Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Interesting article about Lew Alcindor


What Maurius Hill provides

He is too short for one position, not quick enough for another, and not a good enough shooter for a third. Not quite. But what Maurius Hill does bring for the coach is a player whom he can throw into the battle if he needs a tough rebounder, who can a few 3s when needed, and who does not make a lot of mistakes. He does not do anything best, but he does several things well.


Occasionally there are teams who are so deep in talent that they can have a key player hurt and not take much of a step backward. Swen Nater was Bill Walton's back-up at UCLA, and he was drafted in the first round by the Milwaukee Bucks. Some of Kentucky's recent teams had so much talent that an injury would not have devastated them.

However, most teams at our level cannot sustain an injury to a key player without it making a significant difference in the team's prospects. It might not ruin their season, but it usually will be the difference between a  good team and a great team, or a great team and a once-in-a-career team. That is the reason we commonly say that it is as important to be lucky as to be good. Last year we were lucky, as well as good. If Josh Hagins gets hurt, does anyone think the results would have been the same? If he gets hurt, do we beat Purdue? If he gets hurt, is Chris Beard now at  Texas Tech? We still probably have an outstanding season, but not quite the results we had.

Will we stay healthy this year?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Most Underated Player

I would love to see a poll of experts to rank the players who are the most underrated purely because they never had the opportunity to play on a national championship team. That might be interesting. The casual fan only remembers what happens in March, and even "experts" are dazzled by those bright lights. Great players make their teams better, but even great players sometimes cannot make the ultimate difference, especially during a short "season" in the NCAA Tournament.

Remarkable turnaround

From 2007 to 2009,  NJIT lost 51 consecutive ballgames. For them to have won 20 games this past season is pretty impressive. That has to be one of the all-time great turnarounds.

How difficult perfection?

My oldest son has an 18-year old child. He (the son) was not yet one year old the last time there was an undefeated team in NCAA Division 1 basketball (Indiana in 1976). That is a staggering fact, given the fact that twelve teams had done it from 1938 to 1976. Even "Rent A Championship" Sleezipari has not been able to do it. Pretty remarkable.

Now that the dust has cleared

We have had time to reflect on the hiring of Wes Flanigan as head coach. At the time it happened, I thought it was a good hire, although maybe not a great one. Time will tell how good a coach Wes is, but at this point we are not looking at Wes, but at Chasse.

For years we have wanted to carve out a niche in sports in this state. We have not wanted the state, just the city, just central Arkansas. With the "Little Rock's Team" branding, we have started deliberately down that path. Given that path, the hiring of Flanigan was not only logical, but consistent. I have enough confidence in Chasse to believe that if he had any doubt that Wes could do the job, he would not have hired him. His credibility is on the line just as much as that of Flanigan.

Our goal is to get sports fans in Little Rock to think FIRST about Little Rock, not about Fayetteville. "This is OUR team." A little hometown pride. Last year's version of the Trojans gave us a chance to do that, and now the city has the opportunity to buy into the success. That buy-in was made a little easier for the fans with Wes' hiring. His father is a legendary coach in the area. He has strong recruiting ties here. All the pieces are there. Wes was the last piece in the puzzle. It was the right time.

Even if Wes does not turn out to be a Hall of Fame coach, I still think his hiring on Chasse's part was logical and timely. It was the right move to cinch down what we are trying to do in Little Rock.

Monday, August 29, 2016

When the team is loaded

It is no slam at all against a coach that he only wins big when his roster is loaded with talent. Needless to say, it is very difficult (virtually impossible) to win without at least reasonably good talent. The charge against a coach ought to be that he does not win when he does have talent.

Montana State a National Champion?

Yep. Mark it down! Way back in 1929, they were the Helms Foundation National Champs in basketball. Here is what Wikipedia had to say about it:

The school's basketball teams achieved fame throughout the 1920s by playing "racehorse basketball" and becoming one of the first schools in the nation to employ what is known as the fast break. Montana State College coach Ott Romney, who graduated with a Masters from MSC prior to WWI,[41] pioneered the style of play, and by 1926 had assembled a team suited to playing an up-tempo brand of ball. Cat Thompson, John "Brick" Breeden, Frank Ward, Val Glynn and Max Worthington were at the heart of the MSC team that won the Rocky Mountain Conference title three straight seasons, and bested Utah State, BYU, Colorado, and University of Denver. The 1928–29 team defeated the AAU Champion Cook's Painters in a two-of-three series, winning the Rocky Mountain Conference title. The team was named National Champions by the Helms Foundation, which also named Cat Thompson one of the five greatest players in the first half of the 20th century in college hoops.

First of December

By the time this team heads into December, we should have at least a general idea of how good they are going to be. The Lone Star Showcase is going to be a very good measuring stick. Three games in three days against comparable teams.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

More pressure on these guys

Black, Goldman, Jackson, Hill. With Corbyn out of the picture, these players are going to have to pick up more than a little slack on the boards. No option. They have it to do.

Saturday, August 27, 2016


If Black's role is to be a back-up to Shoshi (yet to be determined), and with Corbyn gone, who is going to be doing our rebounding? Shoshi was OK at best in that function, like most European big men. I just do not feel comfortable with rebounding being more or less an afterthought in the scheme of things. But that remains to be seen with Flanigan.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Someone will surprise this year

Some player that we definitely did not expect will step forward and surprise us. I have no clue who it will be, but it generally happens. Break out year. Things just fall out right for that player. Who will it be this year?

Go To scorer

We lost Mr. Clutch when Josh Hagins graduated, but we still have Marcus Johnson, who is not shy with his offense. But you really need two clutch scorers (at least), so who will be our other one? My  best guess is Jalen Jackson. He shot a good percentage inside and outside the arc last season, so other teams cannot assume what he is going to do. And he has played in pressure situations at more than one level and was accustomed to this role in his juco stint.

Recruiting philosophy reflects game philosophy

Coaches are going to recruit players who can play their style. If you run the Princeton offense, your players have to be smart and good shooters. If you play blue collar, they have to be physical and intense. The Sausage Factory emphasizes athleticism. I would love to be a fly on the wall when Wes and his staff discuss recruiting to find out just where their emphasis is going to lie.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The story of our lives in Little Rock

Always having to make do with undersized power forwards. We finally had one on the hook (Corbyn Jackson), and he couldn't make the grade. Oh, well!

Running teams do not all have to be runners

Running teams generally initiate their fast breaks either off steals or rebounds. Steals that translate into breaks are most likely produced by the guards. The classic fast break, however, is by a post player grabbing a board and making an outlet pass to the guards who have released. So, players for fastbreaking teams do not all have to be lean and fast. In fact, one of the prototypical starters of breaks was Wes Unseld, whose outlet pass was said to be amazingly quick – and Wes definitely was not the running type.  Here is a LINK to a blog that discusses Wes and his outlet pass.

Image result for wes unseld

The invisible stat

Shots prevented. How important is that? No matter how bad the shot may be, a player is going to make a certain percentage of attempts in similar circumstances. But if the opponent never even gets off the shot, then the possibility of scoring is zero. That is a hugely important statistic, but since it is not measured, it is almost universally ignored.

Big help to a new coach

A new coach ideally needs to have an on-court leadership from experienced and mature players so that he is not having to handle everything himself. We have that. That is the good news. The bad news is that when you come off a successful season and have a lot of roster carry-over, there could be a tendency of the players to linger in the pleasant past instead of buying in immediately to the new man and his system. We shall see how Wes Flanigan does. I am hopeful that there will be a seamless transition.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Substitution strategy

All else being equal, you would want your best starting five on the floor for the entire game. However, that is not practical, because there are several other factors that enter in. First is morale. Everyone wants playing time, and if they never get on the floor because they are not quite as good as the starters, they will be looking elsewhere, especially in today's revolving door transfer atmosphere. So, the coach has to balance morale with team efficiency.

Second is the fatigue factor. If a player is at 95% because of fatigue, do you pull him to put in another player that is 90% as good as he is? That is the kind of decisions a coach has to make. Then there is the problem of player availability because of foul problems, how certain players mesh together, etc., etc. There is a lot to be considered.

Rivalry games

“You can throw out the records when these two teams play.” How many times have you heard that? But it its true often enough to have the ring of a proverb to it. For example, this past season we lost five games, and one of them was to Arkansas State.  They won only eleven games, but one of them was  over us.

The advantage of paying your dues

Some coaches come to college directly from the pros or other parts. However, most of them serve their time as assistant coaches, many for several years under several different coaches. There is a big advantage in this system both to them and to the schools who will eventually hire them as head coaches. They get a broad perspective of philosophies and coaching styles. They get to observe coaching mistakes up close and ugly, and also to benchmark those things that work. Prospective employers get a track record of their personalities and work ethic.

This still holds true

Recruit centers and point guards. Lots of them. Truckloads of them. All you can get of them. The other positions are much easier to fill.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Mixed emotions

Matt Centrowitz of USA won the 1500 meters at the Olympics, but I have mixed emotions about it. He is a very good runner, and deserved to win as much as anyone. It was the first victory in this event for the USA since 1908. That's good. He ran a smart race, controlling the pace and making sure he kept the lead.

However, it was also the slowest time since 1932. That's bad. I hate those races where everyone sits back and tries to win by kicking down the stretch - trying for gain without pain. I had much rather see a courageous, gutsy runner go out hard, and challenge the others to stay with him.

So, the bottom line? Nice victory. Lousy race.

The greatest game?

There may have been greater performances than Bill Walton's in the 1973 NCAA finals against Memphis State, but not many; and certainly none in more clutch situations. He scored 44 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. His total was over half his team's points. The most staggering figure of all, though, is that he made 21 of 22 shots from the field. That is almost unbelievable. And it was not like Memphis State did not have a quality front line. Larry Kenon was 6-9 and went on to be a five-time All-Star in the pros. Ronnie Robinson was 6-8 and was drafted by Phoenix. But this particular day there was just no stopping Walton.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Making post-season

You may argue that it is a good thing or not, but without question making the post-season in college basketball is not nearly as meaningful thing as it used to be. With the three additional tournaments, anyone that is a fair way past mediocre can make some sort of tournament, if they want to pay the money. Nice for advertising, nice for coaches' resumes - but not nearly as significant as it used to be before they enlarged the NCAA.

Osse's critical role

The slot for Kemy Osse on this team got more important with the departure of Josh Hagins and Mareik Isom. He becomes The Other Shooter. Marcus Johnson, of course, fills the slot of #1 Gunner, but someone has to be Option 2 behind him. As things stand right now, Osse is that man.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Olympic sports

To me it somehow does not make sense to include some sports in the Olympics.  Any sport for which the Games would be anti-climactic just does not seem to belong. For tennis, the apex will be Wimbledon or one of the Opens. For soccer it is the World Cup. For golf it is the Majors. The Olympics are just an also-ran for those, and so it makes not sense to me to include them.


These are arbitrary position designations, and we probably do not have any true centers on the team. However, I would guess that Black is the closest we do have, and he could turn into a pretty competent guy in the middle. Shoshi held his own last season, but he really is not a pounder down low. They will get the job done, although I do not expect them to be dominant inside.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Power forward

Hill, Jackson, Black, Goldman, Shoshi. We are well stocked here. We can mix and match pretty well. We really do not have the punishing, dominant rebounder that so often camps out at this spot in the lineup. Maybe Black can develop into that. We need it. Rebounding was one of the few weaknesses of this team last season, especially on the offensive end. I do not think this spot will have to provide a lot of scoring (unless it is Jackson), so whoever is here can concentrate on other things.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


I watched the finals of the mixed doubles in the Olympics. Nothing back-yardish about that game at that level. You have to have lightning reflexes, as sometimes the smashes travel 300 mph, according to the commentators.

Our recruiting pattern

I grant that Verbal Commits may not list all our offers to recruits. However, let us suppose that they are as accurate as any other source.

Next year we have to replace Shoshi (4/5), presumably Corbyn Jackson's scholarship (4), Jalen Jackson (3/4), Hill (3/4), Stetson(3), Osse (2) and Johnson (1/2). According to VC, at the moment we have 11 offers out for next year's class, and one verbal commitment. By their positioning, that amounts to two point guards, five SGs, and four SFs. Zero 4s or 5s. Since four of the seven departing players should play all or part of their time at those slots, it concerns me somewhat that we have not offered anyone at all in those positions. Three of the offerees are 6-8 or 6-6, which could be PF size by Belt standards, but evidently that is not their best or natural position.

Small forward

Andre Jones, Maurius Hill, Stetson Billings, Jalen Jackson, Shandon Goldman. The 3 is the most generic of the positions, and thus usually has the most depth. Several of these could be sliding over to the 4, which was almost interchangeable with the 3 last year. My guess is that Maurius and Jalen will get the most minutes at this slot, with a lot of mix and match. We may see them on the court together a lot of times. It will be very interesting to see how the newcomers fit in. I am not convinced Goldman will be a 3 at the D1 level, but that is how he was advertised. Jackson will probably be on the floor in tandem with someone smaller, and thus theoretically at the 4, but again, designations mean little in such matters.

If I have to guess, Maurius will start at one of the positions, mainly because he is a dependable and versatile player, even if not the most talented of this group. One benchmark for this team: if Jones starts at any position, expect this team to be really good, because he will have beaten out a pretty fair ball player.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Shooting guard

Like point guard, this should be a strong position, probably the strongest on the team. Marcus Johnson could be in for a POY-type season, as long as he does not try to do too much and just lets the season come to him. Kemy Osse is experienced, strong and versatile. Those two players will get the lion's share of minutes (maybe 90%) at this spot, unless Coach shakes things up somehow.

Deondre Burns has yet to show what he can do, but seems to have potential. Evan Moorman can absolutely shoot the rock! Andre Jones may get a good many minutes here or at the 3.

We are in good shape at the shooting guard position. Talented and deep.

Monday, August 15, 2016

I still don't like it

I know Usain Bolt is one of the best sprinters in history, but I still do not like a show-off.

So you think all Wilt could do was dunk it? Watch this!


That is what a lot of people say, that Wilt Chamberlain could only dunk the ball or shoot finger rolls. But watch this video, and then see if you agree. I don't see anyone playing today who could carry his duffle bag.

Point guard

This ought not to be a problem. In fact, it ought to be in very good shape. Watkins, Johnson, Pippins, Burns, Osse: all of them have played point in the past, even if it is not their best position.Everything seems to point to Watkins as the favorite for minutes, but hopefully someone will push him.

Not many coaches seem to like "point by committee," and I agree with that. I like to see the main point guard playing about 30 minutes per game. That gives the team a chance to stay in rhythm, while still giving the starter a little rest. I could be wrong, but my best guess is that that is about what Watkins will play, with Johnson sliding over whenever Osse is in the game at the 2.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

We could be better

I will start by saying  that I do not expect to win 30 games or anything very close to it. Everything broke our way last season, and you do not expect that to happen very often. But, let's look at it position by position.

1. It is not likely that anyone will surpass Josh Hagins this season. DOWN

2. Let's assume that Marcus Johnson will get the second year D1 bump. With Hagins gone, he will become the focus, and he has the tools to make the plays. Throw in Kemy Osse and this position is probably the strength of the team. UP

3. Who knows who will be playing most of the minutes here. But for the sake of argument, let's assume it is Maurius Hill, with Jalen/Stetson (maybe Goldman?) getting a lot of minutes. We lose the availability of Jermaine Ruttley, Mareik Isom and Roger Woods at this slot, but with a veteran group of returners, I think we hold our own. EVEN

4. Mareik Isom/Roger Woods is a big loss here. That will be hard to replace. However, we have Black/Jalen/Goldman/Hill available, and we ought to be able to get good performance out of that combination. DOWN SLIGHTLY

5. Lis Shoshi should be better - possible significantly better. Plus, he now has Black as a legit big-man to help him. UP

So, what is the verdict? This team ought to be as good as last year's. Maybe better. But we probably will not win as many games.

Crisis coming up in track

Talk about a recruiting job! We will have nine seniors on our track and field roster this season, and only five who should returning next year.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Sheriff Jersey Joe

After he retired from the ring, Jersey Joe Walcott, once heavyweight champ, was elected sheriff of Camden County, NJ. Even past his prime, I doubt many of his inmates wanted to mess with him.

Image result for jersey joe walcott

MVP season?

In 1925, Hall of Famer Walter Johnson was 20-7 with a 3.07 ERA. In his spare time he batted .433 and committed zero errors. He did not, however, win the MVP award. That went to Roger Peckinpaugh. Johnson had won the award in 1913 and 1924.

Walter Johnson 1924.jpg

US needs to do some work with the platter

Germany, Poland and Germany medal in the discus in Rio. Best US finisher was 11th place. We even got beat by Estonia, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, even Cyprus.

The coaching staff

I think this is a good staff. I have a few minor concerns, but I hope enthusiasm will overcome whatever deficiencies there may be. 

Kwanza Johnson was a big-time hire. He has had several seasons working under successful coaches at a high level. Mitch Cole came from an A&M program that is making noise on the national level under a good head coach. He was a very successful head coach at the D-3 level. Solomon Bozeman's coaching experience is limited, but he brings a young face that can identify with the players, and hopefully will play the same role that Ted Crass did.

It is always nice to have an ex-D1 head coach on the bench, but that probably is a luxury. This is Wes' ship now, and he is the one who will be punching the buttons. All the elements are there for a successful transition from the dreamland season we had last year. Now we just have to get it done.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Fellows, don't argue with this girl

Valerie Adams, New Zealander shot putter. She is 6-4, 265#.

Image result for Valerie Adams Bench Press

Image result for Valerie Adams Shot Put

Oerter's feat still the more impessive

Al Oerter won the Olympic title in the discus in the 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968 Olympics. Only four. That is a paltry sum beside Michael Phelps' total, but consider that discus throwers only have one event in which they can compete. Oh, they might try the  shot put, but that is not likely. The nature of the event is such that it pretty much stands alone. In swimming you have freestyle, butterfly, backstroke, individual medley, and who knows what all else - plus the relays. Lots of places where you can compete for medals.

Camp Barron

NBC had an ARTICLE recently about "Camp Sanderson" at the University of Michigan. Their off-season strength and conditioning program is named after their strength coach. Ever since he has been here at Little Rock, John Barron has been drawing rave reviews about the job he does with our players in the off-season. So I guess we have our own Camp Barron.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Shandon Goldman

This is an intriguing prospect. Either he is going to be a wonderful undiscovered talent, or a kid who is out of his league. We are all hoping the former, obviously. And there was a good list of higher-level schools who were interested in him, so that makes you think the kid at least has a chance. You cannot teach 6-9 (maybe still growing?), and he does have some degree of mobility for a big man. Of course, lots of players look good playing against lower-level talent, but we shall see. If he is the real deal, he just might be one of the realer deals we have had.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The strange case of Thomas Brandsma

He must be very close indeed to Coach Beard. He played his freshman year for him at McMurry. He played two seasons for him at Angelo State. He transferred to Little Rock with him, but did not play because of transfer rules. Now he transfers to Tech. Presumably he will have to sit out another year without playing? Much of this as a walk-on.

Ben Marcus

With a few notable exceptions, walk-ons are the asterisks of college basketball. They know they are not going to play much, but just getting to be a part of the team means a lot to them. If they get in a few  games, they can at least say, "I played on a D1 team." Ben Marcus had a nice high school career and probably could have played a lot at a lower level. Unfortunately, he is at that in-between size where teams usually have a lot of players. I do remember a couple of years when we  got short-handed due to injuries when walk-ons played a significant role in the season, so it does happen.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Andre Jones

Jones appears to be the plum of the recruiting class (unless that might possibly be Watkins). He is ranked as a three-star, and we do not get many of those. Some of our fans have seen him play and are very high on him. And, he comes from Arkansas. He looks like he could play a couple of positions well, and maybe a couple more in a pinch. He could be a key stone in the foundation for moving the program up a notch. Let us hope so.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Ryan Pippins

Outside of a big smile and a sturdy body, I do not know much about Ryan. His high school numbers were solid, but not overwhelming. Al Flanigan has been around a long time, and one would assume that he would know D1 talent if anyone would. However, with Watkins around and Johnson able to slide over to the point when needed, I am assuming that Pippin will be in a learning mode for the time being.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Deondre Burns

We just do not have enough information on this young man to know what he may be capable of doing. He came in advertised as a scoring point guard, but played only 94 minutes this season. That was only reasonable since he was a true freshman and we had a ton of guard talent ahead of him. Nothing sticks out about his limited performance this season except for his free throw shooting. He was 12 for 12, and so he comes into his sophomore season with an immaculate record at the line.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The new coach's style

Each coach has a different personality and a different approach to coaching - and this goes beyond just game management. We do not get to watch much of practices, but we do get to see the coach on the sidelines. Some of them are calm and dignified; some border on the insane. Some scream at the players, while others just talk to them, albeit in a firm manner.

It was hard to tell much about Wes' style of coaching, because he was not involved in the game management to a great extent. He appeared to be somewhat laid back, but that could be a false impression.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Evan Moorman

This kid is an intriguing possibility. Just reading between the lines, he was not athletic enough to get a D1 scholarship, but without any doubt he can shoot lights out. He shot 51.0% from the arc at Florida National, and 52.2% at Hill College. You cannot argue with those numbers. He knows where the basket is. And a player who can shoot like that is always nice to have around.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Redshirting at Wisconsin

High-level college basketball is filled with high-level egos. That is why that red-shirting is almost unheard of in the upper levels of the sport. Kids have swelled heads and no patience, and it just does not work like it used to.

So why does it work at Wisconsin?  They currently have six redshirts on their roster, including Ethan Happ, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. A kid that good sat out a year?! Yes, he did. I don't know what it is in the water up there that makes kids so cooperative, but I wish we could import some of it to Arkansas.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Kemy Osse

Kemy is a prime example of the principle that perseverance pays off. Nothing more than a role player, at best. Injuries. Discouragement, no doubt. Coaching change. Lots of things could have made him quit, but he stuck with it and now is in a position to be a key player on one of the better teams in the conference. His three-point shooting has improved to the point that he is one of our better threats from the arc. He is not a flashy player; he is a team player. He has been willing for others to get the limelight.

But now Kemy is a senior, with starting experience in most of our games last year. He is an impressive physical specimen, stronger than the usual guard. It is time for him to be more aggressive.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Black's effect on Shoshi

Will the arrival of Black lessen or increase the pressure on Shoshi? If they are competing for the same spot in the lineup, I assume it would increase the pressure on him, and that probably is a good thing competition within the roster always helps keep players sharp. On the other hand, if they do spend an appreciable amount of time in the lineup at the same time, it should take pressure off Shoshi to be the rebounder.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Dayshawn Watkins

This is the player about whom I am hoping, hoping, hoping; because perhaps more than any other individual our hopes of an outstanding season will ride with him. You don't lose one of your all-time great point guards without leaving a gaping hole, and someone has to fill it.

Looking at his history, it is hard to know what to expect. He was outstanding in high school, outstanding in juco, but never really got going at FSU. I am pinning my hopes on the fact that the FSU staff knew how to evaluate talent, which is not such a stretch given his record elsewhere. Of all his previous stats, the one that intrigues me the most is the fact that he had back-to-back games with double-figure assists. That is rare.

I also like the fact that we had a central Arkansas kid want to come home. Here is hoping he has a great career here.