Parkview, of course, is a gold standard in Arkansas high school prep circles. To be associated with it means something. It means you’re going to know how to find the open man, you’re going to cut to the hole when it’s time and you’re going to get your ass chewed out by one Al Flanigan. Through the decades Parkview’s head basketball coach has won five state titles, but I’m not sure if he’s delivered a more impressive victory than what happened on Friday night.
His Patriots team, in theory depleted a year after losing two high major recruits, beat defending state champion North Little Rock team 65-55. The Charging Wildcats (4-1) are hands down the state’s most talented team. Start with sophomore Adrian Moore, a transfer from Conway, who has offers from Baylor and Arkansas and delivered a one-handed tomahawk at the end of the first half which caused the roof to tremble.
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Continue with muscular K.J. Hill, who will end up playing high major football (he’s an Arkansas recruit). Hill, a junior guard, transferred last summer from Bryant and is only now getting into basketball shape. He wasn’t as much of an offensive force tonight as he will be in two months. NLR’s starting backcourt features yet another transfer, senior Anton Beard, who this summer rejoined his middle school running mate KeVaughn Allen after spending the first three years of his high school career at Parkview. Beard is a Hog signee, and there are plenty people trying hard to make sure the highly-sought Allen, a junior, becomes one too.
Allen is nationally ranked as the eighth-best player in his class. Heading into this game against Parkview, NLR had been the top-ranked team in the state for more than a year.
But rankings go out to the window when you face a team led by the fiery Al Flanigan, even if that team is perceived to be in a down year. His team’s best players may not have high D1 scholarship offers or any number of stars attached to their names, but they showed five-star chemistry that is a direct tribute to Flanigan, the very definition of tough love. When Parkview (5-0) was trying to hold on to a 12-point lead early in the second half, he repeatedly jumped out of his seat and waved his signature talisman – a red towel – to rally his troops from the sideline. He huffed and puffed and nearly blew a couple of his players down, at one point faking like he was going to slap a Patriot with his towel before quickly pulling it back, smiling and giving the kid a quick pat on the back. He is not averse to having a little fun with his opponents’ fans and will let loose an extremely loud “God D***!!!” now and then. Through it all, though, it’s obvious he has his players’ utmost respect. They were very sharp against NLR and, more importantly, “they played like they wanted it more than we did,” NLR head coach Johnny Rice told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
A few more scatter shot observations:
1) There are no visible signs of hard feelings between Flanigan and his former protege Anton Beard. Three years ago, Beard became the first freshman Flanigan had ever started. He helped deliver two state titles to Parkview but by the end of his junior year decided he wanted to play for North Little Rock, where he lives. This had to have been a disappointing decision for Flanigan to hear (especially since he’d lost his other elite guard – I.J. Ready – to graduation last spring) but it was good to see there is still a bond between the one-time sensei and student. Beard had a subpar game – he forced a few bad shots and at one point midway through the second half, after a series of misses near the basket, wound up face down on the court pounding the floor in frustration. Beard finished with 16 points, but some of his attempts came the expense of establishing an offensive flow.
Beard also suffered some kind of minor leg or ankle injury while throwing his body around and he probably played the last part of the game through pain. Still, you could tell Flanigan still cared about his prodigal son. At one stop in game action, Beard stood on the court a few feet from Flanigan, hands on his knees and grimacing in pain. Flanigan shouted: “You all right, player?”
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.