I’ve recently been perusing my copy of Sidney Moncrief’s autobiography “Moncrief: My Journey to the NBA.” On the surface, it’s seems pretty standard fare: Chapter One is entitled “Childhood” about Moncrief’s upbringing in southwest and east Little Rock. Then, chapters named “Youth” and “High School” interspersed with pictures of an adult Moncrief mingling with the folks back home. One caption reads “Moncrief and his fellow Razorbacks became role models for many Arkansas youth.”
Another picture shows Moncrief sharing a tender moment with his Little Rock Hall coach Oliver Elders during a post-retirement ceremony at the high school. Clearly, Moncrief is a good guy who appreciates where he came from and the gifts that he has. Andrew Bynum, this is not.
And yet, in the fourth chapter, entitled “College,” things get a little hazy.
It starts on page 51, at the tail end of a paean to Moncrief’s Arkansas coach Eddie Sutton: “Coach Sutton taught us to excel in all walks of life,” Moncrief writes. “He insisted on sportsmanship, ethical behavior, and integrity.”
Except, possibly, when he didn’t.
After leaving Arkansas, Sutton ended up at Kentucky and there was caught up in a messy recruiting scandal that involved $1000 cash mailed to a high profile Kentucky recruit. Sutton and his assistants ultimately resigned and the program was put on probation.
Moncrief writes that this episode saddened him but that Sutton “never hinted at any impropriety with me.” Then he decides to pull the ring on this grenade:
“I can say that during my time in Arkansas I wasn’t offered anything extra. I can’t say that occasionally an alumnus or overzealous fan didn’t walk up to me after a game and put a hundred-dollar bill in my hand when he shook it.”
That’s about $360 in today’s money, folks. The next line insinuates he accepted the money:
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 »
Big man Bobby Portis is new school. He shoots threes, leads fast breaks and has a shoe collection as diverse as his game. Off the court, he rocks the same nerd-chic glasses and bow tie swag Kevin Durant has helped popularize in the NBA.
But when Portis takes his game to Fayetteville next season, it’s the promise of returning Arkansas to old school glory that most excites Hogs fans. Portis, after all, is the state’s best big man since his former coach Corliss Williamson. He’s already followed Williamson’s lead by leading the Arkansas Wings to an AAU national championship. The 6-10 senior center may also be the most dominant player from Little Rock Hall High since Sidney Moncrief, another Razorback All-American.
Portis, we find out, fully embraces the legacy of all his schools – past, present and future:
Q: Let’s get this out of the way first. You’ve been known to wear some crazy, neon-colored shoes on the court. How many do you have and why do you wear them?
A: I have Nike shoes in the neon pink, orange, blue, red and green.
It’s just a different style. I like to wear different types of colored shoes, you know. It’s nothing serious. My mom sees the shoes, so she buys them.
Q: Who is most responsible for helping you develop as a post player?
A: When I was little, it was Corliss Williamson. He taught me a lot. But then he moved on to coach UCA and couldn’t coach us [in AAU] anymore. Then I started working out with Marcus McCarroll. He’s in athletic trainer here in Little Rock, and he’s also a part of the Wings. He really helped improve my post game.
Last night I had a good interview with Razorback signee Bobby Portis, whom ESPN has ranked the nation’s 12th best senior. The 6-10 Portis plays for Little Rock Hall High, and a glance down his Twitter feed shows there are plenty Razorback fans who likely wish he’d skip his senior season altogether and join Arkansas for SEC play (a la Jarnell Stokes at Tennesse last season).
This won’t happen, but it’s fun to imagine.
Portis himself can’t help imagining how he could help this year’s batch of Hogs as he cheers them on. Last Friday night, he watched the Hogs fall 91-82 to No. 6 – ranked Syracuse and said he thought he could have used his size and quickness to neutralize the rangy, long athletes who comprise Syracuse’s famed zone defense:
Syracuse’s zone was just killing us. I think I could have flashed to the high post and knocked a couple jumpers down to make [the defenders] come up and then that would have opened up driving lanes for B.J. [Young] and Ky [Madden] to drive to the hole and stuff like that.”
It’s hard to argue Portis could contribute right away. Last summer, he took an unofficial visit to the Fayetteville campus and scrimmaged on a team including Kikko Haydar, Rickey Scott, Michael Qualls and Anthlon Bell. That team played against teams composed of other Hogs excluding Marshawn Powell, who was recovering from injury. Portis recalls his team going 5-0.
A more detailed Q&A with Portis will publish in the Dec. 19th issue of Sync magazine