Nolan Richardson Isn’t the Only Arkansan Entering the Basketball Hall of Fame: Part 1

Chicago.

Is it in the least surprising that a city known for its wind should have so many interesting people floating in and out of it, seemingly carried aloft by the currents of fate?

When I heard Nolan Richardson was being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this August, one of my first thoughts drifted northward to that great city on a lake. Ten years ago, Richardson’s reputation in Arkansas was marred after an ugly firing from, and lawsuit of, the university with whom he’ll always be linked. The idea of enshrining Richardson seemed far-fetched in that period.

In the last five years, though, we’ve seen a whole-scale rehabilitation of Richardson’s image in the state and nationwide. Much of this, of course, has to do with the passage of time. It also helps Richardson that none of his successors have achieved anything near the same level of success he did in Fayetteville.  An ESPN documentary, released in 2012, also helped Richardson by essentially canonizing his “40 Minutes of Hell” style among the great strategies in basketball history.

But I think one of the most important reasons for Richardson’s resurgence into the public’s goodwill has been his biography, written by Chicagoan Rus Bradburd. Bradburd’s “Forty Minutes of Hell” published in 2010, is a must-read for all fans of college basketball and students of the race relations in the South. It goes back to Richardson’s west Texas background to explain the complicated roots of his anger, and it lays bare the knarled relationship between he and former Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles. It shows, in a way no mere article or documentary could, the extent to which the passion that led to the 1994 championship and the frustration that led to the 2002 meltdown were two sides of the coin.

I’ve talked to Bradburd in person and over the phone a few times about Richardson, Arkansas sports, the craft of writing and more. He’s a fascinating person in his own right, a creative writing professor who’s also spent a year coaching professional basketball in Ireland while learning how to play the fiddle. Oh, and this: He was also a Division I assistant coach who “discovered” a largely unknown point guard named Tim Hardaway in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood.

In the early 1980s, while a teenage Hardaway walked to courts to hone his craft, there would have been at some point a large, 6-7 heavyset older man driving a cab by those same courts. Perhaps, they knew of each other. Likely they didn’t.  The man’s name was Nat Clifton. He is one of the most significant figures in NBA history, a man who will posthumously be inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside Richardson.

And he grew up in Arkansas…

 

Click here for Part 2 of this series.

 

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ASU and the UA Should Use the Natural State to their Recruiting Advantage

 

The great outdoors, design, football.

A decade ago, the typical college athletics administrator likely concerns himself only with the last of these.

Not anymore. These worlds are colliding with unprecedented frequency as self-marketing matters more and more in college football. Across the nation, programs are jazzing up their facilities and uniforms in an effort to attract recruits, media coverage and donations. Ambitious programs are realizing more variation – in color, shade, design – is better.

Two trends have emerged, one piggybacking on the other.

The first trend entailed marketing an array of different uniforms designs and colors that went beyond a program’s traditional road color and home white. Oregon football kicked this off in 2006 by unveiling a dizzying array of pant, jersey and helmet combinations. Merchandise sales soared as Oregon became one of the nation’s hottest programs.

Around 2011, an offshoot trend emerged where designs of jerseys and playing surfaces incorporate local, geophysical flavor. Here, heritage – natural or man-made – meets the all-important “buzz” factor.

Oregon basketball, one of the first to get into the act, superimposed onto its new court silhouette images of the state’s native fir tree. Other programs have made similar moves. Palm tree images now frame the courts of Long Beach and Florida International universities.

Wyoming football last year unveiled a new artificial turf with a depiction of the state’s Teton Range in both end zones. The lettering “7220 feet” is on both sidelines, marking the stadium’s record-setting elevation above sea level.

Even older, more established programs have gone down a similar, though more subtle, path.

Programs are also using man-made objects to promote their brands. Take Maryland, which in 2011 launched a “state pride” initiative that put the design of its distinctive state flag (the nation’s only one to feature British heraldic banners) on Terrapin football helmets and end zones.

 Indiana went the same flag-based route with one its new football helmet variants.

 So, should Arkansas join the movement?

 Without a doubt.

Our state has far too much iconic imagery to stand on the sidelines and not take advantage. Why, for instance, should the Hogs settle for white helmets and black jerseys when there are so many more interesting, Arkansas-specific designs that could be used?

 We’re the Natural State. It’s high time those playing our best football programs know it.

I’ve shared some ways already on Sporting Life Arkansas - including a diamond Razorback helmet – but below are some others that would work for any program in the state even thought I highlight Arkansas and Arkansas State.

1. According to a Washington, Ark. newspaper article in 1841, the Bowie knife was originally invented not by frontiersman extraordinaire Jim Bowie but by craftsman James Black. It became known as one of the most dangerous big knives in the region, just as Bielema’s Hogs aim to become of the most feared teams in the SEC.  Use a a small silhouette or outline of this knife somewhere on the uniform, perhaps down the side of the legs. Make the blade diamond-like for extra points.

2. Arkansas’ Buffalo River was the first National River to be designated in the United States and along with the Hogs is one of north Arkansas’ prime attractions. It’s time they join forces. Why not incorporate an image representing running water onto the perimeter of the field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium?

3. The Red Wolves and now the Razorbacks have a thing going with mostly-black unis, we know. Tough guy and all that. But so many other programs do that, too. Why not separate yourself from the pack by incorporating colors from the most visually stunning bird native to the state? In the hands of a skilled designer, adding flecks of color from the scissor-tailed flycatcher onto the dark background would be a sure-thing eyecatcher.

The above is an update of an article that originally ran in Sync magazine in summer 2013.

 

 


Projecting Draft Potential of Bobby Portis – the UA’s 6th All-SEC Freshman

Is Portis underrated by NBA draftniks?

Is Portis underrated by NBA draftniks? Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Arkansas freshman big man Bobby Portis earned a pair of SEC postseason honors on Tuesday, as the Little Rock native was named to the All-SEC second team and the SEC All-Freshman team..

According to the UA sports information department, the Hogs have landed 15 players on the SEC All-Freshman team while Portis is just the sixth freshman in program history to earn All-SEC honors. During his standout rookie campaign, Portis also collected three SEC Player of the Week accolades, which equaled the record previously set by current Houston Rocket Patrick Beverley in 2007.

One of Portis’ weekly honors came on the heels of breaking the Arkansas freshman scoring record with 35 points against Alabama on Feb. 5 at Bud Walton Arena, dethroning current Director of Student-Athlete Development Scotty Thurman. The 35-point night was the most by a Razorback since 2002, and the third-most points scored by an SEC player this season. Portis accounted for 29 of the team’s first 35 points, while also adding nine rebounds and a season-best six blocks.

Portis enters the SEC Tournament averaging 12.4 points and 6.6 rebounds, ranking second and first on the team, respectively. The 6-foot-10 forward has reached double figures in 20 games with a team-best three doubles and is the only Razorback to start all 31 games. Portis ranks 10th in the SEC in rebounding and tied for fifth in blocks (1.6), while also showcasing his all-round skill with 46 assists and 35 steals.

The first Arkansas signee since 2004, and the 13th overall, to play in the McDonald’s All-American game, Portis has lived up to the hype and has a chance to become the first freshman in program history to lead the team in scoring and rebounding in the same season. Portis also needs just 12 rebounds to break the freshman record of 211 set by Marshawn Powell in 2010.

Fifth-seeded Arkansas (21-10) will begin play at the SEC Tournament on Thursday, taking on the winner of Auburn/South Carolina in a 2:30 p.m. CT game on SEC TV. The Razorbacks earned a first round bye and head to Atlanta with wins in eight of their last 10 games.

So when and where will Portis end up going in the NBA Draft?

NBA Draft Express has him at #19 in the 2015 Draft, one behind Kentucky’s Dakari Johnson. Curiously, NBA Draftnet doesn’t have him listed at all. But at least one member of the drafterati – Dean Demakis – in February made a strong case for Portis one day being worth high first round consideration. Especially when compared to SEC Freshman of the Year Julius Randle, an apparently surefire Top 10 pick this year.

They are both skilled 5 star freshman PF’s who play in the SEC.  Their tools are not far apart, as Portis has more length (7’1.5″ vs 6’11″ wingspan), Randle has more strength, and their athleticism and mobility appear to be similar (although perhaps Randle’s spryness would stand out if he trimmed down).  Their offensive ratings adjusted for SOS and usage is close with Randle having a slim 1.8 point advantage.   In a world that interprets draft related information with reasonable efficiency, a Portis vs. Randle debate would be raging right now….

Portis has superior defensive awareness and his length enables him to make more plays.  I believe he clearly projects to be better on this end in spite of inferior rebounding.  Offensively, Randle is a superior offensive rebounder and gets to the line far more, but Portis has a considerably lower turnover rate.  


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


Anton Beard Nearly Beat Chris Paul One-on-One

I just got off the phone with Razorback signee Anton Beard’s dad and he gave a little of the back story to Anton’s one-on-one game against future Hall of Famer Chris Paul in the summer of 2012. It happened at one of the CP3 Youth Camps in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Beard had to win an in-house tournament involving about 15-20 high schoolers to earn the right to challenge Paul, Floyd Beard told me.

In the video below (shot by Beard’s mother) you will see Beard give Paul a good challenge. Granted, Paul isn’t playing 100%  - or anything near – but there are nonetheless promising signs: Beard’s strong frame helps hold Paul to 3 of 9 shooting, and he causes two turnovers. Beard ends up losing 3-2, after being up 2-0, but you can’t realistically hope for more from a rising high school junior against the best point guard in the world.

Beard admits he was a bit nervous playing against Paul, but it’s hard to tell from the clip. He adds that Paul is one of his basketball role models and indeed originally committed to Missouri because an assistant there – Tim Fuller – was Paul’s high school coach.

Beard has a long way to go before legit comparisons to Paul can be made – especially on the defensive side of the ball – but physically they are not far apart if we compare them as high schoolers. Paul is slightly taller and quicker (with much quicker hands), but Beard is stronger and has a more refined three point shot. Look for Beard to be given as big of an opportunity to star for the Hogs next season as Paul had for Wake Forest as a freshman.

The Hogs, after all, desperately need a prolific combo guard who can penetrate the lane and finish or kick out to marksmen like Ky Madden or Anthlon Bell.


Is Joe Johnson the worst All-Star selection in modern NBA history?

Evin Demirel:

Joe Johnson now has more All-Star appearances than Adrian Dantley, Joe Dumars, Chris Mullin,  Reggie Miller and Chris Webber. Is this a travesty? In the well-researched blog below, David Brown makes the case that it is.

I do agree Joe has a strong case this season for being the least deserving All-Star in NBA history – from a statistical standpoint. But David fails to mention two factors that played into his selection this year. First, the Nets are one of the league’s best teams since January 1. They very well may end up storming into the Playoffs and contend in the East – just as was originally forecasted. A big reason for that turnaround will have been Joe’s stellar play over a dozen-game period in January when he hit two game winners. Overall, his season hasn’t been All-Star worthy, but the coaches are likely voting for him because of this first-team All-NBA stretch he had.

Another factor to consider: Joe’s intangibles. He’s a better leader and team unifier than many NBA fans give him credit for. Consider what his presence did for the careers of Josh Smith , Al Horford and even Marvin Williams towards the end of his time in Atlanta. He’s steady, and you can count on him from an emotional standpoint – in this way, he’s similar to Tim Duncan. That kind of consistency is huge in a locker room culture where high pressure and outsized egos are often combustible combinations. My feeling is that some coaches voted for Joe less for his streaky three-point shooting and more the respect they have developed for who he is as a consummate team player.

Yes, rewarding someone for team play is not the purpose of an All-Star selection. But you’ll never convince those silly coaches of that.

Originally posted on NBA Observer:

Image

Kyle Lowry, Arron Aflalo, Al Jefferson and Lance Stephenson each had a better case to make the All-Star Game than Joe Johnson, who was voted in as a reserve this week by NBA coaches. His inclusion must go down as the most baffling in modern All-Star memory.

At this stage in Johnson’s career, he is a one-dimensional scorer who is not particularly good at that one dimension. At 15.7 points per game, he is 53rd on the league’s leading scorers list – just slightly ahead of Gerald Henderson, Carlos Boozer and Dion Waiters – and ranks just 141st in PER.

View original 1,176 more words


The University of Arkansas Professor who Created a Sports Dystopia

roller ball

More than 40 years ago, around the time public outcry was peaking about brutality in football, a University of Arkansas English professor attended a basketball game at Barnhill Arena*. There, with the Razorbacks trailing, a fight broke out. It was, apparently, quite a vicious squabble, so much so it inspired the Hogs to roar back for a win.

It also inspired the professor, William Harrison, to wonder just how violent sports in the future may become. He was moved to pen “a little experimental story.”

That story, “Roller Ball Murder,” published in Esquire and inspired the screenplays for two movies. The story centers on a highly popular futuristic sport involving balls and big, strong men flying at each other at increasingly high velocities. Rules are changed to make the game more violent and drive up ratings. The result: higher rates of in-game injuries, and frequent death. Crowd noise for the first movie, released in 1975, was actually recorded during a live game at Barnhill Arena.

The NFL, of course, is currently changing its rules to make the game ostensibly more safe in light of the concussion debate. Yet while it focuses on concussions, the rate of musculoskeletal injuries keeps rising as players get bigger, stronger and faster.
William Harrison passed away last year, but his vision of a dark sports future should not be forgotten. He raised an important question in the 1970s that is just as perinent now: Where are American sports – in particular, football – headed? If its players keep getting bigger and faster, it cannot help but get more dangerous – no matter how much fancy equipment is stuffed into their lockers.
This is a topic I explore in my piece below for the Daily Beast:

Long before studies of former NFL players’ brain tissue shook America’s football-industrial complex to its stem, the sport had undergone other crises involving player safety. In the 1970s, no microscope was needed to see neck and spine injuries among players of all levels were escalating fast. One main culprit was the hard-shell helmet that had essentially become a spearing weapon. Too many coaches were teaching players a head-first form of tackling that left a path of mangled bodies in its wake, sending insurance premiums through the roof.Rollerball, a movie about a dystopian society fixated with an ultra-violent sport, became an international hit in 1975 and triggered more debate on brutality in sports within the general public. A former Penn State University president became so worried about the direction football was headed he made a plea in the form of a prediction to Joe Paterno, the former Nittany Lions head coach. “Joe, if football doesn’t do something about the injuries, soccer will be our national sport in 10 years.”

This didn’t happen, of course.

It is Manning, not Messi, Sherman, not Suarez, who dominate the headlines before Sunday’s massively anticipated Super Bowl. Denver’s greatest passing offense of all time is on a collision course with Seattle and its most fearsome pass defense in recent history. This here is tectonic heat, a contrast hitting at the heart of why we love sport in the first place. The NFL has most of me in its grasp for this one.

And yet, there is unease. Questions of whether the game’s brutality has gone too far persist. In terms of quantity and severity, there are signs we are on the cusp of the most violent Super Bowl yet.

The violence and danger of football extends far past professional stadiums.

Start with the increasing size, strength, and speed of players at almost all positions that has contributed to a rise in overall injuries over the last decade—from 2,623 in 2004 to 3,126 in 2012. Kam Chancellor, Seattle’s all-league safety, stands 6’3”, 232 pounds—specs that in the 1950s could have belonged to a defensive tackle. Nobody mixes mass, acceleration, and aggression quite like Chancellor, who appears to have the perfect mindset for somebody paid to do stuff like this:

“When I go out there, all of these hard hits and laying dudes out, that’s just my passion for the game,” he told the Seattle Times. “That’s just showing how much I love this game.”

Read the rest of the column here.

*I haven’t been able to find an original interview source in which Harrison cites Barnhill as the site of the basketball game, but I have found secondary sources like this. Plus, it just makes sense. Very few English and creative writing professors bother to follow a team on the road.


Arkansas leads Nation in Home/Road Wins Disparity. Guess Who’s #2?

Nothing ever seems to get better for these road woe-erriers.

Nothing ever seems to get better for these road woe-erriers.

Razorback fans, you can rest easy now.

If you had any doubt  that under Mike Anderson, the Hogs have been the nation’s most Jekyll and Hyde program, fret no more. I have scoured the back alleys of the World Wide Web, and have found not a single other Division I program which so predictably cranks out win-at-home, lose-on-the-road outcomes in recent years. As you can see in the graph below, Arkansas has been extremely strong at home since 2011-12, Anderson’s first year. But the Hogs’ simultaneous struggles on the road (which I have explored for the New York Times and Sporting Life Arkansas) have been even more remarkable.

Season

Overall

Home

Road

RPI

2013-14

13-6

12-1

0-3

76

2012-13

19-13

18-1

 1-9

93

2011-12

18-14

17-3

1-9

106

Home Winning %  90.2
Road Winning %    8.7
Disparity: 81.5%

If the heart were a neck muscle, 98% of Hog fans would be suffering some degree of whiplash by now. Will it surprise anyone if Arkansas knocks off a good Mizzou team at home tonight [Mizzou has never won at Bud Walton], but then proceeds to lose handily to LSU on the road, then beats Alabama at home, then goes to Vanderbilt and shoots either 12% on three-point attempts or 52% on free throws for the game?

Sadly, this is the whipsaw future almost all Arkansas fans expect these days.  Home heroism mixed with road woes have come to rival up-tempo defense as the Razorbacks’ most well-known trait. Arkansas is not alone in this boat, though. There are a few other programs who have mightily succeeded/struggled in the same way. Again, not to the extent Arkansas has, but enough to lock down the #2, #3 and #4 spots in college basketball Jekyll and Hyde-dom.

Without further adieu, I present to you the three fan bases who are most likely to be able to empathize with Arkansas’:

Maryland

Season

Overall

Home

Road

RPI

2013-14

11-8

7-2

1-4

67

2012-13

25-13

18-3

 3-7

65

2011-12

17-15

13-4

1-8

103

Home Winning % 80.9
Road Winning %  20.8
Disparity: 60.1%

Now in his third year, Mark Turgeon hasn’t yet been able to return the Terrapins to their glory days of the early 2000s, when they won the national title in 2002. This was supposed to be the year Maryland returned to the NCAA’s but the team still isn’t winning enough conference road games to fulfill that potential. “Too often, the Terrapins have appeared rudderless,” one Washington Post columnist opined while discussing the team’s point guard problems. Another big reason is the road shooting woes of its most explosive wingman, Jake Layman.

Razorback fans know the feeling. Wing Michael Qualls looked like a darkhorse All-SEC type player before faltering so far in conference. Qualls shoots 49% on field goals at home, and 8% on the road.

Wake Forest

Season

Overall

Home

Road

RPI

2013-14

13-6

11-0

1-4

62

2012-13

13-18

11-5

 1-10

168

2011-12

13-18

9-7

3-8

176

Home Winning %  72.1
Road Winning %   18.5
Disparity: 53.6%

When it comes to emotional roller coaster rides in the last  five years, I doubt any program has been so high, and fallen so low, as Wake Forest. The alma mater of Tim Duncan and Chris Paul was ranked #1 nationwide in January, 2009. A little less than a year later, their coach was fired and Jeff Bzdelik hired.

The resulting downward spiral and apparent dysfunction reads like a jock’s rendition of Requiem For a Dream. Last season was a season of protests directed against Bzdelik, as well as  a radio show fiascobrutal public relations, a highly active Internet campaign, and thousands of dollars in local media ad buys, as ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan points out.

Bzdelik hasn’t exactly righted the ship this year despite notching wins over UNC and North Carolina State at home. While the Demon Deacons did nab a conference road win last week, that only makes WF 2-27 in ACC road games during Bzdelik’s tenure. Wake Forest fans have come to expect  “jubilation at home and misery on the road,” Robert Reinhard wrote for SB Nation. “It’s completely unacceptable that a team can perform that well at home yet so miserably on the road.”

Nebraska

Season

Overall

Home

Road

RPI

2013-14

9-9

8-1

0-6

86

2012-13

15-18

11-6

 2-10

98

2011-12

12-18

9-8

3-9

145

Home Winning %    65.1
Road Winning %     16.7
Disparity:  48.4%

At home, this season, the Huskers have come within a point of beating Michigan while knocking off Minnesota and  Ohio State (a win apparently every bit as satisfying to Husker Nation as the Kentucky win was to Hog Nation). But second-year coach Tim Miles is 1-14 in true games, the last being a loss to an extremely bad Penn State team. “We’re right there,” star player Terran Petteway said earlier this month. ”Every day everybody has to come with a positive attitude, come ready to work. As you can see, the past couple games were pretty close. Once we get over the hump, it’s going to be special.”

N.B. Nebraska forward David Rivers, a former teammate of Bobby Portis at Little Rock Hall, has struggled this year on the road and at home. He’s found his groove at neutral sites, though.

Just for kicks, here are Neutral Court results from the last three seasons:
Maryland: 10-9
Nebraska: 3-5
Wake Forest: 3-8
Arkansas: 1-7

* Maryland, Wake Forest and Nebraska records and RPI rankings are through January 24, 2014. 


NBA Arkansans Ranked In Order of Highest Scoring Game

joe johnson 29-points-quarter

You go, Joe.

On Monday night, Joe Johnson had a quarter for the ages. In one twelve-minute span, the Brooklyn Net scored 29 points including eight three-pointers. That’s historic stuff – tying an NBA record for most threes in a quarter and four points away from the record for most points in a quarter.

But Johnson’s spectacular play in the third quarter didn’t extend to the rest of the game. In the first half, he scored eight points and declined an opportunity to play in the fourth. He ended up totaling 37 points – only the 11th highest scoring game of his career.

Johnson’s third-quarter explosion was noteworthy because he’s never been a supremely explosive scorer. Although he was a main scoring option in Atlanta for years, his career high is 42 points. Where does this career high rank all-time among NBA Arkansans?

Wonder no more. Below are all instances of an NBA Arkansan scoring 40 or more points, ranked in order of highest scoring games.

Carroll, a Pine Bluff native, holds the top spot.

Carroll, a Pine Bluff native, holds the top spot.

1. Joe Barry Carroll

Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA  2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     24-224 1983-03-05 GSW  UTA W       22  32 .688 22           0          8  13  .615 52     
2     22-211 1981-02-20 GSW  SDC L       17          17           0         12  17  .706 46     
3     28-192 1987-02-01 GSW  NJN W  1 55 15  37 .405 15  37 .405  0   0     13  18  .722 43 
4     24-196 1983-02-05 GSW  SAS W       14  26 .538 14           0         12  14  .857 40
Age = XX-YYY; XX=Years Old, YYY=Days Old

2. Scottie Pippen

Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA   2P% 3P 3PA   3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     31-146 1997-02-18 CHI  DEN W  1 41 19  27 .704 17  22  .773  2   5  .400  7   7 1.000 47 
2     25-151 1991-02-23 CHI  CHH W  1 31 16  17 .941 16  17  .941  0   0       11  15  .733 43 
3     26-156 1992-02-28 CHI  MIL W  1 42 17  24 .708 17  23  .739  0   1  .000  7   7 1.000 41 
4     30-146 1996-02-18 CHI  IND W  1 44 14  26 .538 10  19  .526  4   7  .571  8  10  .800 40 
5     29-167 1995-03-11 CHI  LAL L  1 40 16  26 .615 12  19  .632  4   7  .571  4   5  .800 40
One of the few stats where he outdid the Sid in the pros.

One of the few stats where he outdid the Sid in the pros.

3. Ron Brewer

Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA  2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     26-055 1981-11-10 SAS  LAL W       19          19           0          6   7  .857  44     
2     26-052 1981-11-07 SAS  NYK W       16          16           0          8   8 1.000  40

4. Sidney Moncrief

Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA  2P% 3P 3PA   3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     26-059 1983-11-19 MIL  DEN L       13  17 .765 13           0           17  19  .895 43     
2     25-156 1983-02-24 MIL  HOU W       14  24 .583 14           0           14  14 1.000 42

5. Joe Johnson

Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA  2P% 3P 3PA   3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     24-251 2006-03-07 ATL  GSW W  1 48 14  27 .519 10  17 .588  4  10  .400 10  10 1.000 42 
2     27-181 2008-12-27 ATL  CHI W  1 44 16  31 .516 12  25 .480  4   6  .667  5   6  .833 41 
3     28-173 2009-12-19 ATL  CHI L  1 48 16  32 .500 11  25 .440  5   7  .714  3   4  .750 40 
4     24-263 2006-03-19 ATL  ORL W  1 48 17  24 .708 12  19 .632  5   5 1.000  1   2  .500 40 
5     24-240 2006-02-24 ATL  IND W  1 47 16  24 .667 11  19 .579  5   5 1.000  3   3 1.000 40 
6     24-213 2006-01-28 ATL  CHI L  1 46 16  25 .640 12  21 .571  4   4 1.000  4   4 1.000 40

6. Alvin Robertson

Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA  2P% 3P 3PA   3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     23-152 1985-12-21 SAS  DEN W  1 43 14  19 .737 13  18 .722  1   1 1.000 12  14  .857 41 
2     25-272 1988-04-19 SAS  LAL L  1 44 17  28 .607 16  25 .640  1   3  .333  5   6  .833 40 

7. Todd Day
Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA  2P% 3P 3PA   3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     25-349 1995-12-22 BOS  MIN W  0 38 11  18 .611  6  10 .600  5   8  .625 14  16  .875 41 

8. Corliss Williamson
Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA  2P% 3P 3PA   3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     24-090 1998-03-04 SAC  DET W  1 40 16  23 .696 16  23 .696  0   0        8   9  .889 40 

9. Archie Clark
Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     30-134 1971-11-26 BAL  ATL W       15                               10  11  .909 40

O.K. Hard as I might try, I just can't slam the door on folks who nearly scored 40 points
but fell a shade short. Here are members of the 39-Point Club:
Eddie Miles
Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     27-251 1968-03-12 DET  SEA W       18                                 3   3 1.000 39

Darrell Walker
Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA  2P% 3P 3PA   3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     26-014 1987-03-23 DEN  UTA L  1 36 13  18 .722 13  18 .722  0   0       13  16  .813 39 
2     26-002 1987-03-11 DEN  UTA W  1 40 14  21 .667 14  21 .667  0   0       11  14  .786 39

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