Malik Monk vs Corliss Williamson, Keith Lee & Willy Cutts

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwXLU29B8Y8&w=560&h=315]

Malik Monk’s 35 points per game average so far this postseason is on track to likely be the most impressive in state history.

I looked at the post season performances of Joe Johnson, Ronnie Brewer, Corliss Williamson and KeVaughn Allen for Sporting Life Arkansas and found none of them have come close to the sheer, terrifying scoreboard deluge Monk is currently unleashing. Big Nasty came closest in his senior year at Russellville by pouring in 29.7 ppg in the state tournament.

Out of burning, insatiable, Arkan-nerdified curiosity, I also want to know how the old-school greats compare here. The closest comparison I could find to Monk, in terms of pure scoring ability, was Willy Cutts, a McDonald’s All-American from Bryant by way of Conway by way of Little Rock. Cutts played on one of the first Arkansas Wings AAU teams, and once dropped 66 points on a north Louisiana squad led by future NBA All-Stars Joe Dumars and Karl Malone, according to Billy Woods’ indispensable “60-0: The West Memphis Basketball Dynasty.”

In the 1980 state tournament, Cutts, as a sophomore, averaged 33.5 points in his two games before bowing out to West Memphis. Keith Lee and Michael Cage were West Memphis’ headliners and the main engines to their historic 60-0 run. Lee was the more polished scorer of the two, but never had to be the postseason scoring monster Monk has become.

Among scorers at the highest classification who lead their teams to the title game, it appears LR Central’s Fred Allen is Monk’s closest all-time parallel. In the 1972 state tournament, the 6’2″ scoring guard racked up 28 points against Jonesboro, 36 points on North Little Rock, 31 points on Parkview and 30 points against El Dorado for the AAA-AAAA crown.

Based on the official AAA records, it’s unlikely any big schooler has averaged above Allen’s 31.25 ppg in a three-game-or-more postseason run. All the more impressive given the top shooters of this era didn’t have the three point shot.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 12.33.20 PM

Honorable mentions goes to Allen’s top rival of the era: Parkview’s Dexter Reed.

Reed was a force of nature in his own right and as a sophomore in 1971 averaged 29 ppg in a four-game postseason stretch – including a then-record 43 points in a state title game against Helena. He doesn’t appear to have topped that in his next two postseasons.

Perhaps I missed some all-time great scorers here. For instance, it’s possible big schoolers like LR Catholic Chris Bennett or Scipio Jones’ Eddie Miles deserve mention, too. I just haven’t been able to find their postseason numbers.

Give me hell if I’m missing someone obvious.

 

** Above, I didn’t look at the schools that haven’t been in the state’s top two largest classifications. Most postseason scoring records do belong to players from smaller schools.

N.B. Sidney Moncrief was an outstanding prep baller – averaging 19.2 points and 14.1 rebounds his senior year in high school – – but he didn’t explode for 30 points often in the postseason. Hall’s 6’9″ center Gary Tidwell also led the team in scoring a lot. Also, I haven’t forgotten about Ron “Boothead” Brewer and Marvin Delph. They are coming soon…

 


 

*Statistical Lagniappe!*

Keith Lee / West Memphis

 

1980 state tournament (as a junior)

West Memphis 60; Jacksonville 43 (15 points)

West Memphis 83; Conway 63 (30 points)

West Memphis 57; Forrest City 49 (21 points)

[West Memphis played two additional postseason games to win the now-defunct Overall State Championship between each classification’s champion]

 

1981 state tournament (as a senior)

West Memphis 55; Russellville 37 (18 points)

West Memphis 66; Hot Springs 47 (15 points)

West Memphis 79; Conway 58 (27 points)

Only List of Arkansan National Team Basketball Players & Coaches Known to Man

It's a good feeling - that feeling of not being alone.
The feeling of not being alone is a good one.

As you know, Hamburg native Scottie Pippen made the original Dream Team in 1992 and the 1996 Olympic team which grabbed Gold in Atlanta. Pippen made by far the greatest splash of any national team Arkansan, but he wasn’t the first to do so in an Olympics. That honor goes to Gordon Carpenter, native of Ash Flat in northeast Arkansas. And there are plenty others who have made national teams for other competitions. Below, I present the first (and I will bet you $25) only comprehensive list anybody has ever bothered to assemble on the topic:

JUNE 2015 UPDATE

Seven-feet-three Connor Vanover of Little Rock was just announced as – by my count – the first Arkansan to make a full-fledged junior U.S. national team in basketball. Congrats to the rising sophomore (and I do mean rising – he grew eight inches before entering eighth grade) . Hopefully, he will one day join some of the legends below on a U.S. senior national team. 

1. Gordon Carpenter

Carpenter, a 6’6″, 200-pound big affectionately known as “Shorty,” was one of Arkansas’ first great basketball players. He led Ash Flat in northeast Arkansas to the 1939, upsetting much bigger teams in Little Rock and Pine Bluff,  and then went on to star on the University of Arkansas’ first Final Four team in 1941. He led the Hogs to their first undefeated SWC record and ended his college career on the All-SWC team.

He then played for the Phillips 66 powerhouse basketball team, which was technically amateur and allowed him to retain eligibility for international play (the Olympics were then off-limits to paid professional athletes). The Phillips 66 team was on par with the best professional teams of the era, and Carpenter helped lead them to six straight national titles. He made the AAU All-America team each year from 1943-1947 and helped his team qualify to represent the U.S. in the 1948 Olympics by beating the University of Kentucky in a Madison Square Garden (weird, I know).

In those London Olympics, Carpenter had a turn as hero, according to this bookIn a game against Argentina, the U.S. was trailing by six points with four minutes to go. Coach then inserted Carpenter and he scored 10 points in two minutes to help the Americans turn the tide and win. The final score of the game was 59-57, according to linguasport.com.

Two years later, Carpenter became head coach of the national team at the first basketball World Championship (now called the basketball World Cup) in 1950. The host nation, Argentina, took Gold and the U.S. took Silver.

165px-AAU_All-Americans_Gruenig_McNatt_Carpenter
Gordon “Shorty” Carpenter (R) Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_McNatt

2. Jim “Bad News” Barnes

A native of Tuckerman in Sharp Co., the 6’8″, 240-pound Barnes trumps Corliss Williamson, Andrew Lang (and so far Bobby Portis) as the most dominant collegian big man the state has produced. He was dirt poor as a child, often playing in socks because his family couldn’t afford shoes. Around 18 years of age, he moved to Oklahoma to finish high school. Barnes then dominated junior college competition for two years, and then did the same at Texas Western. He averaged 29 points and 19 rebounds his senior year, and a few months later became the first of two Arkansans ever drafted #1 overall in an NBA or NFL draft.

Before his pro career, though, Barnes traveled to Tokyo with other top collegians like Larry Brown and Bill Bradley. He was the fifth-leading scorer on the Gold-winning team. In the Finals, the U.S. squared off against the U.S.S.R.  Barnes’ speed and agility, like center Bill Russell’s four years before, was a big reason the Soviets could not hang with the Americans.

That team’s head coach was Henry Iba, who happened to the mentor of Barnes’ college coach Don Haskins. Coincidentally, Haskins became the mentor to Nolan Richardson, one of Barnes’ Texas Western teammates. Richardson thought highly of Barnes’ character: “Jim was one of those men who was thrilled to play for their country. He took the opportunity seriously and played every possession hard.”

3, Sidney Moncrief

When it comes to  Moncrief and Larry Bird sharing the same court, the headliner will forever be their legendary showdown in the Elite Eight of the 1979 NCAA Tournament. Before these two All-Americans clashed in front of a national audience, though, they had two summers before joined forces to topple other countries.

In 1977, the Little Rock native represented the U.S. in the World University Games (similar to what would be a U-21 competition today). Moncrief helped the U.S. tear through the event, in Bulgaria, with an 8-0 record. He led the Americans with 16 points in the finals against the U.S.S.R.

Undoubtedly, Sid shot the ball at a high clip that tourney. It’s amazing to think that as a freshman, the 6’4″ forward led the entire nation in field goal percentage, as this July 26, 1977 article  points out:


Click here for a larger image.

NB: You’ll notice one of the assistant coaches was none other than Bill Vining of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. The national team program wanted coaches from all levels of college basketball, and Vining, being the small college level bad-ass he was, was selected to rep that segment.

4. Marvin Delph

Another one of Arkansas’ famed Triplets, Delph was a part of a wonky 1978 World Championship team made up of neither college or professional players. College players should have filled out its roster but by October – when the event occurred – they were already in preseason and prohibited from competing.

So the U.S. sent a squad made up mostly of Athletes In Action (a religious organization) ballers, and finished 6-4. This isn’t all that bad considering many of the communist national teams were made up of essentially professional players who had state-provided sinecure jobs.

Delph, a Conway native, averaged only 5.5. points in the six games he played. But hey, the U.S. was 5-1 in those games (losing only to the U.S.S.R.), so that’s something.

Continue reading Only List of Arkansan National Team Basketball Players & Coaches Known to Man

Why Joe Johnson is a More Versatile Threat than Carmelo Anthony

 

joe-johnson-carmelo-anthony-nba-brooklyn-nets-new-york-knicks
Anthony towers over Johnson as a celebrity, but not as an offensive talent.

Yesterday, Miami’s Shane Battier shed insight into the difference between the two best small forwards in New York City:

“There’s not a lot you can take away,” he said of Joe Johnson’s offensive ability.  “I’m not saying you can take away…but Carmelo Anthony, he’s so left-hand dominant. So if you make him put it in his right hand, he really struggles. Joe, you can’t really do that. You really just have to fight him, play him honest, make him work for catches. Don’t let him get any free catches, because once he gets a free catch, he’s got multiple options.”

Battier isn’t the only Heat player praising Johnson’s abilities as Johnson’s Nets get set to clash with the Heat tonight, according to Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report. Dwayne Wade first realized just how talented Johnson was in the 2006, when the two players joined a star-studded cast including Anthony, LeBron James and Dwight Howard in Japan for the FIBA World Championships.

From afar, I knew he was good,” Wade told Bleacher Report after Wednesday’s Heat practice. “But we were practicing, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know he was this good.’ And we were all, like, ‘Joe, you know how good you are?’ He was like, ‘Whatever.'” That team didn’t win the gold medal, falling to Greece and settling for bronze. But Johnson won the respect of his peers, tying with Howard for fifth on the team in scoring.

That trip was likely also the start of a close power circle that almost made Johnson a teammate of Wade four years later. Johnson, James and Wade planned to discuss their free agency plans in spring of 2010. Fast forward yet another four years, and Wade and James, of course, have gone on to win two NBA titles together and establish one of the great mini-dynasties in NBA history. Johnson, meanwhile, has lost 13 of the 16 second round games he has played in and has yet to deliver a signature NBA playoff series win. Beating his old friends would certainly qualify.

“He’s talented, man,” Wade told Skolnick as Miami prepared for Game 2 of the Brooklyn-Miami series. “But his personality, he’s so quiet. And no one’s ever pushed him.”

Johnson must push himself if his Nets will have any shot whatsoever of dethroning the champs.

 

For more on Johnson, check out my Sporting Life Arkansas article comparing his playoff plights with Sidney Moncrief.

The greatest Razorback NBA player of the 20th century never made it to the Finals. Blame injuries and the best small forward of his era. By 1986, 28-year-old Sidney Moncrief had transformed his Milwaukee Bucks into perennial Eastern Conference contenders who won seven straight divisional titles. But they got over a hump in the 1986 playoffs only to run into a mountain.

In the second round, the Bucks won that franchise’s first seventh game of a playoff series, beating nemesis Philadelphia 113-112 at home. Moncrief, who had missed four games in the series due to plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the foot, gutted it out for 35 minutes in the pivotal contest. He “played as brave a playoff series as anyone since the Knicks’ Willis Reed hobbled onto Madison Square Garden floor against the Lakers in 1970,” Sports Illustrated’s Jack McCallum wrote.

Moncrief’s left heel and chronically sore knees weren’t the only ailments afflicting Milwaukee heading into the next round. Its other star, Terry Cummings, had a dislocated finger and scorer Ricky Pierce had sprained his ankle. But the Bucks’ most formidable obstacle came in the form of their next opponent’s 29-year-old, six-feet-nine small forward. Larry Bird had already won two consecutive MVP awards and led his team to two NBA titles. What resistance could Moncrief and the Bucks hope to put up as he steamrolled to another?

****

Fast forward to 2014, and now Joe Johnson –  this century’s greatest Razorback NBA’er – faces another 29-year-old, six-feet-nine force of nature.

More here.

Before Derek Fisher, Dexter Reed Put Parkview High Basketball On the Map

A year before Eddie Sutton's arrival, Dexter Reed passed on a chance to join the Triplets in Fayetteville.
A year before Eddie Sutton’s arrival, Dexter Reed passed on a chance to join the Triplets in Fayetteville.

It’s March, which means basketball fever is spreading through Arkansas. Interest in the high school state tournament is extra high this year as the state enjoys a high school basketball golden age thanks to headliners like junior KeVaughn Allen and sophomore Malik Monk. Both highly recruited shooting guards are accomplished beyond their years. Last year, Allen helped lead North Little Rock to a state title as a sophomore and picked up Finals MVP along the way. Monk, ranked by some outlets as the best shooting guard in the nation in his class, may one-up him. Despite two late season losses, Monk has helped turn Bentonville into a powerhouse for the first time in a long time while racking up obscene box scores. (Who else hits 11 of 12 three-pointers, as Monk did in one January game?)

Allen and Monk, who both stand around 6-3, aren’t the first sophomore wing players to dominate the local high school scene. In the early 1970s, another great high school golden age was tipping off and Little Rock native Dexter Reed was in the thick of it. The 6-2 guard went on one of the most devastating tourney tears of any era to lead Little Rock Parkview to its first state title.

In 1971, Parkview had only existed for three years. All the dynastic names affiliated with the school now — Ripley, Flanigan, Fisher — were still far off in the future. These ‘71 Patriots finished their regular season with a 15-12 record, but caught fire in the state tournament at Barton Coliseum, knocking off Jacksonville, McClellan, Jonesboro and finally, Helena. Through those four games, Reed averaged 27 points including 43 to secure the Class AAA title, then the state’s second largest. Ron Brewer, who regularly played pickup ball with Reed in the 1970s, said his friend was among the best scorers in state history: “He was like a choreographer out there, just dancing and weaving and getting the defense all discombobulated. And when it’s all said and done, he just destroyed you. He destroyed you by himself.”

Reed was a different kind of player from Monk and Allen but effective in his own way. The new schoolers are both extremely explosive athletes with deep three-point range. Reed didn’t play above the rim, and he didn’t see much reason to shoot 21-footers in his three point shot-less era. “I wasn’t the best of shooters,” he says. “I was more of a scorer. I could get by people, you know — I tried to be like Earl the Pearl.”

Reed won another title as a junior and by his senior year was a second-team Parade All-American who had hundreds of scholarship offers. The University of Arkansas was an early favorite. Reed had grown up a Razorback fan, and many in his inner circle wanted to see him play for coach Lanny Van Eman. Among those was local coach Houston Nutt, Sr., who had taught him the game’s fundamentals. “He had a lot of influence on me,” says Reed, who as a boy had sold popcorn at War Memorial Stadium with Houston Nutt, Jr.

Memphis State University, fresh off a national championship appearance, also entered the recruiting picture. Reed’s parents liked the fact that its campus was more than an hour closer to their home than Fayetteville. Other factors tipped the scales Memphis’ way. For starters, the Tigers played in an arena that didn’t make Reed uncomfortable. One area of the Hogs’ Barnhill Fieldhouse where the football team worked out was covered in sawdust. “I had sinus problems, and I’d be coughing there during summer basketball camps,” he says. Moreover, Reed’s older brother already attended the UA but had had trouble socially acclimating. Reed’s brother told him to strongly consider a larger city as Fayetteville was then a small town and there “wasn’t but a handful of black kids.”

Dexter Reed chose Memphis State and as a freshman immediately made a splash, racking up more than 500 points and leading the Tigers to a 19-11 finish. A serious injury to his knee ligaments the following season diminished his quickness, but he bounced back to average 18.8 points a game as a senior and landed on two All-America teams.

One highlight his last year was a return to Little Rock to play a surging Hogs program under new coach Eddie Sutton. As Sutton’s first great Hogs team, that 1976–77 bunch only lost one regular season game. On Dec. 30, 1976, a then record crowd jammed into Barton Coliseum to watch Reed, the greatest scorer Little Rock had ever produced, square off against Hog stars like Brewer, a junior, and sophomores Sidney Moncrief and Marvin Delph. They were all friends and ribbed each other in advance of Reed’s only college game in his hometown. Brewer recalls, “Me, Sidney and Marvin kept saying ‘You can come back all you want, but you ain’t gonna win this one.’ And he single handily kept them in the ballgame.”

Arkansas led for most of it, with Reed guarding Moncrief and then Brewer. But Reed and the bigger Tigers finished strong, with Reed hitting free throws down the stretch to clinch a 69-62 win. “I didn’t really think it was that big to my teammates, but after it was over, they all came over jumping on me,” Reed says. As he left the arena, he recalled seeing some of the same people in the crowd who had watched him burst onto the stage seven years earlier as a Parkview sophomore. “It was like a time warp,” he says.

Fast forward to the present, and Reed still lives in Memphis, where he runs sign and flower shops and hosts a sports radio show every Saturday morning. His parents have passed, so he doesn’t make it back to Little Rock much anymore. But he still follows the Razorbacks, and he’s heard from friends and Memphis coaches about some of the state’s great high school guards like KeVaughn Allen. Reed is glad to know the tradition he helped nourish is in good hands. He concludes, “My heart has always been with Arkansas.”

An earlier version of this story was originally published in this month’s issue of Celebrate Arkansas.

Sidney Moncrief On Boosters Who Shoved $100 Bills In His Hand

More was exchanged during Moncrief’s post game celebrations than signs of sportsmanship, it turns out.

I’ve recently been perusing my copy of Sidney Moncrief’s autobiography “Moncrief: My Journey to the NBA.” On the surface, it’s seems pretty standard fare: Chapter One is entitled “Childhood” about Moncrief’s upbringing in southwest and east Little Rock. Then, chapters named “Youth” and “High School” interspersed with pictures of an adult Moncrief mingling with the folks back home. One caption reads “Moncrief and his fellow Razorbacks became role models for many Arkansas youth.”

Another picture shows Moncrief sharing a tender moment with his Little Rock Hall coach Oliver Elders during a post-retirement ceremony at the high school. Clearly, Moncrief is a good guy who appreciates where he came from and the gifts that he has. Andrew Bynum, this is not.

And yet, in the fourth chapter, entitled “College,” things get a little hazy.

It starts on page 51, at the tail end of  a paean to Moncrief’s Arkansas coach Eddie Sutton: “Coach Sutton taught us to excel in all walks of life,” Moncrief writes. “He insisted on sportsmanship, ethical behavior, and integrity.”

Except, possibly, when he didn’t.

After leaving Arkansas, Sutton ended up at Kentucky and there was caught up in a messy recruiting scandal that involved $1000 cash mailed to a high profile Kentucky recruit. Sutton and his assistants ultimately resigned and the program was put on probation.

Moncrief writes that this episode saddened him but that Sutton “never hinted at any impropriety with me.” Then he decides to pull the ring on this grenade:

“I can say that during my time in Arkansas I wasn’t offered anything extra. I can’t say that occasionally an alumnus or overzealous fan didn’t walk up to me after a game and put a hundred-dollar bill in my hand when he shook it.”

That’s about $360 in today’s money, folks. The next line insinuates he accepted the money:

Continue reading Sidney Moncrief On Boosters Who Shoved $100 Bills In His Hand

Comparing Hog Freshmen to the Best First-year Classes in Program History

Have B.J. Young and his frosh teammates risen to meet standards set by the likes of Sidney Moncrief, Todd Day and Scotty Thurman? Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Seldom does an Arkansas freshman class enter the season with as many expectations as this year’s quartet of B.J. Young, Hunter Mickelson, Rashad Madden and Devonta Abron. Rarely are they needed to play as urgently as this group, which – following a summer of transfers and winter of injuries – now makes up half of Arkansas’ eight scholarship players.

But there is precedent.

In previous eras, new Razorbacks have made substantial splashes, kicking off the most celebrated three-year runs in program history. In the mid-1970s, the “Triplets,” three Arkansas natives within two years of each other, got it rolling for Eddie Sutton. The next two waves came under Nolan Richardson, and formed the nuclei of three Final Four appearances in the 1990s.
As a whole, this year’s freshmen haven’t played as many minutes as their predecessors. Expect that to change soon, though. As senior Michael Sanchez recovers from a shoulder injury, Mickelson and Abron will play more. Already, the new guys are setting records – Mickelson has blocked more shots than any previous Arkansas freshman, and these Hogs have won 17 home games, the most in program history.

Still, the Razorbacks lost their first seven games outside of Arkansas. Each of the previous celebrated freshmen classes had won at least three road games by this point in the season. By their second years, they led teams among the nation’s best on the road. Sure, the anticipated return of a healthy Marshawn Powell next season helps. But if this year’s freshmen wait until then to start living up to their predecessors’ standards, it will be too late. Their legacy won’t be determined by how many hearts they can win in their own arena. It will be set by how many are broken in other arenas.

Player

First season

Points per game

FG%

FT%

Rebounds per game

Minutes per game

Games

M. Delph

1974-75

6.2

50%

81%

2.5

N/A

26

R. Brewer*

1975-76

11.9

58%

75%

3.8

N/A

28

S. Moncrief

1975-76

12.6

67%

73%

7.6

N/A

28

1975-76 record through 25 games: 17-8
1975-76 record outside of Arkansas thru 25 games: 3-7
1976-77 overall record: 26-2
1977-78 overall record: 32-4

Breaking down the strength of Houston and Arkansas’ programs

Let’s get this out of the way first: as far as similarities between Houston and Arkansas go, the majority of the programs’ fans care most about one thing these days – the possibility that either elite college football team could make a BCS bowl in the immediate future.

But those following the programs’ basketball teams so far this early season will find plenty of other similarities – young, athletic, guard-oriented teams intent on running the other side off the court. And, as I dove into the programs’ histories for a Sync magazine piece previewing Friday’s UA-Houston basketball game, I was somewhat surprised by the number of parallels between the Hogs and Cougars. The teams shared 16 years battling each other in the old Southwest Conference, and much more …

National Championships

UA: 1 (1994)

Houston: 0

Final Four Appearances

UA: 6 (1941, 1945, 1978, 1990, 1994, 1995)

Houston: 5 (1967, 1868, 1982, 1983, 1984)

*Houston started its athletic programs in 1946.

NCAA Tournament appearances

UA: 29

Houston: 19 [one (2010) since 1992]

Consensus or First Team All-American Selections since 1946

UA: 8 [Martin Terry (1973), Sidney Moncrief (1978, 1979), Ron Brewer (1978), Todd Day (1991, 1992), Corliss Williamson (1994, 1995)]

Houston: 6 [Elvin Hayes (1966, 1967, 1968), Otis Birdsong (1977), Clyde Drexler (1983), Hakeem Olajuwon (1984)]

First or Second Round NBA Draft Picks

UA: 16

Houston: 18

Naismith Basketball Hall of Famers

UA: 0

Houston: 3 (Olajuwon, Hayes, Drexler)

*Arkansas’ Sidney Moncrief is a possible future inductee, as is Joe Johnson with a couple more All-Star level seasons.

* Houston, along with North Carolina and LSU, are the only three programs to have three players  voted to the NBA’s Top 50 Players of All Time List in 1996.

All numbers taken from media guides

Nowadays, Arkansas plays in a superior conference with superior facilities. Still, Houston’s glorious 1960s-1980s’ run still allows it to be considered one of the nation’s top programs in terms of prestige. Bleacher Report ranked the Cougars as the 22nd best program of all-time, while pegging Arkansas at No. 17.

But, as Top 25 rankings go, this season’s is the one mattering most to the coaches of these two undefeated teams. Whichever side wins tonight gets a head start in cracking it early on.