Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What we learned from Tiger Woods

1. Don't count your chickens (as fans) before they hatch. Potential does not equal accomplishment. You have to be good, but you also have to be lucky. You have to stay healthy to set career records. And it isn't done until it is done. Close doesn't count in records. And you have to stay focused. Wives, and later children, and later grandchildren (in certain sports, such as golf) can be a huge distraction.

2. Longevity does matter. Steady accomplishment over time, even if unspectacular in any given season, can result in a brilliant career. The fans may not notice, but the record book will.

At least this once, I made a prediction that was vindicated. Woods was roaring along, and the press already had him anointed as The Greatest Ever. But I kept saying, "Wait until he gets married." Of course, if he had married a nice, quiet, supportive lady, it might have been different. But he didn't, and his sort usually don't. Then - crash and burn. Throw in health problems, legal problems, child problems, not to mention the effects of age, and the result was predictable.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

History goes begging

When I was in high school, I knew in detail the stories of old-timers, and could quote their stats at length. I followed the sport - several sports. I wonder if teenagers today do that? Are they familiar at all with the history of basketball, for instance. Do they know who Bill Russell is, and the role he played in the history of basketball? Do they even care?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Bill Russell was also a track star

Track and Field News ("the bible of the sport") ranked Russell 7th in the world in 1956. He also ran 49.6 seconds in the 440.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Unbelievable recruiting stupidity

San Fransisco was the only school that offered a scholarship to Bill Russell. Can you believe that?! All he did was to lead the Dons to back-to-back national championships and a string of 55 consecutive victories. He averaged 20 points and 20 rebounds over his 3-year college career. If a player gets 20 rebounds in one game these days he has had a "monster night." How could a player like that have slipped so completely under the national recruiting radar? Hard to figure.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Art Tatum and baseball

When a discussion of the greatest jazz pianists of all-time arises, Art Tatum's name is generally right at the top. He was amazing. (See link below.) He was totally blind in one eye and partially blind in the other. Oscar Peterson, another candidate for the greatest jazz pianist of all time, recalls that when he was young and his father thought he was getting conceited about his playing, his dad brought home a recording of Tatum playing Tiger Rag. When Peterson learned that it was only one man playing, he got so discouraged and he wouldn't even touch the piano for a couple of weeks.

It is said that Tatum had "an encyclopedic memory for major league baseball statistics." According to the Jazz Profiles blog: "Tatum could quote baseball pitchers records, batting averages for almost all players in both big leagues, names and positions for almost all players, the game records any year, and so forth. Rozelle Gayle, one of Tatum's closest friends, recalls back in Art's Chicago days (the '30s) that all the musicians frequented the drugstore on the corner of 47th Street and South Park. Art became so respected as an authority on any subject (and that included population statistics) that the fellows would have him settle their arguments, instead of telephoning a newspaper."


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Just try it!

The NCAA often has early season tournament games or pre-season games with different rules, to check and see how rule changes might work. Why don't we try games without the 3-point shot? We might just find that we like it, and that the games are a lot more exciting without it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The cost of rule changes

Rule changes in basketball (or any sport) maybe necessary to adapt the game to unforeseen changes in the climate or environment of the game. However, one thing they cost us is the ability to compare eras. Every change in the games makes the apple a less less like the apple to which you are comparing it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

No peg to hang his hat

Almost every coach will have something that is characteristic of his teams, something that he emphasizes particularly and at  which his teams are especially good. Part of the problem last year is that we really never found that peg. Part of that may have been the fact that Wes was working with a team that had been successful under another man's system, and he no doubt was reluctant to change too much the things that had worked well previously. This year will be different in that respect, at least, because of the large turnover of players. This will be Wes' team, and he can put his stamp on it, for better or for worse. I am curious to find out what particular aspects of the game Wes hangs his hat on. Thus far he has not established one.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Does talent matter more today?

There was a day when coaches could recruit kids who had potential, knowing that they very likely were going to have four years to develop their gifts (and for a time they wouldn't even be eligible for their freshman year). With One-and-done and the plague of constant transfers these days, coaches probably feel fortunate if they have a player for two years, let alone four, or five with a redshirt season (the ideal for player development). No wonder coaches feel the pressure to recruit. The future is NOW. There is no future. Raw talent probably matters more now because there is much less of a chance to teach, since the players may not be staying long.

Of course, you cannot force a player to stay at your school, but I wonder if schools below the elite level are putting more of a premium these days on the likelihood of a player to stay at the school. How you measure such a thing, I don't know; but if you could somehow factor in loyalty, it would be worth something to coaches in recruiting. "He is not a world-beater now, but he appears to have potential, and he probably will stay with us, and he might be pretty good by his senior year."

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Biggest crowd

According to Wikipedia, the world highest attended league championship event is the Australian Football League Grand Final, held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It draws approximately 100,000 spectators.

Image result for Australian Rules Football Players

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Spice up this next season

Want to make this next basketball season more enjoyable? Here is one thing that might help.

Pick out some down-and-out team that you sort of like, and become a fan. Keep up with their games, and maybe even their stats. Get to know their roster and a little bit about the team history. Have they ever had any notable success? Who were the big name players in their history?

By seeing the teams in front and jumping on their bandwagons you can stick out your chest and proclaim that you are a "winner," but in my experience, at least, that is not nearly as much fun as grabbing hold of a team and riding out the storm. It was a long time coming, but think how much fun the Chicago Cubs had at finally  winning another World Series.

So take on a little project for 2017-18. Find a team to "sponsor" as a fan. It might be one with which you have a logical connection (maybe your cousin-in-law once attended there), or it may just be because you like the name (Quinnipiac is fun to say). Just do it. My 92-year-old father does not keep up with sports (and couldn't remember it if he did), but when we watch games on television, he will usually decided who he is going to root for - and then promptly go to sleep - but at least he has his favorite. It makes being a fan a lot more fun.

Friday, May 19, 2017

What makes us dislike teams?

Sometimes the reason that we root vigorously against a particular team is just instinctive, but other times it is easier to pinpoint. It may be a traditional rivalry (Little Rock  vs. stAte). It may be because the team has an obnoxious player (or player's parent, see UCLA). It may be because of prolonged success (NY Yankees). Or because some relative of yours is from there and you merely want to perpetuate a friendly rivalry. It may be because the coach is a scumbag (West Virginia, Kentucky, Louisville). It may be because of some memorable, bench-clearing fracas or off-court confrontation in years past (see New Orleans). Or, as we said above, it may not be a definable reason, just a gut instinct.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The strange saga of Rick Ankiel

In 1999, Rick Ankiel was the hottest pitching prospect the St. Louis Cardinals had had in a long time. He pitched in the majors part of that season and all of the 2000 season, with a devastating curve ball and outstanding stats for a rookie. He was picked to start the first game of the National League division series and did OK for two innings. Then, inexplicably, he blew up in the third inning, throwing five wild pitches. He came back in game two of the league championship series, but was still hopelessly wild. After surgery, he appeared to get his control back, but announced that he was not going to pitch again.

Ankiel was invited to the Cards' 2007 spring training camp, and eventually worked his way to the majors as an outfielder. He played in the outfield through the 2013 season. In eleven major league seasons, he had a .240 average, 76 home runs and 251 RBIs. His best hitting season was 2008 when he had 25 home runs, 71 RBIs and a .264 average.

There were the obvious comparisons to Babe Ruth when Ankiel switched from pitching to hitting. However, the Babe was considerably better at both positions, having put up what possibly would have become  Hall of Fame numbers as a pitcher (2.28 career ERA), and you know what he did as a hitter. That is not to take away  from Ankiel's accomplishments, which were remarkable in themselves.

Image result for rick ankiel

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Better than advertised

According to Verbal Commits, all of our incoming recruits are rated as two-stars, which means they are no better than average, or are not even on the ranking services' radars. Now, some of them might beat that. In fact, some of them are going to have to beat that if we are going to have any measure of success this season. Someone is going to have to be better than advertised.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Dayton defense

(from ESPN)

"[Archie] Miller didn't have the elite recruits he might attract to Bloomington, but he had some dogs at Dayton, meet-me-in-the-alley players who anchored an Elite Eight run in 2014 that kicked off four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. When you played Dayton under Miller, you knew the Flyers were coming to fight."

I love it! That is what Little Rock basketball has been in recent years, and what we badly need to get back to!

Abdul-Jabbar hit the nail on the head

(from an ESPN article)

"They're there less than six months. It's not even six months and they're gone," Abdul-Jabbar said. "It's a travesty, I think. They're just using the college system as a stepping stone to the NBA, and that's really unfortunate. I think an education is vital to having a good life, and these guys aren't getting that opportunity. It's sad."

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Our own Icelanders

Back in 2014 I noted that between LIU-Brooklyn and St. Francis-Brooklyn there were three basketball players from Iceland in that borough of New York. Given the small population of that island nation, I thought that was somewhat unique.

Well, we now have our own Icelanders in Little Rock. On 10 May, the Trojan women's soccer program announced their recruits for the upcoming season. Bergrós Ásgeirsdóttir and Hafdis Gunnarsdóttir are joining us. Glad to have them.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Want to guess?

Would you like to take a guess at which of our new players will be the most productive (and thus get the most minutes) this season?

I am going to guess Reedus, because he was pretty good at the juco level, Hadzic, because his father is a coach and he has some international experience, and of course Mompremier, because he is an experienced big man.

But there will be lots of minutes available to anyone who wants to work for them.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Softball pitchers

My sweet, 87-year old mother never weighed more than 100 pounds except when she was expecting one of us children. My father and I sometimes watch whatever athletic contest happens to be on television, which this time of year frequently is college women's softball. Mama recently commented on how many of the pitchers seem to be (how shall I say this?) somewhat "broad abaft the beam," and  that wide-screen television only exaggerates the impression. (She said it; I didn't.)

The best Trojan season ever?

"Best season" is a subjective superlative, but we can at least nominate candidates for the award. Back in 1972 (my first year of college) the statistics at Little Rock were incomplete,  but we do know that Charlie Johnson had a monster season. In leading the Trojans to a 16-9 record, he averaged 18.0 ppg and 16.4 rpg (2nd-best ever by a Trojan). No Trojan has ever averaged more points AND rebounds in the same season.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

An answer to the One and Done problem

Allow 13 scholarships, but stipulate that they are 4-year, non-transferrable scholarships. Thus, if a player is signed to one of them and  leaves school after a year, the school cannot award that scholarship to another player until the full four years of that player's tenure are finished.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The annual Name of the Year award

Wasn't it just the other day that we were grimacing just to look at the painfully thin frame of Manute Bol? Well, time does slip by, and now his son is being recruited and wins our annual Name of the Year.

Bol Bol.

Have fun with that one, PA announcers.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The standing jumps

The standing long jump was an Olympic event from 1900 to 1912. The standing triple jump was an event in 1900 and 1904. The USA's Ray Ewry (below) won eight gold medals in the two events, making him the all-time king of those events. He overcame childhood polio in order to become an international champion.

It seems that each year we see new obscure and contrived events being added to the Olympic program. I mean, even beach volleyball is an Olympic event, for crying out loud! It is curious to me why some of these far-fetched items should be added and the standing jumps should have been removed. Norway is the only country today in which the standing long jump is awarded a national championship.

Ray Ewry 1908b.jpg

Monday, May 8, 2017

Proof: The 3-point shot is completely taking over the game.


The article referenced in the link above proves that the 3-point shot is taking over the college basketball game (as if anyone did not already know that). It is turning into a game of HORSE. In the college game one in three shots is taken from a range that would have been considered a risky attempt a generation or so ago.

* NBA teams took the highest percentage of shots from beyond the arc (31.6%) in the league's history.
* NCAA Division I men's teams took the highest percentage of shots from beyond the arc (36.4%) in D-I history.
* NCAA D-II men's teams took the highest percentage of shots from beyond the arc (36.0%) in D-II history.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Wes feels the heat

From the official site:

"We all had high expectations coming into the 2016-17 season, and trust that no one is more disappointed than my staff and I. Our program will embrace the adversity and use it an asset as we approach this offseason."

Wes Flanigan is not on the hot seat yet, after only one season. However, it is several degrees warmer than it was at this time last season. At least he recognizes that fact.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The return of West Coast basketball

There was a while that far western basketball felt irrelevant. Outside of Gonzaga, there were no powerhouse teams that one assumed would be in the national hunt every year and until this last season even they had not been to a Final Four. Now we have added Arizona, UCLA and Oregon who are fairly consistent at a high level. Now, that is all going on feel: I have not checked the Top 25 lists for those years.

I think it is good for college basketball for the west coat to be strong. I do not particularly follow any of those teams, but it never is good for a sport when a region if weak. (Think east coast in college football.)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Reviewing recruiting

Knowing how good each individual recruit will be is almost impossible, but we can look at the overall strategy. Here are the five players we presumably have returning with at least 100 minutes of playing time last season:

Deondre Burns 1/2
Oliver Black 4/5
Andre Jones 3
Ben Marcus 3/4
Dayshawn Watkins 1

At the moment we have eight players committed. (I am using Verbal Commits' position designations, plus some educated guesses of my own.)

Camron Reedus 1/2
Cameron Corcoran 2
Cezanne Carson 3
K. J. Gilmore 2/3
Wanjang Tut 3/4
Damir Hadzic 4
Kris Bankston 4
Wadly Mompremier 5

If my position assumptions are correct, here is the summary:
PG - 3
SG - 3
SF - 5
PF - 5
C - 2

So, here is my assessment.

PG. With our history at this position, I have developed a nervous twitch about it. You just cannot have too many points. IF, if, if Watkins is healthy and lives up to his billing, he should get 28-30 minutes a game at point. Nothing I have seen indicates that Burns or Reedus are true point guards. As long as Watkins stays healthy, then that is all right, because we only need them to fill in. If not - we are right back where we were last season unless Pippins survives the cut and improves drastically this year.

SG. Between Burns and Reedus here, with others filling in, we should be in good shape.

SF. We have enough numbers, especially given that this slot is pretty flexible. Quality? Who knows.

PF. Plenty of numbers, and I think that if we have a big surprise among the newcomers, this is where it will happen.

C. Two big men, unless Goldman survives the cut. That is about how many you can expect at this level. I think we will be fine here. Black is going to be fine, and Mompremier is a prototypical back-up center - give you solid minutes of defense and rebounding.

The bottom line? With the possible exception of another point guard, we got what we needed. Time will tell if we got who we needed.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The T-ball comedy show

One of my grandsons is a T-baller.  It so happens that, due to a freak birthday situation, he is now in his third year of T-ball, and evidently most of the rest of the team are rookies, meaning that they have to be told which direction to  run on the basepaths and every move to make in the field. (There is a five run limit, and the team generally wins who can prevent the other team from getting all five runs in one of the innings.) Because of his relative experience, Ryan plays pitcher, which means he fields the lion's share of the balls that are hit. In fact, one slow trickler rolled between third and short, both of which players watched the ball with dazed fascination, and Ryan had to chase it down in left field (the back side of the infield dirt) and run the ball back to the pitcher's circle, which forces the runners to stop.

Ryan is a happy lad, who generally has a wide grin on his face. He likes to play ball, so he grins the whole time he is on the field. The players are prevented from tagging the runner out if he is more than halfway to first, thus forcing them to throw and catch the ball. (The catching part rarely happens.) This means that the main part of the defensive strategy begins when runners are on first and second. Then the pitcher can field the ball and possibly beat the runner to third base, or likewise to home if the bases are loaded. So, at this point in the inning, the coach will yell instructions to Ryan to field the ball and run to the appropriate base. Ryan (still grinning, of course), will acknowledge the coach's instructions with a confident thumbs-up sign.

A colleague of mine once told me that when he coached his son in T-ball, the only way the kids knew if they had won or lost was if he bought them a big sno-cone or a small sno-cone. I suspect it is much the same in this league. Baseball awareness is a slow process. I  remember a few years ago watching a little girl (who was slowly jogging from first to second after a ball had been hit) stop and engage in a pleasant conversation with the girl playing second base, evidently because the other girl had said something complimentary about her fashionable shoes, and that was  of vastly greater importance than any ballgame.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Could we be better?

Is there any realistic chance that we could be better than we were last year? Of course, we made that task considerably easier by not being very good last year. But then, when you come along with a rebuilding year after a mediocre year, it is hard to expect very much. But could it happen?

Sure we might be better. Maybe not very likely, but possibly. Last year's group underachieved noticeably. The first step in that task is to get a true point guard, and one who is good. We think we have such a player on campus, but that remains to be seen. If it is proven that we do have a good point guard, then there is room for optimism. There looks to be some good incoming talent, and a few key returning players who have considerable upside. Regrettably, there are not many experienced returning players of any description. So, the new guys are going to have to step up, and who knows how that will work?

It is a long shot, but yes, we might be better this year.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tough in the off-season

I try to post something most days, but I have to admit that it is a little difficult coming up with anything to talk about during the dog days of the off-season. Zzzzzzzzz.

Image result for man sleeping at desk

Premier League

The Premier League (English soccer) is arguably the most important professional league in any sport. But I would venture to guess that most of us sports "fans" in the U. S. would not even know who they are. Worlds apart.

Incoming talent

I certainly have no idea if it is true at this point, but it looks to me like there is a chance that Wes Flanigan is putting together a pretty good pool of young talent. It will take a year or two to know for sure. Especially at forward, the Bankston/Tut/Hadzic group looks to have some nice potential.

Monday, May 1, 2017


When players put together the promotional videos of their talents, why do they include shots of themselves making wide-open threes? I mean, any self-respecting high school freshman can do that these days. Why not also have shot of the player shooting free throws? It makes no sense to me. If he makes a shot with a hand in his face, that is something else, but wide open?