In the scope of world history, high school sports isn’t all that significant.
You could study a 1,001 more subjects which have more of an effect on our everyday lives. My wife, who works as a pediatrician, deals with more life and death matters in the course of half of a minute than I will in a lifetime of work.
So there may only be a handful of people who care that a large part of Arkansas’ high school history is kept in the dark almost every time a major record is set.
Last year, I discussed this issue in the context of career scoring records set in basketball. The essential issue was that the Arkansas Activities Association only recognizes records that were set by the white student-athletes – but not black student-athletes – who played before integration.
Before the school integration that swept through the state in the late 1960s, there were two state athletic associations – one for whites, the other for blacks. Black students ultimately joined the white students in what had been the white students’ schools, leaving the black schools – typically in worse shape – behind. The same happened with the athletic associations. If the black athletic association kept its own records (it is unclear that such records were ever kept and if they still exist), then they have long been lost.
All that remain, officially, are the records that were kept in by what had been the all-white Arkansas Athletics Association.
This became most evident on Saturday, when Little Rock Hall High won its fourth consecutive state basketball title. This is a very rare Read the rest of this entry »
Justin McCleary’s Recruiting, Dederick Lee’s Offers And Arkansas’ New Representative in the Nike EYBLPosted: March 7, 2013
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.
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.
Franklyn Calle has a nice article in SLAM magazine on the most dominant guard in recent Arkansas basketball history.
He talked to Tyler Scaife, Little Rock High’s McDonald All-American, about why she chose Rutgers over the likes of Tennessee and Baylor. Turns out, Scaife’s favorite player is Cappie Pondexter, the 5-9 Rutgers alum who in 2011 was voted as one of the top 15 players in WNBA history. Scaife, who also stands 5-9, told Calle: “[Rutgers] Coach Stringer does a great job of molding guards and putting them in the WNBA. I felt that Rutgers fit my style of play.”
Scaife will try to finish her high school career in style by bringing Hall a long-awaited title in the state playoffs over the next week and a half. In 2011-12, Scaife averaged 25.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 3.7 steals but Hall finished the season at 23-6 after losing in the 7A state semifinals to Fort Smith Northside. This year, Scaife’s numbers had dropped through early February (24 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.8 apg, 3.1 steals and 1 block) but in recent weeks she has ramped up her performance as her team has steamrolled to a 26-2 record and #1 state ranking.
Depending on how Hall finishes this season, Scaife could have a legit argument to be the best female player in state history. As I see it, her main competition for this designation is Shekinna Stricklin, who was a force of nature at Morrilton High 2005-08. Stricklin, like Scaife, won two Gatorade player of the year honors to go along with the McDonald’s All-American honor. Here are some other Stricklin benchmarks Scaife will be measured against:
- Named all-state and all-conference all four years of her high school career
- Started in all 120 games played and totaled 2,690 points, 1,400 rebounds, 726 assists, 474 steals and 605 blocked shots
- Had 45 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists in the 2008 state finals her senior year
- Parade Magazine All-America Second Team (2008) and Third Team (2007)
- 2008 USA Today All-USA First Team
- The 2006 MVP of the Arkansas State AAAA championships after her 30-point, 16-rebound, four-assist and four-block performance in the championship game to lead Morrilton to the title
Check out this month’s issue of SLAM (Russell Westbrook cover) for the complete Scaife article.
I just got this insight from longtime Arkansas sportswriter Walter Woodie. The man has seen plenty of good ball in his day:
Before you call her the best in the 5-on-5 era, you might want to think about Wendy Schoeltens of FS Southside.All-American at Vandy, played in Europe/Asia before WNBA. Also in Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. Besides Stricklin, do not forget Hot Springs’ Shemeka Christon, who was the SEC Player of the Year at Arkansas.She is in the argument, yes, but not the best. At least, not yet.
On the Shoulders of Non-Giants: Stellar Guards Lift Little Rock Parkview, North Little Rock programsPosted: February 22, 2013
Two years ago, as an eighth-grader, Kevaughn Allen decided to seriously prepare for high school competition.
So he started a training regiment that would make some NBA players balk.
Every weekday, year-round, he has met his AAU coach Kahn Cotton at the North Little Rock Athletic Club at 5 a.m. For two hours, they work on skills, strength and quickness. In the offseason, Allen tacks on an afternoon session of plyometrics.
For the love of just being a kid, why does he do it?
“I just wanted to be get better as a person and as a basketball player,” Allen said. “I just didn’t want nobody else to be better than me.”
For the most part, all that sweat has paid off. Allen, one of the nation’s most promising sophomore guards, has earned scholarship offers from a host of schools including the University of Arkansas. He helps lead a North Little Rock Charging Wildcats team that has won 23 games in a row and has spent nearly all the season ranked #1 in the state.
He has teamed with fellow guard Dayshawn Watkins to form one of the state’s best backcourts. The duo combines for about 36 points and 10 assists a game, and has already helped NLR defeat other top teams around the state – Jonesboro, Little Rock Hall, Fayetteville, Jacksonville, Clarksville.
Their statistics, though, wouldn’t fuel as many wins were it not for an on-court chemistry springing from off-court friendship. Last season was hard on Watkins. The point guard had just transferred from North Pulaski and had trouble jelling with new teammates. “It wasn’t easy for me to get used to my teammates, and it wasn’t easy for them to get used to me,” Watkins told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Tim Cooper in December 2012. “We liked each other, but we didn’t always have the chemistry on the court.”
Last Saturday, during Arkansas’ 73-71 win against Missouri, Hog fans glimpsed on the court of Bud Walton Arena what they hope will become a common occurrence in the future – a scrambling, clawing squad which regularly knocks out the best SEC teams.
A critical part of that future might have also been glimpsed among the fans themselves. Two Razorback recruits who rank among the nation’s best guards in their classes attended the game, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Richard Davenport. Freshman Adrian Moore (6-4, 170 pounds) of Conway is ranked by Future150.com as the No. 4 shooting guard in his class. Sophomore Kevaughn Allen (6-3, 170) of North Little Rock is ranked as the No. 7 shooting guard. Last summer, ESPN ranked him as the nation’s No. 21 player in the class of 2015. Arkansas has already offered scholarships to both players.
I caught up with Allen, along with some of the state’s other top guards, in a feature article for this week’s Sync magazine. Allen has roughly 15 scholarships offers, from schools like Florida, Nebraska, Connecticut and Louisville. So far, he’s taken three unofficial visits: Arkansas, Baylor and Mississippi State. Allen doesn’t yet have a Top 5 or anything like that, but says his favorite player is former Razorback and Little Rock native Joe Johnson. Allen met Johnson after seeing him play at the Dunbar Summer Recreational Basketball League.
I also profiled Little Rock Parkview junior Anton Beard, who recently reopened his recruitment after decommitting from Missouri. ”I just wanted to see all my options,” the 6-0 combo guard said. “I think I committed a little bit too early. Me and my family decided that wasn’t what was best.” His Parkview coach, Al Flangian, added one factor in Beard’s decision was uncertainty swirling around the future of the Mizzou basketball program and its head coach Frank Haith. Haith had long faced allegations of unethical conduct stemming from his previous job at Miami. A Miami booster and convicted felon, Nevin Shapiro, alleged he paid $10,000 to the family of a Hurricane recruit during Haith’s 2004-11 Miami stint.
Jeremy Evans on Scottie Pippen, Bobby Petrino and Competing Against Streetballers in the NBA Slam Dunk ContestPosted: February 16, 2013
In January, I interviewed 2012 NBA Slam Dunk champion Jeremy Evans for SLAM magazine. We discussed the redundancy that’s come to pervade the dunk contest and possible remedies. I proposed allowing the general public into the contest, and Evans welcomed the challenge of competing against pro streetball dunkers. Tonight, Evans will defend his title against a field of NBAers including Gerald Green and James “Flight” White, who has promised to unveil dunks never before seen by the public.
Evans, a Crossett, Ark. native, and I also touched on other subjects in the interview. Here are some highlights:
1. Evans isn’t the first “Arkansan” to win the NBA’s slam dunk contest. Fred Jones, who grew up in Malvern and moved to Oregon in middle school, won the 2004 contest.
2. Ashley County in southeast Arkansas has about 22,000 people but has produced two NBA players besides Evans. The first was Myron Jackson, a 6-3 guard who played for UALR. Jackson, a Hamburg native, played eight games with the Dallas Mavericks in 1986-87. The following season another Hamburg native, Scottie Pippen, made his NBA debut.
Evans said Pippen inspired him as a young player. Hamburg is only 15 miles from Crossett, and as a teen Evans believed “if he can make it, I can make it.” Evans twice met Pippen – at a basketball game in Hamburg and at Wal-Mart in Crossett. In Wal-Mart, Evans (who is an introvert) said his mom took him over to introduce him to Pippen. “He signed my shoes and that’s about it,” he said with a chuckle.
Pippen, by the way, participated in the 1990 NBA slam dunk contest, where he threw down a free-throw line dunk (Evans says he’s completed one of these only once – during a practice in high school).
3, Evans loves to draw. “I do everything – airbrush, portrait, oil painting, colored pencils, landscapes – just about anything you can imagine.” After his playing days end, he wants to open his own studio.
As far as he knows, he is one of the only NBA players who seriously draws. He recalls one erstwhile Oklahoma City Thunder player had a similar interest, and ultimately opened a studio in Oklahoma (he’s forgotten the player’s name).
My sportswriter friend David Harten attended Western Kentucky University with Evans in the late 2000s and told me Evans drew a portrait of CBS announcer Mike Gminski before a 2009 NCAA Tournament game. ”Someone came up to me and asked me to do it,” recalled Evans, who enjoys portrait drawings the most. ”I did it just because they asked me to.”
Evans’ favorite type of art is portraiture. He likes the challenge of trying to get a person’s face exactly right.
Did you know that in 1960 Hog basketball players faced off against Ole Miss in – of all places – Blytheville, Arkansas?
And that through this game at least three firsts were accomplished?
1) only UA played in northeast Arkansas, 2) only time Hogs employed a river ferry to reach a game and 3) likely only time Hogs played in an Arkansas county (Mississippi County) that shared a name with the university it was competing against.
I wrote in detail about this 1960 game and why Blytheville was chosen for it in this Sporting Life Arkansas article, but I wasn’t able to fit in the game report and box score to the right. As you can see, Arkansas handled Ole Miss that December evening, a far cry from the Hogs’ recent ineptitude in the series.
Another fascinating tangent of this story involves an NBA exhibition game that was played in Blytheville, Arkansas in 1958. I had always assumed the first NBA preseason games were played at North Little Rock’s Alltel Arena in the early 2000s. How pitifully wrong I was.
The NBA champion St. Louis Hawks played the Philadelphia Warriors at Blytheville High School gym (which sat 3,200 people) on October 8, 1958.
Yes, the world champions of basketball – with all-timers like Bob Pettit and Slater Martin – played in a Arkansas high school gym. That place must really have been the “Taj Mahal” of gyms from Memphis to St. Louis, as the one Blytheville longtime resident termed it.
If you don’t believe me, check out this game program on eBay. (unfortunately, I cannot find the result of the game, so please tell me if you know it)
By the way, this particular eBay seller has some very interesting items for the Mid South sports fan. Here are two of my favorites:
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.
What’s the best in-game dunk in the history of the mid South?
That’s not the exact question I addressed in my most recent Sporting Life Arkansas piece, but it’s one I’ve been pondering all day. We know Memphis has produced some seriously athletic prep and college ballers – Adonis Thomas, Anfernee Hardway, Derrick Rose and even Amare Stoudemire (who briefly attended a Memphis high school and would have attended the U of Memphis had he not jumped to the NBA) jump to mind.
As a high schooler, Shaquille O’Neal assaulted numerous rims in San Antonio before doing his thing at LSU. And Blake Griffin practiced his aerial arts in Oklahoma before landing in Los Angeles.
In the mid-South’s NBA landscape, we have elite dunkers like Memphis’ Rudy Gay and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.
But I don’t think ANY of the above players – while living in the mid South – have ever unleashed something as mind-boggling as what an Arkansas high schooler did last Monday. Compared to what you’re about to see from this Nettleton High sophomore, Clyde Drexler’s most vicious dunk looks like Mother Teresa tending a sick lamb.
As I mention in the SLA piece, I think this may end up being the dunk of the year – anywhere, any level. And if anybody has done something more spectacular in the mid South, please for the love of Phi Slamma Jamma send it my way. I have to see it.
One SLA reader said an ASU player once pulled off a better dunk back in the early ’90s; I pray in the name of Chocolate Thunder video of it can be found.