One size doesn’t fit all with Hogs basketball

By: Nate Allen
Published: Monday, December 23, 2013
Nolan Richardson speaks to a crowd at Bud Walton Arena in Feb. 2012.
Photo by William Moore
Nolan Richardson speaks to a crowd at Bud Walton Arena in Feb. 2012.

FAYETTEVILLE - A spin around the talk radio dial drives home how long it has been since Nolan Richardson coached the Razorbacks at their basketball zenith.

Considering some things that have been said about the Razorbacks, who are in their third year under longtime Richardson assistant Mike Anderson, it seems many never knew or forgot what made Richardson’s teams.

One determined the current Hogs are on the right track because of a stretch in which Michael Qualls consistently led the team in scoring.

Well, it’s always an Arkansas plus when Qualls scores a bunch topping the chart, but it’s not essential.

Richardson’s teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s had great scorers in Todd Day, Lee Mayberry and Oliver Miller, but often for a game a Lenzie Howell, Mario Credit or Ron Huery scored the most.

The same for the 1994 and 1995 national champion and national runner-up teams. They were headlined offensively by Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman, but any game was apt to have Dwight Stewart, Clint McDaniel or Al Dillard as the leading scorer.

Another was concerned about leadership. Who would be the leader?

Well, even as point guards Mayberry and Corey Beck set the tones for Richardson’s greatest teams, many already mentioned on those teams led just as much in their own way.

This current 9-2 team seems to have plenty, from senior co-captains Kikko Haydar and Coty Clarke on down, leading in their own way.

While point guard still operates by committee, junior Ky Madden seems to be taking charge. That also means taking some heat, even after scoring 12 points Saturday night in a 72-60 victory over South Alabama in North Little Rock.

“I thought Ky did some good things, but Ky had too many turnovers [four] tonight,” Anderson said. “I let him know about it, as a matter of fact.”

Madden got the message.

“I was like, ‘Damn, I had four turnovers,’ ” Madden said.

Whether it’s been freshman center Bobby Portis responding in a big way to Anderson chiding him for netting only one rebound back in November against California, or senior guards Rickey Scott (the last several games) and Mardracus Wade (against South Alabama)bouncing back from early season benchings, these Hogs have proven coachable.

The talk show circuit has chastised the nonconference schedule. Since I pay for my basketball loving wife’s season tickets, I share their pain at the high cost of cupcakes.

But you don’t have to go back to the Richardson era to realize that playing and even defeating powerhouses in the nonconference season isn’t always a panacea.

It was just December-January 2008-09, when the Razorbacks upset No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 7 Texas at Walton Arena, that Arkansas fans wanted John Pelphrey locked up to a long-term contract.

After that subsequent 2-14 SEC season many wanted him locked out of Walton Arena.

For this team, it seems the looming question is how will it handle its first true road game when it opens the SEC season Jan. 8 at Texas A&M.

Sports, Pages 16 on 12/23/2013