State of the Hogs: 1994 Reunion

Nolan Richardson returns to the media room in Bud Walton Arena on Friday morning. He'll talk about the championship reunion for the 1994 national title team set for March. Can you name the players that won the Hogs their only basketball national crown?

Just as a history exercise, I asked some neighbors on press row at Wednesday night's basketball game to name the players from the 1994 national championship team.

Quickly, they wrote down Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman and Corey Beck. Then, their efforts came to a skid.

How about Oliver Miller or Lee Mayberry? Nope. Todd Day? Definitely, not. Miller, Day and Mayberry finished in 1992.

Asked the same question to the occupants of my car, two family members, on the way home from the game. They got many right. Another occupant, unrelated, again threw out Miller. All remembered that Roger Crawford, cast on his leg, sat on the rim in the post-game celebration.

Two more from the media were quizzed Thursday morning. They could name what we will call the big three from that team -- Williamson, Thurman and Beck. But they listed Miller and Day. They eventually came up with Dwight Stewart, a correct answer.

In defense of all of those who participated in my informal poll, they were young in 1994. Some were teenagers. Some were in junior high or elementary school, like my daughters.

That's what makes the reunion for this team so special 15 years later. We'll get a chance to visit with Nolan Richardson, Jeff Long and John Pelphrey at a media briefing Friday morning concerning the reunion planned for the Georgia game at the end of this season. I can't help but wonder how many of these players Long and Pelphrey can name.

Nolan's thoughts on the reunion are so on target. I've heard him on radio and in other settings talk about "my kids." Over and over, he said it's huge that the players get their day in Bud Walton Arena. He said it's not about him, and that has merit.

The point is it's been too long. We all know it. It's been so long that some have trouble thinking of their names.

It wasn't like that in 1994, trust me. Those players were like rock stars. They couldn't go to the mall without being swamped for autographs.

That goes for Al Dillard, Lee Wilson and Darnell Robinson -- three of the key reserves.

Sarah and Becca, my daughters, recalled that their junior high basketball coach, Jamie Rains, named all of their plays after the stars on the 1994 team. Their motion offense was Scotty. Another system was Corey. The best in-bounds play was Corliss. Fans at Elmwood were always baffled when she'd holler those sets and they'd look to the floor thinking, "There is not a Scotty or a Corliss out there."

Not everyone would get that today. But it made sense then. Those guys were household names, and not just a few of them.

I can remember Corliss and Scotty telling me their best nights were hanging out at the house they shared. They had a hard time going out in public without getting covered up by even casual fans.

Those players were fun to watch and fun to cover. I loved the quiet assassin, defender Clint McDaniel. Often, he stayed behind the scenes.

There was even a time he declined interviews maybe even a little jealous of all the hype that went the way of Corliss, Scotty and Corey.

It's hard to pinpoint the most valuable player on that team. Take one out, it wasn't the same. Obviously, Williamson was the best pro and a rare inside demon. Big Nasty was someone you could saddle up and ride to a championship.

Thurman's ability to hit clutch shots is legendary, too. And, you needed all of those post players -- Dwight Stewart, Elmer Martin, Robinson and Wilson -- to absorb the minutes and fouls in the paint.

Beck was the glue, the point guard that's been missing so often over the past 10 years at Arkansas. When you hear people talk about today's team and how much Courtney Fortson can help by running the point the right way, you may hear oldtimers talk about Beck.

I was asked to compare Beck and Fortson as freshmen just a few days ago. Just the question revealed a lack of knowledge from 15 years ago. Beck didn't play at Arkansas as a true freshman. He went to junior college for one season, transferred to UA as a sophomore and sat out as a non-qualifier while he gained eligibility. He played his first basketball for the Razorbacks as a redshirt sophomore.

Beck was good that season, but really didn't blossom until his junior year, the title season. He was overweight in his first season in the Ozarks when he also struggled mightily with asthma.

Beck was one of two great point guards the Hogs recruited in Memphis in the same class. The story goes that most thought Penny Hardaway was the best, but Nolan liked Beck just as much or more. As usual, Nolan was correct.

All the roles were important. And, no one should be forgotten when the Georgia game rolls around. Some may forget Ken Biley, the little-used senior who started the championship game and drew the assignment of Duke star Grant Hill for the opening minutes, delivering intense denial defense in a surprise to everyone.

No one in my little poll produced Biley's full name, although someone did remember him partly. It's good that we are getting on with this celebration. Nolan is right. It's time "the kids" have their celebration.

Unfortunately, they aren't kids anymore and the real kids don't know their names. Hopefully, that will change in the next couple of months.

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