The annual University of Arkansas basketball banquet might as well have been dubbed Razorbacks: Past, Present and Future.
All three of those areas were touched upon Monday night before a capactity crowd of fans at the Northwest Arkansas Holiday Inn ballroom that showed up for the event.
Per haps the top moment was when former UA and NBA standout Sidney Moncrief accepted the Razorback Legends award and then turned to the current players and challenged them to improve on a 12-16 season by adopting a team-first approach.
Moncrief, the school's leading rebounder and second all-time leading scorer at just 6-4, was one of the famed "Triplets" along with Ron Brewer and Marvin Delph who led Arkansas to the Final Four back in 1978.
"Back in my day we had no concept of stats," Moncrief said. "I couldn't tell you how many points I averaged. We just played a team and didn't care who got the glory. I didn't care if Ron got the headline or Marvin scored more points than I did. I just wanted to win.
"We were 13 individuals and a coaching staff with a team-first attitude and that's what made us so successful," Moncrief added. "I challenge you to have the passion and pride for the game of basketball that we had back then."
He also challenged them to work hard in the offseason.
"That is when you become players," Moncrief said. "...That's the type of sacrifice you have to make. I challenge you to dig a little deeper."
Moncrief notes that he thinks good things are around the corner for the program.
"I am looking for you guys to get the program back to where it once was," Moncrief said. "I have a lot of confidence in Coach Heath."
Moncrief's appearance was one of the highlights of the banquet at which freshman Ronnie Brewer, son of the former Triplet, was named the team's MVP.
Brewer led his team in rebounding, steals and assists and was second in scoring this season.
"I think we could have had a better season and we let Coach Heath down," Brewer said. "But we are going to work hard and in the next couple of years we are going to bring Arkansas basketball back to where it should be."
Other awards included:
• Most Improved Player: Olu Famutimi
• Chairman of the Boards: Ronnie Brewer
• Defensive Player of the Year: Eric Ferguson
• Mr. Hustle: Rashard Sullivan
• Academic Award: Billy Pharis
• Free Throw Award: Eric Ferguson
• Mr. Razorback: Billy Pharis
Heath, who informed the media before the banquet that sophomores Kendrick Davis and Wen Mukubu would no longer be part of the program. lauded his team for its effort if not its victory total.
"I really want to thank these young men," Heath said. "They performed, they improved and did everything their coach asked them to do. We came up a little bit short, but it wasn't because of effort, it wasn't because we didn't want to win, it wasn't because we weren't willing to do some of the things that were necessary."
He knows not being in the postseason - a goal they had at the first of season - makes it tough.
"It's hard," Heath said. "These guys want to walk around with their chests out and want to be proud of what they did. You do the best you can and sometimes you come up a little bit short. But you lay that foundation and you know you are doing the right thing and know you are working hard, that you are going to turn the corner. You know it's not going to happen overnight, but it you are willing to pay the price, you are willing to make that commitment, it is going to happen."
Arkansas will add a top recruiting class into the mix next season.
"I am so excited about the future, I am so excited about the development of these young men and what they are going do over the summer and I know that our Razorback program is turn the corner and you are going to be very proud," Heath said. "A couple of years from now we are all going to sit back and say remember this and remember that and we are going to be very excited."
Moncrief challenges young Hogs at UA banquet
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