16 Mar

UALR basketball coach Chris Beard & ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt

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Here’s some insight from Chris Beard before UALR’s NCAA Tournament showdown with Purdue via The Buzz 103.7

On the performance of Roger Woods, the Trojans’ 6’5″ power forward, in the Sun Belt tournament: 

Your best players have to get it done in the month of March, and that’s what Rodger did. He literally willed us to victory, he took the game over for about 12 minutes in the second half and in a basketball kind of way too, I’m not just talking about hitting shots I’m talking about he was making defense rebounds, he had a couple of assists, he was in tune, he was our leader in the time outs. It was great to see. I’ve been really fortunate with this job carrying these 7 players, very appreciative of Steve Shields and the foundation he laid here. Leaving us heading into the woods, we got some real good players. I was really happy for Rodger yesterday [Sunday].

Thoughts on Purdue

They lost yesterday in the Big 10 Championship game to Michigan State. They had a fantastic season. The identity of their team is their big. They’ve got a big seven footer, who will be a draft choice. They’ve got a big 6’10” kid who’s a freshman [Caleb Swanigan] that’ll be an NBA player.

They’re going to pound us, it’ll be the biggest team we’ve played this year. That represents some opportunities for us on the other end, I think we’ve got a little bit of an edge with quickness and maybe guard play so it’s going to be the classic David versus Goliath first round game but you know I like our Davids, we got a little grit to us. We’re tough and I think we’ve been prepared for this too. The San Diego State game early, the DePaul game early, Texas Tech, we’ve played some good teams. Hopefully our guys will have a little bit of experience to rely back on.

On Purdue’s size

The deal is though is they have power forward centers, and we really don’t. We really don’t have a five man on our roster. Everybody on our team can shoot. It’s going to be the classic bill of how far do they going to want to come out and guard us and if we hit shots. On the other end, how in the heck are we going to guard them.

One thing Shawn Long was in our league this year at Louisiana Lafayette, should be a pro, might not get drafted but I think he’ll play in the league eventually. So we got three games of experience playing against a guy like that, Texas Tech got a really big good big guy. San Diego State was obviously huge so it’s not like we are putting in a game plan today to play against our best center of the year, we’ve done this before. We just have to try to and find the balance of how we are going to go about it.

On pushing the tempo

I think there will be some chances to work the fast break cause we got a little bit of an advantage in quickness, but we got to be real careful with that too because we need to limit possessions. I think we will probably do a little bit of both depending on time and score and depending on who we have in the game.

On moving marksman Marcus Johnson to starter

Yeah for sure, normally on our team we’ve never really had a starting five. We rotated around game-to-game but what happened this year was we got on such a roll, I think we won our first 10 or 11 games of the season, and we just stuck with the rotation because guys were getting comfortable, they were being unselfish. Then I think when we dropped our first game we made a change or two. Marcus has always been one of our top players when he comes off the bench or starts.

He really is one of the best stories in college basketball. It’s very difficult to transfer from  junior college to this level and be this good immediately. I think one of the great examples is right down the road at Arkansas their point guard  [Jabril Durham] played junior college at Seminole, where I used to coach, just had an outstanding season this year but it took him a little time to get into the grind of this level. Whereas Marcus from the first game he scored 30 points in the second one division game so it’s been very good having him. I give a lot of credit to his junior college coach Sweet Trinkle in Texas. He really had him ready to play when we got him.

On the difficulty of playing at high altitude

We have to get used to this elevation a little bit. It can sometimes be a factor so I want to try to have a hard practice [on Tuesday] in Denver so the guys get the first grind in their lungs, the kind where it feels a little different. That way come game time they are confident and ready to go.

And here is Chris Beard’s interview with ESPN sportscaster Scott Van Pelt:

Scott Van Pelt: When you realize, “Oh my gosh — we did it?”
Chris Beard: Well, for me personally, it’s just been a 22 year ride through college coaching. Always been a dream to coach a team in the NCAA tournament and just really appreciative of our players getting me here. It’s been a great ride and we’re not finished yet. You know, we have a team that we think can compete in the tournament.
Scott Van Pelt: Now I know you’ve been doing this all day on radio shows all across the country and you probably sick of telling the story, but our viewers might not realize when you get there, you brought in how many new guys this year?
Chris Beard: We are kind of like the melting pot. We should be like America’s team you know. We have 7 returning players and then we went out and recruited 10 new players last spring and summer so we have all types of guys. We have international players. We have junior college transfers. We have four year transfers and we have a freshman on the roster so really the story of our team has been their unselfishness and how they’ve really played for each other and not themselves this year.
Scott Van Pelt: How did you get them to do that? That’s such a hard thing to do especially in the culture of basketball today where it’s AAU and it’s I got to get mine. How did you get that to happen?
Chris Beard: Well a lot of prayer. Every night before I go to bed I pray for my three daughters and I pray for our team to want to be coached. We had some real character guys you know. We have, even though we are a new team playing together, we’re one of the most experienced teams in college basketball. We play all juniors and seniors, and we’re really led by our four seniors you know, some special guys.
Scott Van Pelt: Now you guys didn’t lose much. You’ve got the fewest losses of anybody in the field so you’ve got the experience of winning and the taste of winning so I imagine you expect to win. With that said this Purdue team you’re playing against, they’re different from really anybody I’ve seen in college basketball this year. I did see in the first, they’re just so big. What do you do against them?
Chris Beard: I don’t know. I hope I know about 2:00 on Thursday but that’s what we’re working really hard on right now. We have a lot of respect for Purdue’s program. As a young couch I looked up to Matt Painter, he’s been great to me personally. I’m looking forward to seeing him but I’m not looking forward to playing against one of his teams. They’re one of the biggest teams in the tournament so it’s going to be a real challenge for us but our guys are up for it. You know we’ve got, we don’t have McDonald’s All Americans. We don’t have a bunch of you know polished guys. What we have is a bunch of guys that play for each other and everybody’s got a story and we’re proud to represent our great state and the city of Little Rock and we intend to do so this weekend.
Scott Van Pelt: Right on man. Hey look the prayers have worked thus far and they’ve been answered. What an amazing story. I wish you guys the best. It’s already been an incredible book and we’ll see you at the next chapter when you guys take on Purdue. Enjoy it man. Thanks so much for taking some time.

Get more insight on UALR-Purdue by reading this Buzz 103.7 interview with a Boilermakers beat writer.

20 Mar

Joe Kleine Breaks Down Bobby Portis’ Post Game, Discusses North Carolina


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I had the chance to talk to the Razorback legend for a North Carolina-Arkansas mini oral history which runs on Sporting Life Arkansas today. Kleine, who recently finished his eighth season as an assistant coach with UALR, was pivotal figure in leading Arkansas to an historic 1984 win over No. 1 UNC. I couldn’t help also ask him about what will happen in Saturday night’s second round game between the programs, in which Arkansas has a shot to break into its first Sweet 16 since 1996.

Q: What’s your take on the Tar Heels?

A: I think they’re talented. Especially Marcus Paige –  he’s a really good point guard. Any time you’re pressuring as much as Arkansas does, a really good point guard worries you. Because he gets through there, he can cause a lot of trouble.”

Q: Bobby Portis has had a great season, you agree. In order for him to take his game to the next, where do you think he must most improve?

A: I’m a little leery to critique him because I’m not there, seeing him every day. These are things I’ve noticed just one or two times – in his post play, as with all young post players, he’s got to develop a counter move with his left hand.

I’ve seen him do some things with his off hand but he’s got to get the point where he can put it up over his shoulder with Taken by Marc Henning of marcfhenning.comhis left hand as well as he does on the other side. Still, I love his face up game and his rebounding. He has a tenacity there that is a really, really good sign … He just has to continue to work on his face up game, get to the point where he can drive as well with his left hand as with his right.

Q: Sounds like he would do well to spend a little time in Hakeem Olajuwon’s post-up training academy.

A: I’m 53 years old, and I would be well served by spending time in that academy. That man is simply amazing.

Q: How good can Bobby be?

A: Worst case scenario, for Bobby Portis, I see Joe Kleine – a guy who can play a long time in the league, can spot shoot, can defend. Whether he can be a big time scorer, that remains to be seen. His ability to score against bigger, taller, more athletic guys is going to be indicative of what kind of career he’s going to have.

Q: Overall, who do you expect to win on Saturday night?

A: You could make an argument either way. You’ll have two good teams playing on edge, that have a lot to lose, with a lot of emotion. It’ll bring out the best in both of them … I’m a fan of Arkansas – that’s gonna push me toward them. I wouldn’t want to make a living having to pick the outcome of that game.

Q: UALR head coach Steve Shields was just let go. It’s hard for me not to ask: What are your plans now?

A: I want the job. I’ve thrown my name in, I’ll put that way.

22 Dec

The First D1 Arkansan Basketball Player to Notch a 20/20/4/3 Stat Line in Decades

Anthony Livingston got a shout out from SportsCenter on Saturday night.

Anthony Livingston got a shout out from SportsCenter on Saturday night.

Arkansas State forward Anthony Livingston goes by the nickname “Big Ant” despite standing 6’8″ and weighing 230 pounds. He’s going to find hanging on to that alias even more difficult after notching a gargantuan stat line on Saturday, when he became the first Division 1 player in decades to score 20 points, grab 20 rebounds, dish four assists and block three shots for an Arkansas university.

The Red Wolves (4-4) needed every bit of the Washington D.C. native’s help against Marshall, too. Early in the second half, Arkansas State trailed the Thundering Herd by eight points but Livingston’s shooting helped key an 8-0 run while his energy on the boards helped the Red Wolves out-rebound Marshall by 15 in the second half.

Arkansas State won 67-58.

It was the second time since 1997 a Sun Belt player had a 20/20/4/3 and the most un-ant-like performance by an ASU big since January 1994 when 6’7″ Jeff Clifton lifted the program atop his shoulders and Incredible Hulked it to a 66-54 win against UALR with 43 points, 25 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks. That performance, which remains the most statistically dominant by a Division I big man at an Arkansas university in the last two decades, came on the heels of a UALR player boycott involving Derek Fisher.

Three years later, Trojan power forward Montrelle Dobbins put up 27 points, 20 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 3 steals and 5 turnovers in a 56-64 road loss to South Alabama. That same year, UAPB’s Fred Luckett had 22 points and 21 rebounds in a 68-116 road loss to Mississippi Valley State.

Since then, there had been only two 20/20 games by Division I Arkansans:

1. 1998

Nicky Davis (UA) – 24 points, 23 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 blocks, 2 steals, 6 turnovers

UA won 97-71 at home against Jackson State

2. 2005

Rashad Jones-Jennings (UALR) – 23 points, 30 rebounds*, 1 assist, 0 blocks, 3 steals, 3 turnovers

UALR won 72-54 at home versus UAPB

*Jones-Jennings’ 30 rebound night remains the second-highest total in D1 college basketball since 1997. How impressive is that? It’s the second-best output out of more than 1.8 million individual performances.

Just in case you’re curious – and I’m guessing you’re slightly curious if you’ve made it down here – below are all Division I players to reach at least 20 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks in a single game since 1997.

1. Tim Duncan (Wake Forest) 1997

2. Mike Sweetney (Georgetown) 2002

3. Brandon Hunter (Ohio) 2003

4. Yemi Nicholson (Denver) 2006

5. Michael Beasley (Kansas State) 2007

6. Matt Mullery 2009 (Brown)

7. Keith Benson 2010 (Oakland)

8. Tony Mitchell (North Texas) 2012

It’s very difficult to tell how many times – if any – an Arkansan student-athlete accomplished this stat line before Livingston. Former Razorback star Dean Tolson, for instance, had five games of 20 or more rebounds in the early 1970s, and it’s likely he also scored at least 20 points in some of those games. But it’s hard to find individual box scores from those games, and it’s time-consuming to search for them through newspaper microfilm. Plus, as my main HogStats.com man below points out, blocks and assists weren’t tracked in that era:

13 Dec

Did UALR Volleyball Have the Greatest Arkansan Student-Athlete this Century?

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UALR volleyball player Edina Begic’s athletic brilliance puts her in a class of her own when it comes to recent achievements of student-athletes at Division I and II colleges in the state of Arkansas. The three-time Sun Belt player of the year led her program to a 20-0 record in conference and an NCAA Tournament win last week against No. 11 Kansas – at Kansas.

She had the Lady Trojans on the brink of the Sweet 16. I’m not sure if any in-state Division I university, outside of the University of Arkansas, has made a Sweet 16 in any team sport. Here are some of Begic’s other achievements:

*Last year, set an NCAA record by winning a conference player of the week award seven times, five of them back to back.

*Broke that record this season by winning the award eight times.

*In 2012, ranked No. 1 in the nation in kills (an attack not returned by the opponent, resulting in a point) per set.

*In 2013, ranked No. 3 in kills per set and paired with teammate Sonja Milanovic to form the nation’s top spiking duo (with 9.09 kills per set).

*Consensus top hitter in program history, finishing first in career kills, second in digs and fourth in service aces.

Begic has competitors for the title of Greatest Arkansas Student-Athlete since 2000. As I wrote this week in Arkansas Times, “Henderson State University quarterback Kevin Rodgers just finished a career in which he also shattered multiple career records and finished as a three-time conference player of the year, but his team didn’t win a post-season game. Former Harding University basketball player Matt Hall and Kayla Jackson, a former University of Arkansas at Monticello softball star, also both won multiple conference player of the year and All-America awards.

In Division I women’s sports, former UCA basketball player Megan Herbert comes closest to Begic. Herbert, a three-time conference player of the year (who should have won it all four years), was one of the nation’s most prolific rebounders despite standing 5-foot-10. But she never led a team nearly as impressive as Begic’s 2014 squad, and her Sugar Bears never broke into the NCAA Tournament.

On the Division I men’s side, former Razorback Darren McFadden had some legendary games against elite competition, and he twice won the nation’s award for best running back, but his overall game-to-game running statistics were not as impressive as Begic’s kill statistics.”

Read the rest of the article here.

05 Jun

New Financial Disclosures for Arkansas’ Division I Athletic Programs

USA Today just released the most up to date financial reports for all 230 Division I athletic programs in the nation. In terms of total revenue, the University of Arkansas sits 14 spots from the top. Ten spots from the bottom you’ll find the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (the nation’s largest intra-university system disparity). In between sit three other Arkansas schools.

I’ll break down these numbers later, but for now, let’s simply celebrate in the splattering of them on the wall.

Take what you will:

No. 14 nationally ($99.77 million revenue)

arkansas

No. 131 ($16.28 million revenue)

A State

 

No. 194 ($10.77 million revenue)

UCA

No. 206 ($9.4 million revenue)
UALR

 

No. 220 ($7.1 million)

UAPB

(PS – Notice how the total revenue plummeted from 2010 to 2011. That’s what an NCAA Tournament appearance and win will do for you.)

 

How about you, cherished reader? Any numbers jump out as significant or worth extra scrutiny?

08 Oct

An NBA scouting report on Derek Fisher, circa 1996

Hard to believe it’s been 16 years since D-Fish made his first splash in the NBA. And this fall marks the first fall since 1996 that he isn’t already signed with a team, whether that be Los Angeles, Golden State or Utah. Whoever he lands with next – whether it be the Lakers again, or the Celtics or even Clippers – he’ll be needed more for his off-court leadership qualities than on-court ability.

Before we start ascribing to Fish Creaky Old Man-dom, let’s first recall he was once  one of the most physically imposing guards in the Sun Belt Conference. And that while he was never the quickest NBA guard [the Iverson-Fisher matchup wasn’t pretty in Game 1 of the 2000 NBA Finals] he certainly had the physical chops to impress a few NBA scouts. [Ed: Just found video evidence. This, I believe, is his career’s most impressive dunk]

One such scout was Clarence Gaines II, who on his Web site  “A Scout’s Perspective” shares his take on Fisher from the spring of 1996, a couple months before the draft. Gaines reported the following to the Chicago Bulls:

“… Remarkably, nobody in our organization saw Derek play while he was at Arkansas Little-Rock.  First time I saw Derek play was at post season all-star tournament {Portsmouth Invitational Tournament} in Portsmouth,VA in April of 1996. He played well in Portsmouth, but was not extended an invitation to the the Desert Classic in Phoenix, which featured higher caliber players.  However, a player pulled out of Phoenix and Derek was a last minute replacement. Derek played his first game in Phoenix without the benefit of practice and continued to shine. Derek became the 1st round pick {24th} of the LA Lakers in 1996 because of his play in Post Season All-Star games. He did it the old fashioned way, by not being afraid to showcase his talents in an all-star venue. Derek is a class act. One of the most impressive interviews I participated in during my NBA career.

SCOUTING REPORT- DEREK FISHER – April, 1996
Want to know more about him. Will watch tape. Physically developed. Structurally strong. Has been lifting weights since high school. Strong legs and butt. Big hands. Big body for a point guard. Will be able to defend against bigger guards. Left handed. Possible late 1st round pick–high upside. Good speed with the dribble. Like his ability to turn the corner and get his own shot. Able to rise up and over other point guards off the dribble–gets good lift and has very good leg strength. Shoots best off the dribble. Does a good job of utilizing screens and popping jump shot. Plays bigger than size. Good 1 on 1 skills. Sees the floor on the move. Vision is good in the open court. Has the ability to get all the way to the basket in the open court. Shows deep shooting range–career 38% from the 3 pt. line. Needs to develop more consistency in spot shooting ability. strength of game is currently off the dribble. Can get too infatuated with one-on-one play, but I like his offensive aggressiveness.

Read More

29 Dec

Salt Bowl: Higher Ed (ition) – UALR-Benton vs. UALR-Bryant

In a previous post, I looked at some 2011’s biggest sports stories … by imagining their implications in the year 2020.
Here are more predictions:

Just wait.

3. In 2011, the Benton campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock announced plans for its first four-year program. The school says it’s starting small by only allowing 30 students to initially pursue the new E-commerce degrees, but talk still surfaces of building a new UALR-Benton campus.In 2020 … UALR-Benton and the brand-new UALR-Bryant announce plans to start football programs.
Proceeds from the annual football game between the teams, dubbed the “Salt Bowl: Higher Ed(ition),” are expected to fund 90% of the nascent athletic departments. Boosters of UALR athletics lament this as the first documented case of satellite campuses starting football programs before the main campus. Boosters of UALR-Benton and UALR-Bryant begin seriously examining the possibility of preserving their rivalry through football if a University of Arkansas – Saline County is formed.