There aren’t many blank spots on longtime NBA player Derek Fisher’s resume: five world titles, an AAU National Championship, a high school state championship, six years as National Basketball Players Association President. On every big stage the Little Rock native has played, he has left his mark.
Yet there’s the stage he never played on.
It doesn’t matter how many big-time events Fisher has been a part of in his 16-year pro career. Nothing will erase the memory of how close he got as a college senior to making his sport’s most dramatic competition: the NCAA Tournament. His University of Arkansas at Little Rock Trojans were up 56-55 in the 1996 Sun Belt Conference Championship game with four seconds left.
The University of New Orleans had the ball. Fisher closed out quickly on the opposing guard with the ball, but he spun past Fisher’s outstretched arms and drove to the basket, lofting a teardrop shot that resulted in an upset win.
Despite a 23-6 record, UALR would be left out on the doorstep on Selection Sunday. Fisher’s final shot at the Big Dance was gone.
It could have been much, much different.
What if instead of leading UALR, Fish had helped steer the Razorbacks? “I think he could have played at Arkansas, but coming out of high school, he just wasn’t ready,” said Razorback All-American Corliss Williamson, also one of Fisher’s best friends. There’s a strong chance Fisher was ready for Arkansas halfway through his college career, though, and he was closer to making that jump than many people realize.
If there is such thing as a preseason debut, guard BJ Young made a smashing one on Friday night.
The highly touted St. Louis native made a name for himself among Arkansas fans last spring after scoring 27 second-half points in the second half of a high school playoff game against a team led by Florida signee Bradley Beal.
It’s clear the young man can do things in a hurry.
But as I watched Young treat Bud Walton Arena’s court like a NASCAR speedway during the Razorbacks’ “Primetime at the Palace” event, I don’t think it is premature to question whether there has ever been a faster Razorback in basketball.
And by fast, I mean pure speed with a ball from one end of the court to the other.
Two of the fastest players in NCAA history – Allen Iverson and John Wall – flashed world-class speed from the start of their freshmen seasons. Fans didn’t have to wait long to see their athleticism was something special.
It’s the same situation with Young, who is about 6-2 (not surprisingly, he’s shorter than listed on the official roster) but will only add weight to his 175 pounds in the upcoming years. So, he has a longer stride than one of his chief competitors for the title of all-time fastest Hog – 5-10 Kareem Reid. And another contender, Clint McDaniel, wasn’t as fast end-to-end as he was quick, side-to-side.
Enough talk. Catch a glimpse for yourself of what this guy is capable of. But don’t blink around the 25-second mark: