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.

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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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NBA Arkansans In The 2013 Playoffs

This isn’t the best of times for NBA Arkansans.

The playoffs began this weekend with defending champion Miami Heat as the most overwhelming favorite to win it all since the early 2000s Lakers. Back then, Arkansans played pivotal roles on a few title contenders. Little Rock native Derek Fisher, of course, manned the point for Los Angeles, which had to push through powerful Portland teams featuring Scottie Pippen.

A few years later, Corliss Williamson aided the Detroit Pistons’ push to a championship and an injury to Little Rock native Joe Johnson might have been the biggest reason Steve Nash’s run-and-gun Phoenix Suns never made the NBA Finals.

Eight years later, Johnson again finds himself in a supporting role. This time, though, instead of sprinting beside Nash and Amare Stoudemire, he’s jogging with Deron Williams and Brook Lopez on the No. 4 seed Brooklyn Nets. These days, production from Johnson, age 31, is trending downward. This season Johnson averaged 16.3 points on 42.3% shooting – the lowest averages since his second season.

The biggest reason for the drop has been nagging injuries – plantar fasciitis and a quad contusion – since February. Johnson, a six-time All-Star, needs a big playoff series against the No. 5 seed Bulls to give the Nets’ legitimate hope of dethroning Miami. If he’s looking for inspiration, he need look no farther than a series preview which ran in the Chicago Sun-Times.

In it is a position-by-position matchup analysis that pits Johnson, a six-time All-Star who has plenty big-time playoff experience, with Jimmy Butler, a 23-year-old who had played four playoff minutes in his career. The advantage went to Chicago.

By far, the most Arky-fied matchup is in the West, where Junction City native James Anderson and former Razorback Patrick Beverley helped Houston finish the season strong to lock up the eighth seed. Beverley, though, projects to play a much larger role than Anderson against No. 1 Oklahoma City. The 6-1 guard with a 6-7 wingspan joined Houston in January and has proven to be every bit the disruptive defender in the NBA that he was at Arkansas and in Europe. Beverley’s defense of Russell Westbrook is critical to Houston’s upset bid. [The task won’t be easy]

It should be no surprise to Hog fans that P-Bev is the NBA’s second best guard in offensive rebounding rate. In 2007-08, he was Arkansas’ shortest starter yet led the team with 6.6 rebounds a game.

Guards Derek Fisher and Ronnie Brewer are Oklahoma City substitutes. Fisher keeps ticking at age 38 but as his overall numbers continue to dwindle year-by-year it’s apparent he won’t be able to postpone his career’s end much longer. Still, it should not be taken for granted that dude is still playing point guard in the NBA at 38. That in itself is amazing, 33.3% FG shooting be damned.

Brewer, a former Razorback All-American, is a conundrum. He looked like a long-term NBA starter early in his career for the Jazz but in the last three years has bounced between four other teams. These playoffs could determine whether future teams are willing to invest millions more dollars into the 6-7 28-year-old or not.

Brewer’s long-term pro future hinges on his ability to improve his shooting, which has nosedived in the last two seasons. But, realistically, the Thunder don’t need Brewer to shoot even once to prove valuable in these playoffs. His true calling will likely come in a potential Finals rematch with Miami, when he would be summoned from the depths for the most grave task of climbing Mt. Defense. At the summit, above him, will glow LeBron James. Nothing short of a full-fledged living sacrifice will be expected.

“Human pinata” is not the sort of future Hog fans envisioned for Brewer when his career seemed so promising in Utah. Still, there’s no shame in being an NBA Arkansan who is expected to do not-so-big things in the playoffs. Everybody, it appears, is in the same boat.

But just because these guys don’t project to take center court on a national level, they still grab  the spotlight right on this blog.

If Fisher wins a sixth NBA title, he joins Pippen as the NBA Arkansan with the most rings. Where does Fisher rank, though, in other statistical categories?


Stay tuned for Part 2 for a breakdown of the Top 5 NBA Arkansans in each statistical category.

This piece is slated to publish in SYNC magazine.


Which Southern State Have Integrated Record Books?

I had a good interview with Wadie Moore, the assistant executive director for Arkansas’s organizing body for high school athletics, about the enduring issue of incomplete records. Here’s the resulting article:

When Wadie Moore started compiling a record book for the Arkansas Activities Association around 1996, he wanted it to be as comprehensive as possible.

The assistant executive director for Arkansas’s organizing body for high school athletics combed through archives and drew on the contacts he’d made in his decades of sportswriting for the Arkansas Gazette.

All the while, though, Moore knew the record book he was creating told an incomplete story of his state’s athletic past. He knew there had been two high school sports associations divided by race until 1967, when the all-white Arkansas Activities Association integrated with the all-black Arkansas State Athletic Association.

When compiling the book, which includes a list of state champions in various sports and all-time leaders in statistical categories, Moore used official records kept by the AAA dating back to the early 1900s. But he didn’t find any records kept by the ASAA. The paperwork, if it existed, apparently wasn’t transferred to the AAA headquarters. So, Moore didn’t include marks set by all-black powerhouse programs in basketball, football and track like Pine Bluff Merrill, Little Rock Dunbar, Horace Mann, Scipio Jones, Hot Springs Langston and Texarkana Washington high schools.

The result affects not only the AAA record book, but all the news reports that use it as a source.

Read the rest of the Arkansas Times piece here.

In researching this topic, I’ve discovered every Southern state has made different degrees of progress in exhibiting the history of its pre-integration, all-black athletic association.

West Virginia appears to have made the most headway of all non-Northern states with a deeply segregated racial past. The border state appears to have the oldest all-black association – dating back to at least 1925 – and today has an active All-Black Schools Sports & Academic Hall of Fame that holds ceremonies to celebrate an aspect of that state’s heritage that likely would otherwise remain vastly under-reported.

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