Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Biley still savors his surprise start
Ken Biley shoot a free throw during a 1994 game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Grant Hill, the former Duke All-American who played 19 seasons in the NBA, has been getting a lot of television air time the past couple of weeks as a studio analyst for the NCAA Tournament.
Kendall Biley, the 11-yearold son of Ken Biley, has been among those noticing Hill.
“We’ll be watching the NCAA Tournament and my son will say, ‘Dad, that’s Grant Hill! That’s the guy you guarded!’ ” Ken Biley said. “That’s a moment I can always cherish. It will never go away.”
Biley, who lives in Houston with his wife and three children and is a district manager for H&R Block, was a surprise starter for Arkansas 20 years ago tonight when the Razorbacks played Duke in the 1994 NCAA Tournament championship game.
Arkansas Coach Nolan Richardson said he decided to start Biley - a 6-6 senior from Pine Bluff who averaged 5.2 minutes while playing in 18 of the Razorbacks’ 34 games that season - to make sure he played in his final game.
“I knew if I started him I wouldn’t forget to play him,” Richardson said. “I also knew he’d do a great job for us, and he did.”
Richardson not only started Biley but had him guard the 6-8 Hill, who averaged 17.4 points
“When you think about it, that was one of the gutsiest calls any coach could have possibly made in that situation,” Biley said. “But if there’s any coach who [can] make a call like that and be successful, it’s Nolan Richardson.”
Starting Biley worked out well for him and the Razorbacks. Hill didn’t score in the game’s first three minutes when Biley played and Arkansas won 76-72.
“Biley was the type of kid that would give you everything he had every single day,” Richardson said. “I knew that in a game like that, he would stand out. He had so much to prove, so much at stake, and for me to take a chance on him, he wasn’t about to let me down. He played his heart out.”
Scotty Thurman, who hit the game-winning three-point basket for the Razorbacks, said no one on the team questioned why Biley started.
“I don’t think anybody was really shocked, because we’d had some different lineups throughout the season,” Thurman said. “In our mind, we thought no matter who’s on the court, we’ve got five guys that are going to play hard enough and play unselfish enough to do the things we need to do to win the game.”
Thurman said he’s glad Biley got to start and have a lifetime memory.
“Ken was always a first class guy,” Thurman said. “He always did things the right way on the court, in the class room, in the community.”
Biley said he found out the night before the game he was starting.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I don’t think I got any sleep because I was so nervous, but it turned out to be a dream come true.”
Sports, Pages 26 on 04/04/2014