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

Has An Arkansas David Ever Toppled a National Goliath in Prep Basketball?

Gregg Easter and the Hall Warriors couldn't take down Goliath last night. There's certainly historic precedent.
Gregg Easter and the Hall Warriors couldn’t take down Goliath last night. There’s certainly historic precedent. Courtesy: Tom Harden

Little Rock’s Hall High fell to the nation’s No. 1-ranked high school team last night 60-45, which got me thinking how many other Arkansas basketball teams have actually had a shot at the national top dog before.

Most previous occurrences happened in the 1980s at Pine Bluff’s King Cotton Classic, which was the nation’s  top prep basketball tournament in the winter. Indeed, ESPN’s first televised regular-season high school game was the 1987 King Cotton title game. The following articles are from the Arkansas Gazette.

1. Jan. 5, 1986

 PINE BLUFF _ Flint Hill of Oakton, Va., really made sure pesky Pine Bluff wouldn’t stage their third upset comeback in the King Cotton Classic. The result: Flint Hill by 21-0 with 2:31 left in the first period. By the time it was officially over, the high-flying Falcons had disposed of the Zebras by 91-60 to wear the new King Cotton crown. Flint Hill, now 10-0, came with no intention other than to blow the Zebras away before a crowd of 4,700. The Zebras were no match. Using a killing full-court press, Flint Hill made mincemeat of the Zebras. The Falcons did it all and Pine Bluff destructed.

Pine Bluff committed 10 turnovers in the first quarter, and the Falcons turned most of them into layups. Sam Jefferson, the Falcon’s 6-10 center, established the inside domination by scoring the first five points. Pine Bluff’s Michael Mc Cray, who ignited the Zebras’ late comebacks, picked up three fouls with 4:44 left in the first period. The crowd cheered when sophomore Andra Sims scored on a layup at 2:17 and booed at 3:46 when Robert Pearson’s would-be basket was disallowed on a charging foul. Flint Hill led by 27-8 after the first eight minutes by 46-25 at the half and by 66-43 entering the final period. Dennis Scott, a multi-talented 6-6 junior, who was named tourney’s Most Valuable Player, finished with a game-high 28 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Jefferson had 15, Richard Berry 12 and Brian Domalik 10. Domalik, a 6-0 point guard, also had eight assists and five steals. Pine Bluff, 5-5, was led by Sims’ 23 points and seven rebounds. Officials announced after the game that the Falcons would return to defend their crown.

Continue reading Has An Arkansas David Ever Toppled a National Goliath in Prep Basketball?

As Prep Basketball’s Regular Season Winds Down, Defending Champion Parkview Heats Up

After a 5-5 conference start, Emmanuel Adoyi and the Parkview Patriots weren't exactly sitting pretty. The story has changed in recent games, though. - photo courtesy Sync magazine

They’re back.

Or at least they seem to be.

After an at-times rocky conference season, the 6A state champs appear poised to defend their title heading into the start of next season’s state championship. After three consecutive wins, the Little Rock Parkview Patriots (20-5, 8-5) seem to have regained the momentum with which they tore  through one of the nation’s most prestigious holiday hoops tournaments nearly two months ago.

On Dec. 30, Parkview stood at the top of the Mid-South basketball world. Head Coach Al Flanigan and his small but tenacious Patriots had just become the first team outside of Texas to win the north Texas-based Whataburger Tournament since 1992. Already #1 in Arkansas, Parkview was now breaking into some national top-25 rankings. There was even talk of Parkview returning to the same lofty national status achieved 20 years earlier, when Derek Fisher, Maurice Robinson, Dion Cross, Kenneth Taylor and Jamal Lindsey finished a 29-1 record, a perfect 14-0 in conference – and at one point achieved a #4 national ranking.

In early January, all that stood between this season’s Patriots matching  those ’92 Patriots was a hellacious meat-grinder of a conference schedule – a 7A/6A East gamut that ranks among the toughest in state history.

Why?

Besides Parkview, three words: Hall, Jacksonville, Jonesboro. Other conference teams – West Memphis, Marion – aren’t exactly pushovers, either. Each of these teams has multiple players who will go on to play to play college ball; the conference’s eight teams altogether produced 17 college players who graduated last year, according to VYPE magazine.

Parkview struggled early on, losing half of its first 10 conference games. Four of those losses came to archrivals Jacksonville and Hall. But after that last loss to Hall, on Feb. 10, the team has gelled to reel off three straight wins: 69-26 vs. Searcy, 55-39 vs. Jonesboro and 51-34 vs. Marion. A Parkview win at West Memphis on Friday could lock up a #3 seed heading into the state tournament.  [more discussion of that game and others in central Arkansas at ARPreps’ weekly prepscast].

Not surprisingly, Parkview co-captains Emmanuel Adoyi, a senior, and Nebraska commit I.J Ready, a junior, have led the way. Sophomore guard Anton Beard, who ESPN reports has offers from UConn, Arkansas and Georgetown among others, also stars. Here’s the damage they’ve done through 25 games:

Emmanuel Adoyi

Points per game: 8.1

FG%: 48.6 (72-148)

3-Pt FG% 33.3 (1-3)

FT%: 68.1 (62-91)

Total Rebounds:  220  (Offensive 91 Defensive 129)

Assists: 13

Turnovers: 34

Blocks: 26

Steals: 54

I.J. Ready

Points per game: 18.0

FG%: 56.3 (138-245)

3-Pt FG% 30.7 (35-114)

FT%: 85.8% (73-85)

Total Rebounds: 42  (Offensive 7 Defensive 35)

Assists: 83

Turnovers: 41

Blocks: 2

Steals: 78

Anton Beard

Points per game: 16.5

FG%: 57.9 (124-214)

3-Pt FG% 30.1 (22-73)

FT%: 66.2 (100-151)

Total Rebounds: 108   (Offensive 43 Defensive 65)

Assists: 59

Turnovers: 55

Blocks: 4

Steals: 52

Stats courtesy of Parkview assistant coach Champ Watson

Maurice Robinson and Lazerick Griffin

In 1992, one of the strongest classes of basketball players in state history graduated. Here’s a look at what happened to some of the top players from that class.

Maurice Robinson: The summer before his senior year, Robinson burst into national prominence by starring at the NIKE/ABCD camp. According to the Democrat-Gazette, the 6-7, 238-pound lived up to the billing as a senior, averaging 14.7 points, eight rebounds and shooting 69% on field goals (a drop from his junior year).

He then turned his might toward Florida State, where he played two seasons. It’s interesting to note the differences between the Dem-Gaz and the 1992-93 Seminole press guide when it comes to Robinson’s stats:

Maurice Robinson, 6-6, 235, F, Little Rock, AR (Parkview) – Extremely strong inside player who can muscle in the paint with the big boys…aggressive with the ball on the baseline…uses strength to get shot off against taller defenders…coaches would like to see him develop his 10-12 foot jumper…excellent rebounder with ability to get the outlet pass to a guard quickly…style of play reminds many of Southern Mississippi’s Clarence Weatherspoon…comfortable in either a fast break or half-court offense…disciplined player who should adjust quickly to Florida State’s system…good defender who can move people around in the lane…powerful move to the bucket…averaged 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds last year at Park View Magnet High in Little Rock…earned first team All-Arkansas honors after shooting 69 percent from the floor as a senior…also earned Little Rock All-City honors…Parkview High saw all five starters sign basketball scholarships to Division 1 schools: Dion Cross (Stanford), Kenneth Taylor (Murray State), Jamal Lindsey (Samford) and Derek Fisher (Samford)…Gibbon’s All-Star Sports ranked Robinson as the 33rd best high school recruit and reported that the signing of five players from one school was unprecedented for a non-boarding school…according to school officials, Robinson is the most heavily recruited basketball player in the history of Parkview…as a junior, Robinson connected on a school record 71 percent of his field goals…born November 25, 1973 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas…father (Maurice) played football at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff…roommate is Derrick Carroll.

Robinson started his career quickly, playing starter’s minutes, but by the end of the ACC season was only getting spare minutes. After his sophomore year, he transferred to Oklahoma State. In 1995-96, he averaged 9.1 points and 3.2 rebounds a game for Eddie Sutton’s team. And that spectacular touch from on field goals? Still there, to the tune of 58%.

Robinson next surfaces on my googledar as part of a London-based traveling team, helping sharpen the 2000-01 Razorbacks. His London Leopards weren’t too shabby either; they beat Virginia and Bucknell that preseason.

In June, 2004, he was in Little Rock trying out for the Arkansas Rimrockers, an American Basketball Association expansion franchise.

Lazerick Griffin: The hub around which Eudora’s spectacular 1991-92 season rotated, the 6-5, 205-pound forward averaged 23 points and 12 rebounds per game for the Class AA state champion Badgers. The south Arkansas school suffered only one in-state loss – to Parkview in the Overall final (yes, different class champions played each other back then – a blessedly just way of sorting out who’s really top dog).

Griffin started the next season for the defending Sun Belt champs Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. He averaged 5.8 points.

Ol Grif’s online paper trail gets increasingly spotty from here. It appears he might have
transferred to Indiana State, where he played 31 minutes against Creighton in 1996.

Nowadays? Based on the high school photo I’ve seen of Big Grif, and the fact this Facebook profile for Lazerick Griffin has friended Eudora the town, there’s a fairly strong chance he’s calling Dallas home.