State of the Hogs: Me and The Dipper

By: Clay Henry
Published: Thursday, December 27, 2018
ADG file photo 3/18/78 Eddie Sutton, coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks congratulates Marvin Delph, forward, after they defeated Cal State Fullerton 61-58 in the NCAA Far Western Championship at Albuquerque, N.N.
ADG file photo 3/18/78 Eddie Sutton, coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks congratulates Marvin Delph, forward, after they defeated Cal State Fullerton 61-58 in the NCAA Far Western Championship at Albuquerque, N.N.

I called Nate Allen with a feature assignment for Hawgs Illustrated: Find Marvin Delph for a "Where Are They Now" feature.

I really wanted to do it myself, but knew Nate's story would be wonderful. It would leave me to write my own personal story on Marvin. I'd call it “The Dipper and Me.”

The Dipper is what everyone in Conway called Marvin. He was much beloved there, back in the days when Conway had a population of about 15,000 (and it's now about 75,000). Most then thought they had a personal connection to Marvin. I sure did.

I went to UCA on a golf scholarship, working nights at the Arkansas Gazette sports department. Late in my college days I became sports editor of the Conway Log Cabin Democrat, a great six-day-a-week paper that printed afternoons in those days.

So here is the back story on Marvin and me. I was at the Log Cabin during Marvin's time at Arkansas. My brother, Butch, was the sports information director at Arkansas during that time.

My daily routine included covering Conway High, UCA, Hendrix, St. Joseph High, Central Baptist and anything else sports related in Faulkner County. There really wasn't time to go to Fayetteville for Razorback games. We had the Associated Press wire for that stuff.

But, I wanted a story after every game with Marvin's comments. AP didn't include that unless Marvin had hit the game winner.

I asked Butch if I could call Marvin each morning on his dorm phone. Both Eddie Sutton and Butch said OK, as long as it was fine with Marvin. Marvin said, "Let's do it."

So every morning after the game I'd call Marvin at 7:30 a.m. He answered every time. He always had just eaten breakfast. We talked for 10 minutes. So I ran a diary of Marvin's games for most of the time he played at Arkansas. It was a wonderful feature.

Also, I helped plan a banquet to honor Marvin after his time at Arkansas. We filled up the cafeteria at Conway Junior High.

I thought of a novel way to decorate the tables. I built two pages of stories about Marvin, with interviews from Sutton and C. D. Taylor. C.D. was Marvin's high school coach at Conway.

So we printed one continuous strip of newsprint with those two pages of stories and rolled them up as they came off our printing press at the Log Cabin. That was displayed as one continuous table cloth. It went down one side, then back up the other on every table.

C.D. Taylor was the featured speaker. When he got up to speak, he said, "OK, we can make this short. Read Clay's story. That was going to be my speech but he already printed it and I think most of you have already read it."

Then, C. D. pretty much delivered exactly what I'd written. People would look up at C. D., then down at the table cloth.

I had an interview with Marvin, too. He got up to thank everyone and started it the same way. "Everyone has already read my speech," he said. "Clay wrote it already." The place roared with laughter and then Marvin pretty much delivered the same lines he'd given to me the previous week.

It sure was a lot of fun for a young reporter. Remember, I was age 22-24 during that time when Marvin played at Arkansas.

One of the tough days was getting the phone call one afternoon from Joe Graham, the Conway High basketball coach, that Ulysses Delph, Marvin's younger brother, had died at practice. I had covered him as a junior high player. Most thought he was of the same caliber of Marvin. That was a very tough day.

I can tell Marvin Delph stories until the cows come home. He is a special person. His smile is magical.

One of my favorites was going over to UCA to watch Marvin give a clinic at Don Nixon's camp. Now Marvin spent most of his time at the Hendrix gym because it was closer to his home, but he was good to give clinics anytime someone wanted him to come.

The high school and junior high kids from all over Faulkner County were seated on the sideline at the Farris Center so excited that they were just in the same building as Marvin.

Here's what you have to know about anyone who dribbled a basketball in Faulker County: They loved Marvin. They followed Marvin around like he was the pied piper. He was not only a Razorback, he was their Razorback. And, he was always smiling. I called it a magical relationship.

Marvin went out to mid-court with a rack of basketballs. He hit 10 straight from half-court with his normal motion. Nixon had another rack ready. The Dipper did it again. I think another rack was being rolled his way, but Marvin waved it away and waded into the kids who were by then going crazy.

The Dipper was the right name for Marvin because of the motion of his shot. It was unorthodox to say the least. He dipped the ball behind his head before bringing it forward.

Nate's well-done story details how Sutton wanted to change it the first time he saw Marvin at practice at Barnhill Arena. Marvin said, "Does it go in? OK, then why should I change it?" Eddie said basically good point and it never came up again.

Marvin's range was unlimited. You guarded him at 20 feet, he moved to 25. If you guarded him there, he'd back up another 3-5 feet. It didn't matter. I think his range was solid at 35 feet, although no one ever saw him shoot from there in games. I did at UCA, Hendrix and Conway High gyms. It was unreal.

I've always wondered how many points Marvin would have scored if the 3-point shot had been used in his days. No one knows how many shots he made that would have been worth three points. It would have been a bunch.

He finished his career averaging 15 points per game, with a high average of 19.7 points per game as a junior in 1976-77. He had a career field-goal percentage of 52.9 percent.

But Marvin was more than a shooter. He was a solid rebounder at 6-4 with incredibly long arms and a good vertical jump. He played forward and was good enough at defense to hold his man below his average.

There was always a joke there. Marvin said he objected to Sutton's comments about his lack of defense.

“Yeah, I know Sidney Moncrief, Ron Brewer and Jimmy Counce drew tougher assignments,” Delph said. “But I played defense when we needed it. I always told Coach Sutton, I promise I will out score my man. If we all do that, we aren't going to lose a game.

“I think my defense was always under-appreciated.”

Maybe so. It's hard to believe that anyone could get on the floor for Sutton without playing good defense.

“No, you wouldn't,” Marvin said. “You played defense, or you didn't play.”

Yes, Marvin always outscored his man. And, if his man covered him, he'd just take him a little further from the basket. How far could he go?

The Dipper didn't have a limit to his range. Don't dispute that with anyone in Faulkner County who saw him that day at the Farris Center.


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