart and Nolan Richardson

He won 100 games faster than anybody in Missouri basketball history. He’s got the best winning percentage of anybody in Missouri basketball history. That’s better than Norm Stewart who I think went to a couple of Elite Eights but for some reason has his name on the court. We’ve got a coach who won a national championship and went to a few Final Fours and can’t get his name on a napkin

On Rotnei Clarke

Through all of this, Coach Anderson has never complained. He’s been the same Mike Anderson that recruited me and recruited some of ya’ll. He’s been humble, he’s gone to work and everything. He didn’t complain once, he didn’t pout. He dad didn’t call a writer and say he’s gonna transfer to Gonzaga if he didn’t get his way and all that good stuff.

On Mike vs. Stan

Mike Anderson does everything faster than everybody else. He eats faster, he goes to sleep faster, he fouls you in pickup than anybody you’ll ever play. What was ya’ll’s flight [from Fayetteville] down here? Thirty-six minutes? Something like that. Seven years ago, same flight, same pilot, same plane, same everything – took Stan Heath two hours and 18 minutes. He had to eat something, stop in Russellville and refuel.

Listen to all Eddins’ speech here: Blake Eddins in NLR

Mike Anderson didn’t quite let it fly like Eddins. But the night’s main attraction did offer insight into the new team after three days of workouts. He said it will take time for this team to develop the stamina for his trademark up-tempo game, but the process has certainly begun with 6 a.m. workouts:

We have two hours a week we can do individual workouts with them, so we’ll put these guys through some individual instruction in the 20 to 30 minute slots four days a week … trust me, we can do a whole lot in 30 minutes. We had a couple guys who five minutes into the workout went to the garbage can to puke. And I mean throw it up, literally throwing up and that’s just individual workouts so you can imagine as we get prepared for the conditioning part of it. Like I said, it’s gonna be up-tempo and in your face.

The phrase used to be ’40 Minutes of Hell.’ [With Mizzou] I just just had a nicer version. I called it the fastest 40 minutes. But coming in here with the team that we’ve inherited, I told people “‘Watch out. I might be more like ’15 Minutes of Hell’ and ’25 Minutes of ‘What the Hell are We Doing?'” It’s gonna be a work in progress, but the more we do it, the better we get after it.

Here’s his take on those highly-recruited freshmen:

1) Rashad “Ky” Madden – Anderson loves his energy and effort, but claims he’s 6-6. Unless, kid’s gone on an incredible summer growth spurt, this may be pushing it. When I saw Madden in late May, he was more in 6-4 range. But Anderson’s assessment that he “needs to put some meat on him” is certifiably true.

2) Hunter Mickelson –

He’s put on 25 pounds since he’s been up there, so you’re talking about a guy who’s worked hard this summer. I just like his versatility, he’s a guy who not only works inside he can’t step outside. So as he picks up the speed and strength of the game, I think you’re gonna see a guy who can really help us. [Mickelson, whose father is from Minnesota, last year told me he considers Kevin Garnett the player after which he most tries to pattern his game.]

3) B.J. Young –

He’s a guy that’s gonna score. He figures no one’s gonna stop him from scoring. And he probably has never seen a shot he didn’t like, but the thing I like about him is he’s got a winning attitude. He will fight you and fight you and fight you. And I think we need that.

4) Devonta Abron –

He’s picked up probably 10 pounds. He’s 6-8 and has solidified himself. He’s a left-handed kid but one thing I like about him is he don’t mind banging. I like guys who have aggressiveness and I like guys with toughness and I think that’s what those guys bring to the table.

5) Aaron Ross – Anderson wasn’t allowed to comment on Ross, who enrolled at a Wisconson prep school after failing to academically qualify for the University of Arkansas.

Listen to Anderson’s entire speech here: Mike Anderson in NLR

You’d better believe a whole mess of reporters and cameras gathered round ‘Ol Mike at this one. Here’s proof:

1. KARK films Mike talking to media

2. Powelling around with

3. Pat Bradley, Mike talk to KATV

One-on-one with Solo

Every time one person interviews another person whose name is Solo for a blog post, you already know at the least the title is taken care of. Fortunately, Solomon “Solo” Bozeman, basketball’s reigning Sun Belt Player of Year, is interesting enough to make delving into the following post itself worth your while:

Bozeman, of course, is the guy who in one magical net-swishing March moment lifted UALR from 20 years of NCAA Tournamentlessness to the quasi-promise land  of Dayton, Ohio. The star Trojan guard would soon afterward end his career with 18 points in March Madness‘ opener against UNC-Charlotte, an overtime game from which he fouled out before regulation ended.

Although his eligibility is gone, Bozeman still keeps his skills sharp playing with Trojans.

This summer, he played in Dunbar Community Center’s summer basketball league with the likes of former UALR players Mark Green, Darius Eason, Nick Zachary and Bozeman’s classmate Derrick Bails. Their team, “Too Fast, Too Furious,” lost in the playoffs but Bozeman contends they would have done better had he played in a higher percentage of the team’s 16 games.

But training and school limited him to six games, said Bozeman, who’s taking nine hours this fall to finish a UALR master’s degree in sports management.

The classes are online in case his agent, Ben Pensack, helps land him a gig playing in Europe or the NBDL this fall.

Bozeman has tried to stay ready. Along with summer league ball and individual training, Bozeman spent a week in New York City in June training under former NBA All-Star Butch Beard. He said he enjoyed twice-daily skills development sessions alongside former Notre Dame forward Carleton Scott.

Bozeman isn’t the only recent UALR grad with an eye on Europe. He said Bails leaves September 7th to play on a traveling team in Great Britain and France, but didn’t have any more specifics. He added former UALR star forward Shane Edwards left last week for Verona in  northeastern Italy to play in that nation’s second-best league. Edwards will join Mario West (Georgia Tech), Jeff Trepagnier (USC) and a surprisingly large Sri Lankan immigrant population.