14 Feb

Bill Ingram on Mike Anderson’s Fate at Arkansas: Part 1

Bill Ingram

Bill Ingram, a former Razorback football player who lives in the Little Rock area,  has become one of his state’s most influential basketball people. He directs the Arkansas Hawks AAU program, which last summer put forth a 16U team from which every last starter has committed to the Hogs.

But their on-court impact is almost  two years away. Will current Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson even be around then? This has become a pressing topic in light of Arkansas’ recent stretch of bad losses to Oklahoma State, Missouri and Vanderbilt.

Bill Ingram recently shared his thoughts on Arkansas’ program with sports talk show host Bo Mattingly. The below excerpts are lightly edited for clarity:

Bill Ingram: … I’m just like any other fan. I’m disappointed in what’s going on and how the team is playing. And hopefully, that they can turn this thing around now but, the thing is, can you turn it around? And some of the things that we’ve got a chance to witness is just not a pretty … It’s not good basketball. And when it’s a lack of effort and that’s never a good thing.

Bo Mattingly: What has surprised you the most about how this season has unfolded?

Bill Ingram: At times the lack of effort. From looking at it from a coach’s standpoint, what I see is: I’m just not sure guys really know their role. I don’t think guys’ roles have been defined, or they’re not playing their roles, that stuff.

When I look at them I see, just a little bit of all kinds of stuff from each of the players. And we got a post man out shooting threes and putting the ball between his legs. I’m an old school type guy, so I think everybody should know exactly what they’re suppose to be doing and what’s expected of them. And it’s obvious when you get some of the results that they’re getting, that’s not the case.

Bo Mattingly: There’s been a lot of in state kids that have gone elsewhere, some because they didn’t get an offer, others because they just chose, like KeVaughn Allen or Malik Monk. How would you describe what [Anderson’s] been able to do in recruiting? Obviously it looks good moving forward. How would you kind of summarize it?

Bill Ingram: Well, like you said, it looks good moving forward. But what’s happen in the past, it has not been good. Cause having a guy … getting an opportunity to get a guy like KeVaughn. He would have been a perfect fit for some of the stuff they’re doing.

Now the situation with Malik was totally different. I think that they had different plans from the very beginning and that’s just my opinion. And it didn’t make a difference, if Phil Jackson was the coach, they weren’t going to be here. That’s my opinion.

But KeVaughn probably may be a little different story. I don’t know how the recruiting went with him, because of course I wasn’t a part of it, but I would have really loved to see him in a Razorback uniform.

Bo Mattingly: … What do you think is the issue with Arkansas basketball, big picture, that has lead to one tournament in five years, and what could end up being one NCAA tournament in six years?

Bill Ingram: Well the big picture is we thought we would be a lot farther along in six years. We thought this team would be a solid 3rd or 4th place team and having a good chance of heading to the NCAA tournament. And that was true up until about 10 days ago. But, the fact is, that we’re going through some of these growing pains and this is year six of Coach Anderson’s coaching regime.

It’s not a good thing. And I don’t know if there’s anybody that would say any different. So we thought we would be in a better position by now and we’re not there… Fans are not happy. You spend your hard earned dollars to go and support your team and they go out there and give efforts like that. I don’t want to get into what kind of talent level’s Missouri got, but it’s definitely not the talent level of Arkansas. So those games are games that you know that you need to win.

And in order for you to build a good basketball program you gotta win the games you’re suppose to win.


Read more about Ingram’s thoughts on Anderson and the state of the Hogs  by going here. 

12 Mar

Christyn Williams, Nation’s No. 3 Player, Has Shot At Unprecedented Three-Peat

ESPN ranks Little Rock native Christyn Williams as the nation’s No. 3 overall player in the class of 2018. The 5-10 guard just finished a tremendous year, leading Central Arkansas Christian to a 24-14 finish and state runner up finish. The Lady Mustang put up around 30 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 steals a game and is the first female Arkansan to have gotten a basketball scholarship offer from perpetual national champion Connecticut. A Huskies coach attended her title game yesterday in Hot Springs. 

Unless Razorbacks coach Jimmy Dykes can convince her otherwise, Williams may become the first Arkansan to suit for Geno Auriemma’s juggernaut program. Her season puts her into position to do something else no Arkansan basketball player has done: win three consecutive Gatorade Player of the Year awards.

This week she won her first a sophomore, a feat which puts her in rare company. The only other Arkansan, male or female, to do that was Morrilton High superstar Shekinna Stricklin*, who later played for Tennessee before becoming the No. 2 overall pick in the WNBA Draft.

Stricklin won the award as a sophomore in 2006, and again as a senior two years later. Ironically, though, it was another Central Arkansas Christian star who kept her from a three-peat. Whitney Zachariason, who went on to play with Brittney Griner at Baylor, won the award in Stricklin’s junior season.

christyn williams

Photo by Mark Buffalo (Courtesy Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.)

Plenty of Arkansans have won the award back-to-back during their junior and senior years. It’s happened once in baseball and two times in football:

  • Ty Storey 2014-15
  • Michael Dyer 2009-10

We see four occurrences in girls’ basketball:

  • 2014-15 Jordan Danberry
  • 2012-13 Tyler Scaife
  • 2009-10 Morgan Hook
  • 1991-92 Kelly Johnson

On the boys side, back-to-backs happen more often. It’s arguable that two recent prep stars both deserved it in their sophomore years, although neither got it. Were it not for Bobby Portis, KeVaughn Allen likely would have won it as a sophomore in 2013 after leading North Little Rock to a state title and winning Finals MVP.

  • 2014-15 KeVaughn Allen
  • 2011-12 Archie Goodwin
  • 2008-09 Fred Gulley
  • 1997-98 Darrian Brown
  • 1991-92 Corliss Williamson

And were it not for Allen, Bentonville star Malik Monk probably would have taken the award as a sophomore in 2014.

Bentonville happens to also be home to one of the state’s only three athletes to win three straight Gatorade Player of the Year awards.  Jayhawk soccer player Taylor Estrada, the older sister of Monk’s teammate Aaron Estrada, accomplished the feat in 2011-13. Former Bryant High track star Spencer McCorkel also three-peated in 2005-07, while Springdale track star Payton Stumbaugh did it in 2012-14.

So, what about a four-peat?

No Arkansan has yet done that, but one got close. According to the official Gatorade Player of the Year records (which are not always 100% accurate), Tiffany Gunn won the award as a freshman, sophomore and senior:

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.55.02 AM

She won the award at two different schools, which is also impressive. Note she was a star athlete who ended up transferring in to Little Rock McClellan High, which is not something that has often happened in recent years.

 

 

13 Mar

Malik Monk vs Corliss Williamson, Keith Lee & Willy Cutts

Malik Monk’s 35 points per game average so far this postseason is on track to likely be the most impressive in state history.

I looked at the post season performances of Joe Johnson, Ronnie Brewer, Corliss Williamson and KeVaughn Allen for Sporting Life Arkansas and found none of them have come close to the sheer, terrifying scoreboard deluge Monk is currently unleashing. Big Nasty came closest in his senior year at Russellville by pouring in 29.7 ppg in the state tournament.

Out of burning, insatiable, Arkan-nerdified curiosity, I also want to know how the old-school greats compare here. The closest comparison I could find to Monk, in terms of pure scoring ability, was Willy Cutts, a McDonald’s All-American from Bryant by way of Conway by way of Little Rock. Cutts played on one of the first Arkansas Wings AAU teams, and once dropped 66 points on a north Louisiana squad led by future NBA All-Stars Joe Dumars and Karl Malone, according to Billy Woods’ indispensable “60-0: The West Memphis Basketball Dynasty.”

In the 1980 state tournament, Cutts, as a sophomore, averaged 33.5 points in his two games before bowing out to West Memphis. Keith Lee and Michael Cage were West Memphis’ headliners and the main engines to their historic 60-0 run. Lee was the more polished scorer of the two, but never had to be the postseason scoring monster Monk has become.

Among scorers at the highest classification who lead their teams to the title game, it appears LR Central’s Fred Allen is Monk’s closest all-time parallel. In the 1972 state tournament, the 6’2″ scoring guard racked up 28 points against Jonesboro, 36 points on North Little Rock, 31 points on Parkview and 30 points against El Dorado for the AAA-AAAA crown.

Based on the official AAA records, it’s unlikely any big schooler has averaged above Allen’s 31.25 ppg in a three-game-or-more postseason run. All the more impressive given the top shooters of this era didn’t have the three point shot.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 12.33.20 PM

Honorable mentions goes to Allen’s top rival of the era: Parkview’s Dexter Reed.

Reed was a force of nature in his own right and as a sophomore in 1971 averaged 29 ppg in a four-game postseason stretch – including a then-record 43 points in a state title game against Helena. He doesn’t appear to have topped that in his next two postseasons.

Perhaps I missed some all-time great scorers here. For instance, it’s possible big schoolers like LR Catholic Chris Bennett or Scipio Jones’ Eddie Miles deserve mention, too. I just haven’t been able to find their postseason numbers.

Give me hell if I’m missing someone obvious.

 

** Above, I didn’t look at the schools that haven’t been in the state’s top two largest classifications. Most postseason scoring records do belong to players from smaller schools.

N.B. Sidney Moncrief was an outstanding prep baller – averaging 19.2 points and 14.1 rebounds his senior year in high school – – but he didn’t explode for 30 points often in the postseason. Hall’s 6’9″ center Gary Tidwell also led the team in scoring a lot. Also, I haven’t forgotten about Ron “Boothead” Brewer and Marvin Delph. They are coming soon…

 


 

*Statistical Lagniappe!*

Keith Lee / West Memphis

 

1980 state tournament (as a junior)

West Memphis 60; Jacksonville 43 (15 points)

West Memphis 83; Conway 63 (30 points)

West Memphis 57; Forrest City 49 (21 points)

[West Memphis played two additional postseason games to win the now-defunct Overall State Championship between each classification’s champion]

 

1981 state tournament (as a senior)

West Memphis 55; Russellville 37 (18 points)

West Memphis 66; Hot Springs 47 (15 points)

West Memphis 79; Conway 58 (27 points)

12 Jan

KeVaughn Allen Was Considering Becoming a Hog in Late 2014, But Not in January 2015

Won't be jumping elsewhere.

Allen says he won’t be jumping elsewhere. [Photo by Jaison Sterling of PulaskiNews.net]

Just got off the phone with KeVaughn Allen, the North Little Rock High senior who’s one of the nation’s top shooting guards.  I was interviewing him for an upcoming story for SLAM magazine, but also wanted to know the latest on this two-time state champion’s recruitment status.

Last April, Allen committed to the University of Florida. His high school coach Johnny Rice told me that until that point Arkansas had heavily recruited him but backed off after he committed to play for Billy Donovan.

Arkansas coaches could have tried harder, though, according to Allen’s long-time AAU coach and trainer Kahn Cotton. Cotton, who has trained Allen most mornings for the last five years, recalls that coaches with Louisville, Florida, Connecticut, Baylor, Tennessee and Memphis had all personally visited Allen or watched one of his games more times than Arkansas coaches had before last April. “Florida had been here three times and Arkansas came once in that time period … Baylor had been down four times, Tennessee three times, Memphis five or six times by that time.”

Arkansas’ coaches can’t speak for themselves on this matter, as Allen hasn’t yet signed with a program. But it doesn’t seem Allen was as high of a priority for Mike Anderson and his staff as other in-state players like Bobby Portis and now Malik Monk (Anderson and every Razorback basketball player except Alandise Harris [who was ill] watched a December double-header which included a game between Monk’s Bentonville team and St. Louis Chaminade).

There was a flare of hope among Razorback fans a couple months ago when Allen – who according to Rice is averaging around 23 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.8 steals per game while shooting around 55% on field goals and 38% on threes – chose not to sign early with Florida. Also last fall Arkansas commit K.J. Hill, his classmate and teammate, told Sync’s Nate Olson he would try to persuade him to join him on the Hill.

Twice, at different points in the phone interview, I asked Allen if he was going to sign with Florida in the spring and twice he said “yes.” I asked him if he planned to visit any other campuses and he said “no.” When I asked Allen how many times Hill had tried to convince him to come to the UA, Allen said “two or three times.”

I then asked him what he said in response. “I’ll consider it,” he said, referring to what he told Hill. I asked him if he’s considering it {going to Arkansas} any longer and he said “no.” He reaffirmed his plan to sign with Florida and said he will not visit any other programs.

He added the only current or committed/signed Gator player he’s in contact with is big man Noah Dickerson. It’s unclear where 6-3 Allen would fit in next year. Florida’s 2015-16 guard returnees will likely include star Michael Frazier, fellow 4-star+ talents in Kasey Hill, Chris Chiozza and Brandone Francis, along with incoming transfer Eli Carter. That’s a loaded backcourt which has already factored in two players – Braxton Ogbueze and Dillon Graham – transferring out of the program.

That’s why some programs like Tennessee, Memphis, Texas A&M, Missouri, California and Arkansas (by phone) are still recruiting Allen, Cotton says. He believes Allen would have the likelihood of significantly more playing time at other programs*.


Meanwhile, on the football front, it’s not exactly set where K.J. Hill will land.

The future of the dynamic, four-star wide receiver who may also play guard in college basketball is in doubt after the departure of Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Cheney was announced this weekend. Hill had said Chaney was a major reason he chose Arkansas in the first place.

“Jim Chaney leaving Arkansas for the same job at Pittsburgh makes receiver K.J. Hill’s commitment uncertain at this time, according to his stepfather Montez Peterson,” the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Richard Davenport wrote. “He said they have also heard rumors of receivers coach Michael Smith leaving and Hill will keep his options open.”

Allen says he has not lately spoken to Hill about his collegiate future.

* Like Florida, Arkansas doesn’t have a clear-cut opening in its backcourt next season. The Hogs’ guard returnees are Anton Beard, Manuale Watkins, Anthlon Bell, Nick Babb and Jabril Durham. While the Hogs lose an anchor in Ky Madden, they gain sharp-shooting transfer Dusty Hannahs and Jimmy Whitt, a scoring prodigy who’s putting up more than 30 points and four steals a game for his Columbia, Mo. high school. 

All the same, plenty of programs could find minutes for a player the caliber of Allen. 

16 Sep

K.J. Hill Believes He Can Flip KeVaughn Allen From Gators to Razorbacks

 (Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. )

Not going to be Billy Donovan’s best friend (Courtesy:              Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. )

Much has been made about the surge in the Razorbacks’ recruiting prowess under head football coach Bret Bielema. By early September, he’d been able to get commitments from more ESPN300 recruits than at any time since 2006. A large part of this success comes from the state of Florida, from where Bielema, assistant Randy Shannnon and others have been able to pull in major game-changing talents like running back Alex Collins and offensive lineman Denver Kirkland.

There could be another game-changing talent coming to Arkansas from Florida. Although this time, it would come in the form of an Arkansan – not a Floridian. KeVaughn Allen, a top 50 national recruit in basketball, is a North Little Rock High School senior who has announced he’s attending the University of Florida. K.J. Hill, Allen’s teammate and also an elite recruit in football, has other ideas.

Hill, who recently committed to Arkansas, told Sync’s Nate Olson he believes he can convince Allen to de-commit from Florida and become the latest high flyer to join Arkansas’ program. “When I go back to basketball I will talk to him even more,” Hill said. “It’s on my mind. I think I can get him to come [to Arkansas].”

The 6’1″ Hill, who said he received interest to play basketball for the likes of Wichita State, Baylor and Michigan State, is considering playing football and basketball for Arkansas next season. “Coach Anderson wants me to start talking to him about it,” Hill told Olson. “I think he wants me to play.”

Although his long-term athletic future is likely as a dynamic wide receiver, in SEC basketball, Hill projects to be a disruptive defensive force at guard. If he can get Allen to flip, though, likely his most impressive collegiate assist would arrive before he ever plays in an official game.

On the football front, it appears K.J. Hill is most interested in the rebuilding efforts going on at the biggest programs here and in the Buckeye State:

Q: You have said you are going to look around a little bit and visit other schools. But Razorbacks fans shouldn’t worry too much about you going elsewhere, right?

A: I just want to see different schools and just see how different schools are. I’d like to see Ohio State and Urban Meyer. I have never been up there. I want to see the facilities and the campus.

Q: Will Gragg, a Dumas 4-star tight end, is going to make a decision soon. Do you feel confident he will pick Arkansas? And do you think you can get La’Michael Pettway, a Nashville 3-star athlete, to commit, too? What are your strategies to get them to commit to Arkansas?

A: Even before I was committed, recruits from in-state and out of state were asking me where I was going to go. Coach Bielema told me that I don’t realize how much other players are looking at what I do. I wasn’t thinking about it like he was thinking about it, but then when I committed a lot of stuff started changing. Players started asking, “Do you think we can get it done?” and stuff like that. La’Michael Pettway was asking me and then de-comitted, and Will is 100 percent onboard. I think he is going to come. Everyone has been asking me for the longest where I was going to go, so when I decided, that made them think about it.

Read the entire interview at syncweekly.com

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijSm2DHJkAs]


In other news, below is an interesting excerpt from an ESPN.com article published today. In the wake of Arkansas’ 49-29 win against Texas Tech, it delves into specific reasons why Bret Bielema’s increasingly counter-cultural football tactics are becoming so difficult to prepare for:

“The game has evolved so much while we have stayed consistent,” Bielema said, according to ESPN. “We have remained very, very firm in our beliefs and my philosophy of recruiting a certain player to play in this offense.

“Those programs that don’t recruit fullbacks and tight ends and linemen the way we do, it makes us really get a niche on those players. We really truly can go coast to coast and recruit the best linemen in the country. We did it when I was at Wisconsin and we’re doing it now.”

Arkansas may not play with pace, but it uses plenty of force, and it’s a wake-up call to the increasing number of teams that value speed over power. “Programs just don’t have anyone on their roster to emulate a 250-pound fullback,” Bielema said. “They don’t have a 280-pound tight end. They don’t have a roster of 330-pound linemen to simulate that.”

07 Mar

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.

05 Mar

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

14 Dec

Of Parkview v. North Little Rock & the Old-School Genius of Al Flanigan

Flanigan_victory_towel[1]

When KeVaughn Allen fouled out with a minute to go, Flanigan took out the towel to signify the win was all but sealed.

More than a decade ago, my little brother, then a high school sophomore, made one of Little Rock Parkview’s basketball teams. This was no small achievement. His classmates and teammates were serious players like Marc Winston and Jamaal Anderson who went on to star in football and became a first-round draft of the Atlanta Falcons. [Atlanta, btw, plays the Redskins this Sunday. Click here for more about that game and NFL betting news.] My brother only lasted a couple months with Parkview before he quit (wasn’t exactly what could be called “self-disciplined”), but he did play in all the practices and even got thrown into the end of a couple games. Despite the transitory nature of his experience, to this day he considers the fact he got into the program at all and played for its legendary coach to be the height of his athletic career.

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.

22 Feb

On the Shoulders of Non-Giants: Stellar Guards Lift Little Rock Parkview, North Little Rock programs

 

Although only a sophomore, Allen is already one of the state's best guards.

Only a sophomore, Allen is already one of the state’s best guards. Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


Two years ago, as an eighth-grader, Kevaughn Allen decided to seriously prepare for high school competition.

So he started a training regiment that would make some NBA players balk.

Every weekday, year-round, he has met his AAU coach Kahn Cotton at the North Little Rock Athletic Club at 5 a.m. For two hours, they work on skills, strength and quickness. In the offseason, Allen tacks on an afternoon session of plyometrics.

For the love of just being a kid, why does he do it?

“I just wanted to be get better as a person and as a basketball player,” Allen said. “I just didn’t want nobody else to be better than me.”

For the most part, all that sweat has paid off. Allen, one of the nation’s most promising sophomore guards, has earned scholarship offers from a host of schools including the University of Arkansas. He helps lead a North Little Rock Charging Wildcats team that has won 23 games in a row and has spent nearly all the season ranked #1 in the state.

He has teamed with fellow guard Dayshawn Watkins to form one of the state’s best backcourts. The duo combines for about 36 points and 10 assists a game, and has already helped NLR defeat other top teams around the state – Jonesboro, Little Rock Hall, Fayetteville, Jacksonville, Clarksville.

Their statistics, though, wouldn’t fuel as many wins were it not for an on-court chemistry springing from off-court friendship. Last season was hard on Watkins. The point guard had just transferred from North Pulaski and had trouble jelling with new teammates. “It wasn’t easy for me to get used to my teammates, and it wasn’t easy for them to get used to me,” Watkins told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Tim Cooper in December 2012. “We liked each other, but we didn’t always have the chemistry on the court.”

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20 Feb

Anton Beard, Kevaughn Allen, Imara Ready, Dayshawn Watkins: Recruiting and Prep Statistics Update

The Future: Anton Beard, Dayshawn Watkins, Imara Ready, Kevaughn Allen (L-R) Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The Future: Anton Beard, Dayshawn Watkins, Imara Ready, Kevaughn Allen (L-R) Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

  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.

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