LeBron James Teaches Arkansan Malik Monk to Excel

Via HoopMixTape on YouTube

Via HoopMixTape on YouTube

In terms of basketball talent, Arkansas is in a golden era, producing elite players at a clip not seen in decades. But when it comes to national team recognition, the state is in a bit of a drought. Since 1996, only one native Arkansan* has made a U.S. national team. In recent years, two of the state’s best young players – Anton Beard and Malik Monk – were in the running to make junior national teams at the U16 and U17 levels but were both cut multiple times. Monk’s most recent exclusion, which occurred this weekend, is the most surprising.

Monk, a consensus Top 15 player in the class of 2016, had a memorable summer torching foes as a headliner with the Arkansas Wings in Nike’s prestigious EYBL circuit (essentially, the Champions League of prep basketball). The 6’3″ shooting guard broke scoring records and put up 40 and 59 points while making a strong case that Arkansas, for likely the first time ever, is home to the nation’s most electrifying high school player**.  The Arkansas Wings founder Ron Crawford, who has coached in the U.S. youth developmental system, said last week he believed there was “no doubt” Monk would make the U17 national team.

But after a three-day audition in Colorado involving 33 players, Monk was among the first cut. If the experience becomes a valuable lesson, this isn’t necessarily bad thing for Malik. He strives, after all, to become a world-class point guard, and none other than John Stockton – one of the top point guards of all time – was cut from the 1984 Olympic team. Monk already is one of the most athletic prospects we’ve ever seen at the guard position. Two of the most freakishly athletic forwards in the history of the game, Charles Barkley and Blake Griffin, were also cut from national teams.

Stockton, Barkley and Griffin all bounced back from their disappointments to become NBA All-Star caliber players. For Monk to one day do the same, he’ll have to keep improving. He must become a more consistent shooter and better decision maker, his older brother Marcus Monk said. “He’s really been working on his distribution as far as his passing skills and making better decisions with the ball. He’s improved in that area some.”

But Malik isn’t yet the well-rounded player his coaches and (potential) national team coaches want him to be. In the five games he played in the EYBL Finals, the only standard statistical category he led the Wings in was points (18.8 ppg). He finished second in blocks (0.4) and assists (2.6), third in steals (1.6) and fifth in rebounds (3.5).

Honing shot selection, though, is the biggest task right now. Squaring off against fellow Arkansan KeVaughn Allen, Monk scored 40 points on 14-for-20 shooting against Memphis-based Team Penny. But in the other four games, he shot 11% from 3-point range and 21% overall from the field.

Marcus Monk has been working on helping his brother cut down on bad shots. They break down film of his game to sharpen Malik’s court awareness and make him a better teammate, Marcus said. “It’s more discussion as far as how to read screens and looking at that second and third level of defense. Like a quarterback, you know.”

In early July, Monk had a chance to learn firsthand from one of the world’s most efficient basketball players when he attended the LeBron James Skills Academy.  James is “really active with his camp. He takes time with all the players,” recalled Marcus Monk, who attended the event as an observer.

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Exclusive Portrait Shots of Prep Basketball’s “god of dunk”

Portrait of a Basketball Artist as a Young Man: By John David Pittman

Portrait of a Basketball Artist as a Young Man: By John David Pittman

Perhaps fitting the Nike pullover Malik Monk is rocking in this picture is definitively old school. He is, after all, constantly pursuing mastery of the game’s timeless fundamentals – whether that’s making the correct dribble or pass in a half-court set, or taking the right angle on post defense.

By John David Pittman

By John David Pittman

But the 16-year-old Monk wouldn’t be one of the nation’s hottest recruits if his game didn’t also incorporate jaw-droppingly futuristic

By - you guessed it - John David Pittman

By – you guessed it – John David Pittman

athleticism. That fusion, along with his story of escaping poverty for a better life in the Mecca of Walmart, provided the impetus for this CBS Sports feature .

Major kudos go to my Max Preps editor Mitch Stephens, who was willing to invest a lot of time and money in a multimedia feature that includes the work of talented Arkansan photographers and videographers.

I was really glad to work with freelance photographer John David Pittman on this. Along with videographer Matt Johnson, we went up to Conway last week to report on Bentonville’s quarterfinal game against Cabot. Considering Pittman and I live just a few houses apart in North Little Rock, it’s a shame this was our first assignment together. Hopefully, we’ll collaborate on other assignments even after I move to Benton County this summer.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

And make sure to check out what’s shaping up to be an epic Parkview-Joneboro title game in Hot Springs tomorrow night.


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.


Todd Day, Anton Beard, KeVaughn Allen & Recruiting to Arkansas

Don't let Beard (center) fool you. His basketball future is decidedly looking up.

Don’t let Beard (center) fool you. His basketball future is decidedly looking up.

  It took a while, but Anton Beard’s heart is finally where his home is. No longer committed to a college north of the state line, or attending high school south of the river, the Razorback signee is looking forward to a career among the most highly anticipated in recent Arkansas basketball history. Arkansas’ recent surge clearly shows coach Mike Anderson has the program trending upward but if the the Razorbacks are to climb closer to the summit, it’s likely they will need a potent combo guard like Beard to get there.

  Not that he has a prima donna mindset: “I’m not looking to score much, or do something out of the ordinary,” says Beard, a North Little Rock High senior. “I’m just coming in to lead the team and win games – just do what coach asks me to do.” It’s a formula he’s followed to a tee since winning an AAU national championship as a sixth grader, along with four AAU state titles and two state championships with his former school, Little Rock Parkview High. Beard looks to keep the ball rolling in the next two weeks during the state high school tournament. The Charging Wildcats are the defending state champions in the 7A classification (i.e. the state’s biggest schools) and Beard plays a large role in their hopes for repeating.

  For his part, though, Beard says he most relishes the chance of throwing his sturdy 5-11 frame into the path of any challenger to the throne. “I like guarding the best player on every team because I feel like I can just shut them down any time.” In these playoffs that may include Bentonville’s Malik Monk or Springdale’s Dorantez “D.J.” Evans. “I take pride in guarding players like that.”

  North Little Rock guard KeVaughn Allen adds that Beard has helped him improve in his junior season by pushing him in 5 a.m. workouts at the North Little Rock Athletic Club along with guard Adrian Moore and center Sam Dunkam. “If I’m not being aggressive in a game, he’ll tell me to pick it up,” says Allen, who played with Beard in middle school. Beard constantly tries to urge his friend, the state’s top ℅ 2015 recruit, to join him in Fayetteville. “Everyday, he tells me like ‘Be a Razorback, be a Hog,’” says Allen. He adds he considering the UA and is scheduling a date for an official visit.

   Beard’s NLR coach Johnny Rice says that toughness is a major reason Mike Anderson wanted him in Fayetteville. Pat Bradley, a former All-SEC guard and co-host of 103.7 FM’s The Zone, adds that Beard does “whatever it is that’s got to be done – bite, scratch, kick, claw … that’s the kind of guys that coach Anderson’s gonna attract.”

   Beard’s tenacity traces back to Detroit where his father, Floyd Beard, grew up and played ball at Mackenzie High School with Doug Smith, a future college star and first-round NBA pick. Floyd Beard saw other local success stories like those of Derrick Coleman and Steve Smith but he also saw prospects – like himself – who didn’t pan out.  “I was a good athlete; I just didn’t have the discipline,” he says. Floyd Beard, who has lived in North Little Rock for 25 years, wasn’t going to let his own son make the same mistakes. He told him: “I know what it takes to mess up, so I’ll show you what it takes to not mess up.”

  The serious work started in fourth grade. Daily pushups, jumping rope, workout requirements of 50 made jumpers and 50 made three-pointers followed. Anton “had asthma real bad and I had to build up his lungs,” Floyd Beard recalls. “What we did was for every day for about two years, I made him run the treadmill for about 15 minutes.” The tactic worked, but came with costs. “As a fourth grader, that’s hard. You’re friends are going to a birthday party – but, hey man – you got workouts.”

  The regimen eventually gave Anton Beard a leg up on the competition. He dominated at Lakewood Middle School and by the time high school began he and his parents were already thinking about college and beyond. Although both parents live in North Little Rock, it was agreed Beard should attend Parkview. The magnet school’s strong basketball program was a draw, sure, but so was its academic prestige. Katina Brown, Anton’s mother, also urged Beard to take advantage of the school’s renowned drama department to develop his public speaking and hone the interview skills he would one day need.

 Beard and his parents understand the game. They know Beard’s public profile will exponentially expand once he starts playing for the Razorbacks and that leveraging that profile in a smart way can set up him up for more success after college. Floyd Beard runs a youth basketball program called The Family through the Amateur Athletic Union. He’s enlisted Anton to help coach the teams, which include nearly 35 kids from grades one through six, most Saturday mornings at Glenview Community Center. Anton says he loves learning how to look at the game as a coach, but the new responsibilities don’t stop there. His father has also named him as the president of the non-profit organization.

 As of now, this is more honorary title than actual executive job, but Floyd Beard hopes that as Anton’s reputation grows so will The Family’s. Anton “gives us – I hate to say it – that star power,” Floyd says. The hope is Anton’s affiliation with the organization – through his coaching, mentoring and future public speaking engagements – would help The Family one day join the Arkansas Wings and Arkansas Hawks as the state’s most prominent AAU programs.

Click here to see the entire story, originally published in Sync magazine. The above excerpt is an expanded version of what published in Sync. 

beard nlr

If you want to see what is likely Beard’s most spectacular play of the year, check out the highlight vs. Searcy at the :54 marker here


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.

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…

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It’s Time Arkansas Follows Texas In Honoring Its Black Prep Sports Heritage

On October 31 and November 1, Texans will honor and celebrate the legacy of their all black high school sports and activities league with an event at the University of Texas. Why shouldn’t Arkansas do the same?

Yes, Texas has more people than Arkansas. A lot more people. But that doesn’t make its history any more significant.  Look at the promotional poster below. It notes the event will involve discussion of the role high school athletics had in the desegregation of Texas society. The exact same dynamic was playing out in the all-black Arkansas State Athletic Association during the same decades. You’ll also notice famous Texas high school alumni such as David Lattin and Joe Washington. Well, Arkansas black sports had the likes of Eddie Miles and civil rights leader Sonny Walker, who in the 1950s reported on black high school sports in Little Rock for Daisy Bates’ newspaper the Arkansas State Press.

texas black sports

We, as Arkansans, should organize such an event as an opportunity to gather surviving coaches and players from this era and learn about their experiences playing in a different era. Oliver Elders, who coached at the all-black Horace Mann High School before he coached Sidney Moncrief at LR Hall, is in his 80s but is still sharp. So is North Little Rock great Eddie Miles, who’s in his 70s. These guys won’t be around forever, though. We need to learn more from them now.

Who would have interest in sponsoring such an event? Possibilities include the UALR Institute on Race and Ethnicity, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, the UA’s Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History and maybe the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute (Walker was appointed by Governor Winthrop Rockefeller as the first African-American in the South to hold a cabinet level position)?  I could see an event like this being hosted by the Butler Center, Clinton Center, Mosaic Templars or the UA Department of Journalism. I am sure the cause would get good publicity from the likes of the Arkansas Times, Sporting Life Arkansas, ArkansasFight.com, KUAR 89.1 FM and KUAF 91.3 FM.

What’s stopping us from making this happen?

It’s one thing to ignore the records of long-ago all-black prep sports leagues. Some of those numbers still live on microfilm, which will still be around for future generations to peruse. But it’s an entirely different matter to let stories of the leagues’ survivors – the stories that should matter to all Arkansans, white or black – keep going untold. Once we close that door, there’s no opening it again.


Top 10 NBA Players Ever From Non-Division I Schools: Part 1

manute bol

Fighting Refrigerator Perry signaled Christ-like humility. Yes, the argument has been made.

EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS RANKING HAS BEEN EXPANDED TO SIXTEEN PLAYERS IN A LATER POST.

In June, we saw an eventful NBA Draft that drew from a variety of sources – Canada, Germany, Greece, Brazil, France, the NBDL and, of course, all levels of Division I basketball.

What we didn’t see – and haven’t seen for a while – is a draftee taken from a non-D1 college basketball program. Perhaps, the days of the Division II, Division III and even NAIA superstar who also ends up making a splash in the pros is over. It’s been more than a decade since anybody of note made this kind of jump.

For the sake of commemoration, let’s look back at the Top 10 “really, really small college” players in pro basketball history. Each of these guys didn’t let a non-D1 college basketball background stop them from achieving their dreams.

You’ll find three Arkansans on the list:

10. Devean George

College: Augsburg (Minneapolis, Minn.)

NBA Draft: Round 1/Pick 23rd by Los Angeles Lakers

NBA Playing Career: 1999-2010

All-Star Appearances: 0

Career High Averages

Points per game: 7.4

Rebounds per game: 4.0

Assists per game: 1.4

Steals per game: 1.0

Blocks per game: 0.5

43.2 % FG

39.0 % 3PT

George was a dominant scorer in Division III, averaging 27.5 ppg as a senior, but will forever be remembered as a sort-of-vital glue guy bench player during the Lakers’ 2000-02 threepeat. His career apex came in 2003-04, when he started 48 games and played nearly 24 minutes a game.

9. Flip Murray

College: Shaw University (Raleigh, N.C.)

NBA Draft: Round 2/Pick 42nd by Milwaukee Bucks

NBA Playing Career: 2002-10

All-Star Appearances: 0

Career High Averages

Points per game: 13.5

Rebounds per game: 2.5

Assists per game: 3.5

Steals per game: 1.4

Blocks per game: 0.3

44.8% FG

38.9% 3PT

(boldfaced statistics are from the 28-game stint Murray spent with Cavaliers in 2006)

As a senior, Murray set a Shaw University record of 23 ppg while racking up Division II Player of the Year honors. He made another splash as a Supersonic in 2003-04, when he scored 20 or more points 10 times in the season’s first 11 games (he started in absence of an injured Ray Allen). During the partial season  Murray played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he averaged nearly 37 minutes a game.

8. Manute Bol

College: University of Bridgeport (Conn.)

NBA Draft: 1st time: Round 5/Pick 97 by San Diego Clippers (in 1983)

2nd time: Round 2/Pick 35 by Washington Bullets (in 1985)

NBA Playing Career: 1985-1995

All-Star Appearances: 0

Career High Averages

Points per game: 3.9

Rebounds per game: 6.0

Assists per game: 0.5

Steals per game: 0.4

Blocks per game: 5.0

60% FG

60% 3PT

The 7’6” Bol averaged  22.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 7.5 blocks in leading DII Bridgeport to a 22-6 record in his one season there. His rookie season ended up being his best in the pros, and he remains the only player in NBA history with more blocked shots (2,086) than points (1,599).

Bol’s legacy reaches far beyond his record-setting 8’6” wingspan. He spent most of the money he made as a basketball player to alleviate the poverty and war afflicting the people of his native Sudan. He told Sports Illustrated in 2004  “God guided me to America and gave me a good job. But he also gave me a heart so I would look back.”

Indeed, when Bol’s fortune dried up, he raised quick cash through publicity stunts in which he turned himself into a humorous spectacle – horse jockey, hockey player, celebrity boxer.

As John Shields wrote for the Wall Street Journal after Bol’s death in 2010:

Bol agreed to be a clown. But he was not willing to be mocked for his own personal gain as so many reality-television stars are. Bol let himself be ridiculed on behalf of suffering strangers in the Sudan; he was a fool for Christ.

Shields noted many sportswriters covering Bol’s death from severe kidney problems labeled him a “humanitarian” rather than “Christian.. Shields argues Bol’s Christian faith is fundamental to his identity, and whatever good he did for man was an outcome of first and foremost serving God.

Similarly, the mainstream media has avoided stressing the faith of other famous athletes, Shields wrote. “The remarkable charity and personal character of other NBA players, including David Robinson, A. C. Green and Dwight Howard, are almost never explicitly connected to their own intense Christian faith. They are simply good guys.”

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Archie Goodwin Is Second Arkansan UK Wildcat Drafted Into the NBA

Traditionally Arkansas produces better football than basketball players so it’s notable when one of the state’s best prep player ends up playing for the hoop-crazy

Yep, Houston Nutt Jr's daddy.

Yep, Houston Nutt Jr’s daddy.

University of Kentucky. Indeed, it appears only three natives have ever done it and two of them went directly from an Arkansas high school to Lexington – Houston Nutt, Sr. in 1950-51 and Archie Goodwin last season.

Goodwin was drafted late with the 29th pick on Thursday night. The 18-year-old Little Rock native will start his NBA career as a young shooting guard with the Phoenix Suns. As a child, Goodwin looked up to the  last Arkansas shooting guard prospect to launch a career there: Joe Johnson. Indeed, Goodwin once told me he approached Johnson at a Little Rock camp when he was around 10 years old and told him something to the effect of: “My name’s Archie Goodwin and one day you’ll know my name.”

The other Arky-turned-Wildcat was Bob Burrow, a Malvern native who moved to central east Texas as a high school junior. In 1954, after graduating with 14 other seniors from Wells High School, the 6-7, 230-pound center wasn’t exactly the most highly recruited guy around.

Two years later, after dominating competition at nearby Lon Morris Junior College, he was.

Burrow fell hard for Kentucky, which he considered the world’s basketball capital. “When they recruited me, one of the alumni flew me out to Lexington on a visit. What I saw really impressed me.” Amazingly, UK head coach Adolph Rupp didn’t even watch him play and offered a scholarship on reputation alone.

Burrow ended up as a two-time All-American at Kentucky, averaged 20 points and nearly 16 rebounds a game. Indeed, his 17.7 rebounds a game as a junior is a UK record and his 34 rebounds in one game is an SEC record.

The Wildcats were 43-9 during his tenure and today Burrow’s #50 jersey in the rafters.

Don’t expect the same for Goodwin’s #10 jersey. Goodwin had a rough freshman year to the say the least, but he still flashed enough talent and physical tools (he’s 6-4 but has a 6-10 wingspan, which was as long as Scottie Pippen’s) to warrant a first-round selection.

He has the benefit of playing for a young, hungry team with a new head coach – Jeff Hornacek – who played his position and is strong in one of the areas (shooting) where Archie is most weak. Now whether that translates into a successful NBA career is anybody’s guess.

For Archie’s sake, let’s hope it is better than Burrow’s two years in the league playing for the Rochester Royals and Minneapolis Lakers. Although he was picked #9 overall in the 1956 Draft, he averaged only 5.7 points and 4.4 rebounds a game in his brief career.


Best Sub 7-Feet Tall Twin Towers in Basketball History

In pro basketball the term “twin towers” conjures up images of two hulking behemoths, typically in the seven feet range, who dominate the sport in the most elemental way possible – sheer, physical superiority. Olajuwon and Sampson, along with Duncan and Robinson, are likely the most famous examples.

But there have also been a few devastating combos in which both big men are under seven feet. Most recently, the best example is Rasheed and Ben Wallace, who formed the defensive backbone of the elite Detroit Piston teams of the mid 2000s.

In the mid South, it’s hard to avoid thinking about Michael Cage and Keith Lee, the cornerstones of a West Memphis High team* which won an Arkansas-record 60 straight games.

We’ll never know how Cage and Lee would have fared together at the NBA level  since bad knees caused Lee’s career to end prematurely. Had Lee stayed healthy, and teamed with Cage, they might have joined the list below.

Sport’s is all about winning, and players get their all-time cred from performances in the postseason. so I’ve focused on how the twin tower combo performed in the playoffs. The stats  you find are per-game averages  from the combo’s most dominant postseason.

 Rasheed Wallace (6’11”) & Ben Wallace (6’9″)

Detroit Pistons

Played in 23 playoff games in 2003-04; won NBA title

                   PPG  RPG  BPG APG  SPG  TOG (turnovers per game)

Rasheed 13.0   7.8    2.0   1.6   0.6    1.9

Ben           10.3 14.3    2.4   1.9   1.9    1.6

Total        23.3  22.1   4.4   3.5   2.5    3.5

Win Shares/48 minutes

Rasheed  .135

Ben           .186

True Shooting Percentage %

Rasheed 47.9%

Ben           46.0%

Player Efficiency Rating*

Rasheed 15.3

Ben 18.6

*all statistics from basketball-reference.com

Moses Malone (6’10”) and Charles Barkley (6’4″)

Philadelphia 76ers

Played in 13 playoff games in 1984-85; Lost in Eastern Conference Finals 4-1 to Boston

PPG    RPG    BPG   APG    SPG    TOG (turnovers per game)

Malone    20.2   10.6   1.7     1.8      1.3       1.8

Barkley    14.9    11.1    1.2    2.0      1.8       2.7

Total         35.1    21.7   2.9    3.8      3.1       4.5

Win Shares/48 minutes

Malone  .160

Barkley  .170

True Shooting Percentage %

Malone  50.9%

Barkley  58.2%

Player Efficiency Rating

Malone  18.0

Barkley 19.6

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Michael Cage, Scottie Pippen, Joe Johnson … Fat Lever? Top 8 NBA “Arkansans” In Statistical Categories

Where does he rank against Sidney, Joe, Derek, Alvin et al? Courtesy Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Where does he rank against Sidney, Joe, Derek, Alvin et al? Courtesy Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Ever wondered how NBA Arkansans stack up against each other in terms of career statistics? Wonder no more: below is the first and only comprehensive list including both native Arkansans and non-natives who played college ball in Arkansas.

You’ll notice Scottie Pippen is the only player in each Top 8 list, followed by Alvin Robertson – who ranks in all categories except rebounds and blocks per game.

For fun, I’ve boldfaced the non-natives who played college ball in Arkansas. They are all Razorbacks.

STEALS

This, by far, is the category in which NBA Arkansans excel the most. Three of the top 12 ball thieves in NBA history rep Arkansas by birthplace (Lever), college (Robertson) or both (Pippen).

Total

Per Game

Scottie Pippen

2307

Alvin Robertson

2.71

Alvin Robertson

2112

Fat Lever

2.2

Fat Lever

1666

Scottie Pippen

2.0

Derek Fisher

1282

Michael Conley, Jr.

1.6

Darrell Walker

1090

Darrell Walker

1.51

Michael Cage

1050

Derek Fisher

1.50

Sidney Moncrief

924

Ronnie Brewer

1.29

Joe Johnson

850

Sidney Moncrief

1.2

POINTS

Total

Per Game

Scottie Pippen

18,940

Joe Barry Carroll

17.7

Joe Johnson

15,850

Joe Johnson

17.6

Joe Barry Carroll

12,455

Archie Clark

16.3

Sidney Moncrief

11,931

Scottie Pippen

16.1

Archie Clark

11819

Sidney Moncrief

15.6

Alvin Robertson

10,882

Alvin Robertson

14.0

Caldwell Jones***

10,241

Fat Lever

13.9

REBOUNDS

Total

Per Game

Caldwell Jones***

10,685

Caldwell  Jones

8.2

Michael Cage

8,646

Nathaniel Clifton

8.2

Scottie Pippen

7,494

Wil Jones

7.7

Wil Jones***

5,560

Joe Barry Carroll

7.7

Joe Barry Carroll

5404

Michael Cage

7.6

Fat Lever

4523

Bryant Reeves

6.9

Nathaniel Clifton

4469

Jim Barnes

6.5

Alvin Robertson

4,066

Scottie Pippen

6.4

N.B. Oliver Miller averaged 5.9 rebounds and Alvin Robertson averaged 5.2 in his NBA career. 

*** The Jones brothers’ stats include their seasons in the American Basketball Association, which merged with the NBA in 1976. I list the total of the NBA and ABA statistics. 

ASSISTS

Total

Per Game

Scottie Pippen

6,135

Fat Lever

6.2

Fat Lever

4,523

Mike Conley , Jr.

5.5

Joe Johnson

3,933

Scottie Pippen

5.2

Alvin Robertson

3929

Alvin Robertson

5.0

Derek Fisher

3,640

Archie Clark

4.8

Archie Clark

3498

Darrell Walker

4.6

Darrell Walker

3,276

Joe Johnson

4.4

Sidney Moncrief

2793

Sidney Moncrief

3.6

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