Members of Arkansas' 1994 Title Team Relish Opportunity To Reunite

by Chris Bahn  on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009 4:30 pm  

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FAYETTEVILLE - Scotty Thurman positioned himself on the right wing with Al Dillard stationed on the opposite side of the court. Corliss Williamson stood his ground underneath the basket as Nolan Richardson looked on.

There were moments Saturday when it appeared not much has changed for member of Arkansas' 1994 NCAA basketball national champions. Former players and coaches from that team gathered at the Yvonne Richardson Center early in the morning to conduct a clinic for underprivileged youth in Fayetteville.

Time has obviously caught up with some members of the team. Few still appear to be in basketball shape but they seemed to interact as effortlessly as they did in guiding the Razorbacks to a 31-3 record and a 76-72 victory against Duke in the title game.

"Hell, they look older than I do. They've certainly gained more weight than I've gained. I guess I'm doing pretty good," Richardson said, laughing. "It's nice to see them back."

Saturday's clinic was one of numerous weekend events — unofficial and official — that brought members of the title team back together. The University of Arkansas was hosting the players, coaches and managers from that team and their families for its "Celebration of a Championship."

It was obvious they were relishing the time together.

Hours after the clinic, team members were to be honored with an invitation-only banquet at the Northwest Arkansas Holiday Inn in Springdale. Approximately 700 were in attendence and members of the Arkansas athletic department, including vice chancellor for athletics Jeff Long were scheduled to address the team.

Also, former President Bill Clinton, an Arkansas native and Razorback fan, was expected to deliver a video message to the team as the university hosted its first formal anniversary celebration of the 1994 national champions.

An extended halftime ceremony for the team was planned for Sunday's 3 p.m. game between Arkansas and Georgia.

"What a great way to bring everybody back," said Ken Biley, a senior on the title team now living in Kansas City. "We always say family is the most important thing to us. Well, we're getting back with members of our family. This means a lot."

Members of that team began getting into town on Thursday evening and arrived from all over the country. Center Darnell Robinson traveled with his family from Oakland. Manager Mark Murray drove with his family from their home in Utah.

Some covered much less distance in returning, but all seemed thankful for the opportunity to celebrate. There was no 10-year anniversary celebration in 2005.

"It's something that we've been looking forward to for quite some time now. We're just happy that it's finally here," said Williamson, who is back in Arkansas after a 12-year NBA career. "We get an opportunity to move forward."

Richardson was fired in 2002 and the discrimination suit he filed against the school after his ouster has created controversy since. Sunday's game - when players will be recognized at halftime - is Richardson's first time at an Arkansas game since.

The gave Richardson, the players, the university and fans a chance to move on. Members of the 1994 title team were glad the time had finally arrived for celebration.

Over the weekend, team members were remembering the good times. They reminisced about going 31-3, knocking off North Carolina A&T, Georgetown, Tulsa, Michigan and Arizona on the way the title game with Duke.

Arkansas fell behind by 10 in the second half, but rallied to win. Thurman's shot over Blue Devils' defender Antonio Lang just beat the shot clock and put the Razorbacks in control for good.

Only two members of the team were unable to attend. Elmer Martin is serving a 15-year prison sentence and Davor Rimac is at home in Croatia, unable to make the trip.

Missouri coach Mike Anderson, Richardson's top assistant for 17 years at Arkansas, attended a private get-together at Richardson's ranch on Friday. Anderson had to be back for Missouri's game against Kansas on Sunday.

"We've been waiting a long time for this," said Dillard, a three-point specialist on the Razorbacks' title team and 1995 runner-up. "This means a lot to each one of us. We appreciated the championship when we won it, but it's even more special now after all these years. I'm not sure I have the words to express what this means."



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