Corliss Williamson on Conway-Jacksonville “Pipeline” & Possibility of a UALR-UCA-UALR-UAPB tournament

I had a good talk with UCA head basketball coach Corliss Williamson a couple days ago. While I’ve met most of the other basketball luminaries from the state, I’d regrettably never gotten around to Big Nasty. I’d met his son, Chasen, when he was a second grader at the New School in Fayetteville and I was a college student moonlighting as a playground supervisor. I told Corliss that Chasen, who’s now a senior at Fayetteville High School, had quite the leg in kickball.

Our talk mostly revolved around his longtime friend Derek Fisher, the subject of an upcoming magazine profile I’m writing. Corliss told me he met Derek at North Little Rock’s Sherman Park community center around age 10. They played together to win a national championship (in AAU in 1990) and played against each other for a world championship (2004 NBA Finals). Corliss, who then played for Detroit, said the Pistons’ ’04 title was especially sweet since  he felt he owed his friend one: Fish’s high school (Parkview) beat Corliss’ team (Russeville) two out of three meetings. Indeed, were it not for Parkview beating Russellville in the state tournament of their senior years, Corliss might have accomplished a rare quad-fecta by winning and AAU national title, a high school state title, an NCAA title and an NBA championship.

So, did Corliss keep track of the head-to-head matchups between he and Fish in the NBA?

“C’mon man, it was the Lakers!” he replied, laughing.  “It was tough. I was with Sacramento, Toronto, Detroit when we weren’t that good, then to Philadelphia… I think he might have the edge on that one but when it came down to the Finals I was definitely happy we could beat them then.”

I assured Corliss even if I looked up the head-to-head win-loss record between his and Fish’s NBA teams, I wouldn’t publish them. “That’s cool man. You can put it in there. I’d like to know it anyway.”

We also talked some about his UCA Bears, who will be looking to improve on last season’s 8-21 overall record and 3-13 mark in conference. One of 2011-12’s bright spots was the emergence of 6-5 sophomore LaQuinton Miles, who averaged 15 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals. Miles is one of three Jacksonville, Ark. natives – along with DeShone McClure and Terrell Brown – on this year’s roster, which begged the question:

Q) Has a recruiting pipeline been constructed stretching east from Faulkner to Lonoke County?

A) (chuckles) Yeah, I guess you could say there’s a pipeline developing between Conway and Jacksonville. There are some talented kids coming out of Jacksonville. Sometimes they get a little overlooked, they don’t get as much publicity as some of the other kids. We were lucky to get the three kids we got from out of Jacksonville. That’s one thing we take pride in – recruiting out of the state of Arkansas.

Q) How’s Miles progressing?

A) He’s really worked hard in the summer time to get ready for this year, so we expect big things from him.

Q) And the 6-3 McClure, who transferred from Navarro College?

A) McClure played with Miles on Jacksonville’s state championship team [in 2009]. He has a nonstop motor. He’s gonna to come in and make a major impact for us on both sides of the basketball as a junior. So were definitely excited about the DeShone and the intensity and toughness that he brings.

Q) How about the true freshman Brown?

A) He’s gonna vie for a lot of minutes. He gives us an inside presence; he’s strong, physical inside.

I’ve seen Brown play a few times, and he reminds me of  former Dumas star Darion Griswold. They’re both inside players around 6-feet-5, with extremely powerful builds and nice mobility. Griswold played in 26 games for ASU last season, leading the team in field goal percentage.

I also asked Williamson about any developments in talks about a four-team tournament involving UCA,  ASU, UAPB and UALR. UCA’s athletic director Brad Teague said last fall he’d floated the idea to different administrators around the state.

Corliss said UCA has already made inroads along these lines by playing ASU last year and this year. The programs will also renew their contract for another two seasons, he added. “You’ve got two teams who are willing to do it, now it’s up to everybody else. We’ll see if that’s something they want to do. Of course, us at Central Arkansas we would love that – to create those in-state rivalries. To bring all these different college communities together, I think you’d see some great basketball as well as a good atmosphere.”

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