Medlock, UA's free throw king, waited decades for Hall of Honor call

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, September 21, 2018
Rickey Medlock, right, waves after being introduced during halftime of Arkansas' game against North Texas on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Fayetteville. Medlock was a 2018 inductee into the UA Sports Hall of Honor.
Photo by Arkansas Razorbacks
Rickey Medlock, right, waves after being introduced during halftime of Arkansas' game against North Texas on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Fayetteville. Medlock was a 2018 inductee into the UA Sports Hall of Honor.

— FAYETTEVILLE — Rickey Medlock figured his time to be inducted into the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor had passed.

After all, Medlock was a senior basketball player for the Razorbacks during the 1974-75 season.

But 43 years after Medlock’s last game at Arkansas, he was glad to be proven wrong.

Medlock, an eye surgeon who lives in Little Rock, was inducted into the UA Sports Hall of Honor last Friday. Inductees are chosen in a vote by A-Club members who lettered at Arkansas.

“I was completely shocked when I got the call about the Hall of Honor,” Medlock said. “I thought it would never happen after all these years.

“I’m very thankful. It’s a great honor to be chosen at this stage of my life.”

Medlock, 65, led the NCAA in free throw shooting as a junior during the 1973-74 season when he hit 91.6 percent (87 of 95). He shot even better as a senior at 93.9 percent (62-66) — including hitting 48 in a row — but fell four attempts shy of the minimum 70 needed to be ranked in the NCAA statistics.

Medlock, who played at Cave City High School, said his grandfather, Corbet Medlock helped him become an elite free throw shoot. Corbet Medlock was a coach and math teacher at Cave City and other schools.

“I grew up with him literally rolling Prince Albert [tobacco] in a can, smoking cigarettes on his little stool and coaching me on free throws,” Medlock said. “He put a wire rim on the side of his garage where I shot. That’s where he taught me.”

When Medlock got older and began shooting more at the gym, his grandfather continued to coach him.

“He had a rule that I could never leave the gym without hitting 10 free throws in a row,” Medlock said. “If I ever missed a free throw I had to run line drills.”

Medlock played his first two varsity seasons at Arkansas for Coach Lanny Van Eman, then as a senior played for Coach Eddie Sutton.

Sutton led Arkansas to a 260-75 record in 11 seasons and nine consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances beginning with his third season.

Van Eman had a 39-65 record in four seasons before Sutton’s arrival, including a 16-10 mark in 1972-73.

“I don’t think Coach Van Eman gets enough credit for what he did at Arkansas,” Medock said. “He’s the guy that kind of got the ball rolling and built some interest in basketball.”

Medlock averaged 16.2 points as a junior when the Razorbacks were 10-16. He scored 27 points at defending national champion UCLA in the Bruins' 101-79 season-opening victory over Arkansas. His scoring averaged dropped to 12.9 points as a senior, but Sutton led the Razorbacks to a 17-9 record.

“I enjoyed playing for both coaches, but they had totally different philosophies,” Medlock said. “With Coach Van Eman we were scoring 80 or 90 points every game. Coach Sutton taught us to massage the ball, pass so many times before we could shoot, and if we scored at least 65 points we had a great chance of winning.”

Medlock broke the Arkansas career free throw percentage mark by Tommy Boyer (89.2 percent from 1961-63) and at 90.4 percent still holds the record.

Medlock said he thought players such as Dusty Hannahs (88.9 percent), Daryl Macon (87.1), Rotnei Clark (86.3) or Pat Bradley (85.8) would have broken his UA career free throw record by now.

“I never thought it was something that would hold for this long,” Medlock said. “It feels great to still have it, but records are made to be broken, and I hope some day somebody will break it.”

Medlock said he’s never missed a Southwest Conference or Southeastern Conference Tournament since graduating from Arkansas. He’s also had basketball season-tickets at Barnhill Arena and Walton Arena since his playing days ended and attends as many games as he can.

“Back when I played, half of Barnhill was sawdust and the other half was seats,” Medlock said. “We had to sweep the floor sometimes during practice to get the dust off, because the football team was practicing during the winter time.

“You’d go to other schools and see what they had and realize Arkansas still lacked a lot in basketball at that time. But we’ve certainly got great facilities now.”

Medlock was a freshman at Arkansas during the 1971-72 season, the last season before an NCAA rule changed allowing freshmen to be eligible for varsity games.

As a member of the freshman team Medock averaged more than 30 points and scored 57 against Poteau (Okla.) Junior College.

Medlock said his parents, Carl and Nina, attended all but one of his home games in four seasons at Arkansas.

“Dad had a service station and Mom had a clothing store,” he said. “They would leave Cave City at 3:15 in the afternoon and drive the four hours to Fayetteville. I'd look for them before the game and always see them in their seats by 7:15.

"After the game we’d go to IHOP to eat. Then they’d drive all night to get home and go to work the next day.”

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