Of Parkview v. North Little Rock & the Old-School Genius of Al Flanigan

Flanigan_victory_towel[1]
When KeVaughn Allen fouled out with a minute to go, Flanigan took out the towel to signify the win was all but sealed.
More than a decade ago, my little brother, then a high school sophomore, made one of Little Rock Parkview’s basketball teams. This was no small achievement. His classmates and teammates were serious players like Marc Winston and Jamaal Anderson who went on to star in football and became a first-round draft of the Atlanta Falcons. [Atlanta, btw, plays the Redskins this Sunday. Click here for more about that game and NFL betting news.] My brother only lasted a couple months with Parkview before he quit (wasn’t exactly what could be called “self-disciplined”), but he did play in all the practices and even got thrown into the end of a couple games. Despite the transitory nature of his experience, to this day he considers the fact he got into the program at all and played for its legendary coach to be the height of his athletic career.

Parkview, of course, is a gold standard in Arkansas high school prep circles. To be associated with it means something. It means you’re going to know how to find the open man, you’re going to cut to the hole when it’s time and you’re going to get your ass chewed out by one Al Flanigan. Through the decades Parkview’s head basketball coach has won five state titles, but I’m not sure if he’s delivered a more impressive victory than what happened on Friday night.

His Patriots team, in theory depleted a year after losing two high major recruits, beat defending state champion North Little Rock team 65-55. The Charging Wildcats (4-1) are hands down the state’s most talented team. Start with sophomore Adrian Moore, a transfer from Conway, who has offers from Baylor and Arkansas and delivered a one-handed tomahawk at the end of the first half which caused the roof to tremble.

Continue with muscular K.J. Hill, who will end up playing high major football (he’s an Arkansas recruit). Hill, a junior guard, transferred last summer from Bryant and is only now getting into basketball shape. He wasn’t as much of an offensive force tonight as he will be in two months. NLR’s starting backcourt features yet another transfer, senior Anton Beard, who this summer rejoined his middle school running mate KeVaughn Allen after spending the first three years of his high school career at Parkview. Beard is a Hog signee, and there are plenty people trying hard to make sure the highly-sought Allen, a junior, becomes one too.

Allen is nationally ranked as the eighth-best player  in his class. Heading into this game against Parkview, NLR had been the top-ranked team in the state for more than a year.

But rankings go out to the window when you face a team led by the fiery Al Flanigan, even if that team is perceived to be in a down year.  His team’s best players may not have high D1 scholarship offers or any number of stars attached to their names, but they showed five-star chemistry that is a direct tribute to Flanigan, the very definition of tough love. When Parkview (5-0) was trying to hold on to a 12-point lead early in the second half, he repeatedly jumped out of his seat and waved his signature talisman – a red towel – to rally his troops from the sideline. He huffed and puffed and nearly blew a couple of his players down, at one point faking like he was going to slap a Patriot with his towel before quickly pulling it back, smiling and giving the kid a quick pat on the back. He is not averse to having a little fun with his opponents’ fans and will let loose an extremely loud “God D***!!!” now and then. Through it all, though, it’s obvious he has his players’ utmost respect. They were very sharp against NLR and, more importantly, “they played like they wanted it more than we did,” NLR head coach Johnny Rice told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3n6wpj5eNo4&w=560&h=315]

A few more scatter shot observations:

1) There are no visible signs of hard feelings between Flanigan and his former protege Anton Beard.  Three years ago, Beard became the first freshman Flanigan had ever started. He helped deliver two state titles to Parkview but by the end of his junior year decided he wanted to play for North Little Rock, where he lives. This had to have been a disappointing decision for Flanigan to hear (especially since he’d lost his other elite guard – I.J. Ready – to graduation last spring) but it was good to see there is still a bond between the one-time sensei and student. Beard had a subpar game – he forced a few bad shots and at one point midway through the second half, after a series of misses near the basket, wound up face down on the court pounding the floor in frustration. Beard finished with 16 points, but some of his attempts came the expense of establishing an offensive flow.

Beard also suffered some kind of minor leg or ankle injury while throwing his body around and he probably played the last part of the game through pain. Still, you could tell Flanigan still cared about his prodigal son. At one stop in game action, Beard stood on the court a few feet from Flanigan, hands on his knees and grimacing in pain. Flanigan shouted: “You all right, player?”

After the smoke cleared...
After the smoke cleared…

Continue reading Of Parkview v. North Little Rock & the Old-School Genius of Al Flanigan

Justin McCleary’s Recruiting, Dederick Lee’s Offers And Arkansas’ New Representative in the Nike EYBL

 

Justin McCleary talks to me while wearing a shirt repping the Arkansas Wings, the AAU program for which the Lee bros will play this summer.  Photo by Matt McClenahan.
Justin McCleary talks to me while wearing a shirt repping the Arkansas Wings, the AAU program for which the Lee bros will play this summer. Photo by Matt McClenahan.

Some extra tidbits from interviews for my profile of the amazing Lee brothers:

1) Jacksonville’s star senior guard Justin McCleary is considering  offers from Harding, Oauchita Baptist and a couple of junior colleges. UAPB, Henderson State, Arkansas Tech and UA-Fort Smith  are also showing interest. Looks like the Jacksonville-UCA pipeline won’t continue with J-McC.

2) Frederick Lee, the Lee brothers’ father, told me how his family ended up as likely the most dominant basketball family in NWA prep history (along with the Brewers). Out of high school, he moved from Marvell in east Arkansas to Little Rock in the early 1990s. He attended UALR, but was appalled by the violent crime – fueled by the rise of youth gangs – in the surrounding neighborhoods. “Little Rock was horrible,” he said. “I didn’t have a lot of money to stay somewhere nice, so I was right there in the middle of all that.”

When his oldest son, C.J. was born, he knew it was time to move. Lee transferred to the University of Arkansas and soon got a job selling cars in Fayetteville. Seven years ago, he moved the family to Clarksville where he runs a car dealership.

C.J. Lee, who preceded Dederick, Kenderick and Freddy as a Clarksville High basketball star, shortly attended Arkansas Baptist College but has since transferred to Arkansas Tech. He left Little Rock for the same reason his father left UALR, Frederick Lee said.

3) When Dederick Lee decomitted from the Razorbacks, a flood of scholarships offers came his way. He got offers from Southern Illinois, Creighton, Tulane, New Orleans and Missouri State but eventually chose Oral Roberts University (which had also extended offers to his brothers at the same time), Frederick Lee said.

4) The most prestigious youth basketball tournament in the summer has become the Nike Elite Youth Basketball tournament, or EYBL. In its two-year long existence, the Arkanssas Wings have been the only Arkansas team to participate in it.

This AAU program returns this summer, under the same name of the Wings 17-U squad, but in actuality the team will the Nolan Richardson Arkansas Mustangs, the AAU team which Frederick Lee created and through which he has coached his sons since their elementary school. Frederick Lee told me the Wings president Ron Crawford asked him to take the team’s reins for this summer. He knew that the way that we played would be great for the EYBL this year because he didn’t much of a team coming back.”

Lee agreed to come on as the , but only if he could bring aboard his own coaches and players.

So far, the only locks are Freddy, Darren and Kenderick Lee, Clarksville teammate Jerron Thompson, and a couple out of staters. He’ll decide who to promote from last summer’s Wings 16-U at tryouts this weekend.

Lee-ders Of The Pack: Clarksville’s Basketball Brothers

Former Hog commit Dederick Lee and his  brothers have left behind one era at Clarksville High. Could another one be around the corner? Photo by Matt McClenahan.
Former Hog commit Dederick Lee and his brothers have left behind one highly successful era at Clarksville High. Could another one be around the corner? Photo by Matt McClenahan.

One of the most unique chapters in Arkansas sports history closed Saturday night in a half full Pine Bluff Convention Center.

The three-year reign of the Lee brothers is over.

Dederick, Kenderick and Freddy Lee had won two straight 4A basketball state titles and led Clarksville High to consecutive undefeated conference records. It didn’t matter that Dederick, 18 years old, is barely six feet tall and 17-year-old Kenderick and Freddy hover around 5’6″. Or that their adopted brother, Deven Simms, plays inside at 6’3″.

These Davids have not only welcomed the challenge of battling Goliaths, but actually sought them out, slingshots in hand, Nike Air Maxes on foot.

In the last two years, Clarksville has taken on – and typically lost to –  powerhouse programs two or three classifications larger: Hall, Parkview, Jonesboro, Fayetteville and North Little Rock.

These programs are a far cry from the Panthers’ normal Class 4A competition. Or even competition in the 5A, into which Clarksville ascended this season because a recent influx of new students increased the high school’s enrollment ( many of the new students were political refugees from Myanmar).

Clarksville coach Tony Davis knew this season’s reclassification whittled his team’s chances at an unblemished record and a three-peat at the state tournament.

Still, he welcomed the challenge.  “We felt like if we would’ve stayed at 4A, we wouldn’t have been challenged. Last year, we won every game in the state tourney by 20 or more.”

On Saturday night, Jacksonville provided Clarksville with plenty of challenge in the 5A semifinals. The Red Devils, who a year ago played in 6A, beat the Panthers 52-44 to secure a spot in the finals vs. Alma this Friday at 7 p.m. in Barton Coliseum.

Continue reading Lee-ders Of The Pack: Clarksville’s Basketball Brothers

Hurricane A-comin’: Parkview clashes with Jonesboro in Game of the Week

Powerhouse Parkview suffered a two-game hiccup, but seems to be back on track after barbecuing Searcy. Can Rod Pugh (#12) and the Hurricane derail the defending champs, handing coach Al Flanigan (right) an unheard-of three losses in four games?

It’s the end of week 2 of conference season, and time again to serve up some Friday previews for big 6A and 7A games featuring central Arkansas teams.

Parkview (14-2, 2-2) @ Jonesboro (15-2, 3-1)

On Tuesday, Parkview beat Searcy 73-24 while  Jonesboro lost to Jacksonville 68-41. Check out video highlights from that Parkview win here. Go to the video section on the page’s right side, scroll to the bottom and click “View Next 4 Clips”

Both teams are strongest at the guard positions – for Parkview, Anton Beard and I.J. Ready. For Jonesboro, watch out for sophomore dynamo Kahron Ross and Randle Tolliver. Throw some sweet-shooting Jacob Gibson in there, too. (n.b. Ready and Ross were Arkansas Hawks teammates last summer)

Listen to the game here, ye central Arkansas folk who’d rather not make the drive.

And although you’re listening, you can kind of  imagine you’re watching TV if you slowly scroll through the pics on this Facebook page.

Want more on this matchup and others from Friday? ARPreps.com’s David Harten, Tim Cooper ( the Democrat-Gazette’s bball guru) and I talk our noggins off in our latest weekly prepscast.

Catholic (1-3, 2-7) @ Russellville (13-4, 4-0) 

Russellville beat Van Buren 58-31. Cyclone Grey Harris, who would be making a run at early-season state MVP is such existed, scored 18 points. Catholic, meanwhile, lost to North Little Rock 67-51.

Catch the game at KCJC 102.3 FM or online at www.kcjclive.com.

If you think the above game was low-scoring, then you need to see my new …

!!?!!?? of the Week

28-24.

I repeat: 28-24. That’s the score I saw in the Dem-Gaz for the Rogers’ boys Tuesday night victory over Fort Smith Northside.

Granted, upon check-up, the  actual score  might have been slightly higher.

Either way, I’m voting this half-court sludgefest of a game reason #73 I will always prefer central Arkansas ball to what’s going down in the NWA:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRuwY5htjyE&w=420&h=315]

Searcy (6-11, 1-3) @ Hall (13-3, 4-0)

Hall beat West Memphis 52-47 on the road, while Searcy lost by 49 points to Parkview.

“We came out very flat,” its coach  told The Daily Citizen. “Also, Parkview came out to prove a point because they had lost two in a row, and they shot well. That’s a bad combination.

“It was already a 16-point game at the half. They kept pressing. The coach could have pulled off  the press, but he didn’t. It was a statement game for them. They’re the best in the state, and they wanted to prove it.”

Cam Woodruff, a junior on the team, said the Lions were not prepared for the Parkview game. “They came out and put it on us,” he said. “We weren’t prepared mentally.”

Hall’s Hog commit Bobby Portis was featured in this KATV video this week. In his past two games, the junior center has shot 9 of 20 on FGs, 1 of 4 on 3s  and 10 of 13 on FTs for 29 points. He’s also totaled 28 rebounds, seven blocks, six turnovers two steals and three assists.

Continue reading Hurricane A-comin’: Parkview clashes with Jonesboro in Game of the Week