Shekinna Stricklin Joins Mt. Rushmore of Highest Arkansan Draft Picks in Major Sports League HistoryPosted: April 18, 2012
On Monday, Morrilton native Shekinna Stricklin became the second Arkansan to be taken as a #2 overall pick in the draft of a major sports league* By my count, only former NBA players Jim Barnes and Joe Barry Carroll have been drafted higher among native Arkansans. Congrats to Stricklin, who will soon be starting training camp with the Seattle Storm. Throughout her college career at Tennessee, she proved to be the one of the most versatile women in college basketball (I’d say #2 overall, after Delaware’s ridiculous Elena Delle Donne, who likely has been giving Joe Foley nightmares for weeks)
Here are athletes with Arkansas connections to be taken highest in a major sports league’s regular draft**:
- Number #1 – Jeff King of Arkansas Razorbacks (1986 by MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates)
- Number #1 – Jim Barnes of Tuckerman (1964 by NBA’s New York Knicks)
- Number #1 - Joe Barry Carroll of Pine Bluff (1980 by NBA’s Golden State Warriors)
- Number #2 - Lamar McHan of Lake Village and Arkansas Razorbacks (1954 by NFL’s Chicago Cardinals)
- Number #3 – Cortez Kennedy of Osceola (1990 by NFL’s Seattle Seahawks)
- Number #3 – Kay Eakin of Atkins and Arkansas Razorbacks (1940 by NFL’s Pittsburgh Pirates) [h/t to @bwaldrum for bringing Eakin to my attention]
None of the above #1 picks graduated from an Arkansas high school like #2 picks McHan or Stricklin. Jeff King was a Colorado native. Joe Barry Carroll moved to Denver as a child and Jim Barnes moved to Texas as a teenager.
*Yes, I consider the WNBA a major sports league. Basketball is a major sport, and millions of women play it. Although those women can earn more money in overseas leagues, no female league in the world surpasses the WNBA in terms of a) quality of basketball competition and b) a platform for marketing opportunities.
** No supplemental or January drafts for me. Also, call me lazy and irresponsible, but no checking of the NHL or MLB draft histories either. I simply can’t believe an Arkansan has snuck into the top three picks in either of these sports, despite the wee-est sign of emergent national cache in soccer. For that matter, I would be shocked if an Arkie has gotten into the top 10 picks in either sport.
But I’m open to surprise. So please, somebody, surprise me.
UPDATE: Surprise accomplished. Turns out former #1 overall MLB draft pick, Pat Burrell, spent the first few years of his life in Eureka Springs before moving to California, playing against Tom Brady in high school football, becoming an actual Hurricane at the University of Miami and then a metaphorical hurricane of drinking, sexing and bat-swinging at subsequent major league stops in Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and San Francisco. [h/t to Caleb Hardwick]
The question begs to be asked.
How does a superstar prep athlete grow up in the backyard of the Razorbacks but not come close to signing with the program? No scholarship offer or even the hint of one?
Such was the case with college junior Megan Herbert, who is taking the University of Central Arkansas basketball program to new heights. Before she was a Sugar Bear, though, the Northwest Arkansas native was raised a Razorback fan. The five-foot-11 power forward starred at Shiloh Christian School in Springdale and played on summer traveling teams for more exposure. In the end, though, she was offered only one scholarship – to UCA. Naturally, Herbert remains grateful.
“I was more than ecstatic to come to UCA,” she says. ”It did not hurt my feelings at all” that Arkansas didn’t offer a scholarship, she adds.
The most obvious reason why she likely didn’t offers from bigger programs is size. SEC post players are typically 6-foot-3 and above, and Herbert would likely have had to transform into a wing player (which she played in junior high before shooting up eight inches from 5-feet-3 in the span of a couple years).
“I knew I was undersized,” Herbert says. “I also knew it didn’t matter if I played hard.”
Herbert’s stepfather, Mike Wakefield, says he was surprised Herbert didn’t get more attention from Arkansas and its head coach Tom Collen. ”In all the time she was right here in Arkansas’ backyard, she got one Christmas card from them [as] total recruiting material. She got more from Pat Summitt at Tennessee than she got from Tom Collen at Arkansas.”
Following is another possible matchup that’s a lot closer to reality, and could be just as interesting for its colleges’ fans:
On November 16, the UCA Bears fell to an NAIA team, 97-90.
When it comes to low points of a nascent head coaching career, it will be hard to top this one for Corliss Williamson, the former Razorbacks star now entering the conference portion of his second year at the helm of a Division I school.
“Philander Smith had a great game,” says UCA Sugar Bear Megan Herbert, who attended the game. “They outplayed us, they outhustled us, they basically outworked us. Nothing against the men’s team, but Philander wanted to win that game.”
If there is any silver lining in that loss for UCA athletics, it reminds the women’s team to not take any win for granted. Instead, it motivates the reigning Southland Conference player of the year: “The men shouldn’t have lost that game, and now that we get to play them, we shouldn’t lose. So, I think there’s inspiration to go out there and show them really what UCA basketball is all about.”
After losing to Philander, the Bears won five consecutive game, then lost four in a row. At times, its young players seem to be auditioning for the lead roles in a Southland Conference Theatre rendition of “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.”
The women have been more consistent. They have lost only three games and only one of those losses (UMKC – Summit League) came against a team that wasn’t from a high D1 conference. In order for the Sugar Bears to take another step toward becoming a mid-major power, the program must win a Southland Conference and advance to the NCAA Touranment.
For that to happen, it needs to build momentum throughout the conference schedule.
That means, like in the past couple seasons, consistently winning at home – by springing upsets against the likes of Alabama and Indiana … and avoiding them against the Philander Smiths of the world.
Exacting revenge against Philander is “in our head,” says freshman Sharlay Burris. “We owe them one.”
Faulkner County may be a dry county, but wet’s the word on the video room wall of its best women’s basketball team.
There, on a board, Sugar Bear coaches lay out goals for their players and their chart progress on a game-to-game basis. Raindrops signify a goal was accomplished, while writing in black means the goal was nearly done. The numbers in red mean there was a lot of work left undone.