On Monday, Morrilton native Shekinna Stricklin became the second Arkansan to be taken as a #2 overall pick in the draft of a major sports league* By my count, only former NBA players Jim Barnes and Joe Barry Carroll have been drafted higher among native Arkansans. Congrats to Stricklin, who will soon be starting training camp with the Seattle Storm. Throughout her college career at Tennessee, she proved to be the one of the most versatile women in college basketball (I’d say #2 overall, after Delaware’s ridiculous Elena Delle Donne, who likely has been giving Joe Foley nightmares for weeks)
Here are athletes with Arkansas connections to be taken highest in a major sports league’s regular draft**:
- Number #1 – Jeff King of Arkansas Razorbacks (1986 by MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates)
- Number #1 – Jim Barnes of Tuckerman (1964 by NBA’s New York Knicks)
- Number #1 – Joe Barry Carroll of Pine Bluff (1980 by NBA’s Golden State Warriors)
- Number #2 – Lamar McHan of Lake Village and Arkansas Razorbacks (1954 by NFL’s Chicago Cardinals)
- Number #3 – Cortez Kennedy of Osceola (1990 by NFL’s Seattle Seahawks)
- Number #3 – Kay Eakin of Atkins and Arkansas Razorbacks (1940 by NFL’s Pittsburgh Pirates) [h/t to @bwaldrum for bringing Eakin to my attention]
None of the above #1 picks graduated from an Arkansas high school like #2 picks McHan or Stricklin. Jeff King was a Colorado native. Joe Barry Carroll moved to Denver as a child and Jim Barnes moved to Texas as a teenager.
*Yes, I consider the WNBA a major sports league. Basketball is a major sport, and millions of women play it. Although those women can earn more money in overseas leagues, no female league in the world surpasses the WNBA in terms of a) quality of basketball competition and b) a platform for marketing opportunities.
** No supplemental or January drafts for me. Also, call me lazy and irresponsible, but no checking of the NHL or MLB draft histories either. I simply can’t believe an Arkansan has snuck into the top three picks in either of these sports, despite the wee-est sign of emergent national cache in soccer. For that matter, I would be shocked if an Arkie has gotten into the top 10 picks in either sport.
But I’m open to surprise. So please, somebody, surprise me.
UPDATE: Surprise accomplished. Turns out former #1 overall MLB draft pick, Pat Burrell, spent the first few years of his life in Eureka Springs before moving to California, playing against Tom Brady in high school football, becoming an actual Hurricane at the University of Miami and then a metaphorical hurricane of drinking, sexing and bat-swinging at subsequent major league stops in Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and San Francisco. [h/t to Caleb Hardwick]