Bahn: Importance of Memphis To Fueling Razorback Success Not Lost On Anderson

by Chris Bahn  on Tuesday, Mar. 29, 2011 10:00 pm  

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Historically, the city of Memphis has played a big part in Arkansas basketball success. Each of the program’s four teams to reach the Final Four since 1978 has included a contributor who hailed from just across the Mississippi River.

That fact is not lost on new Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson. He was at Arkansas as an assistant during three of those Final Fours, when the roster included guys like Todd Day, Dwight Stewart and Corey Beck.

Even going back to the Eddie Sutton era, Memphis-area players were part of the Razorbacks’ success. Dr. Jim Counce was from Memphis and was a member of the 1977-78 Final Four squad.

Walking in Memphis figures to be a key piece of Anderson’s recruiting strategy. While Anderson is his own man and doesn’t do everything exactly like his former Razorback boss Nolan Richardson, recruiting Memphis will feel as familiar as his preferred playing style.

“Memphis is a great town and we’ve had some tremendous success,” Anderson said. “You look at Todd Day, Corey Beck. Those guys are pretty good players for us. There’s a good bloodline there and we’ll keep tapping into that.”

Arkansas would be wise to do so. Consider that five of top 150 players in the class of 2011 hail from Memphis.

Anderson’s attempt at reaching out into Memphis could be aided by a couple of factors. He’s got a former player living and coaching there in Day. Plus, Arkansas appears to be close to a game with the Memphis Tigers., an independent blog covering the Tigers, says that a home game with Arkansas is soon to be added. Games against Memphis were commonplace during Nolan Richardson’s 17 years when Anderson served as an assistant.

Former Memphis Coach John Calipari cut off the Memphis series with Arkansas because he said the Tigers wanted to play “national opponents.” That comment irritated much of the fan base, though at the time Calipari uttered those words, it was hard to argue that the Razorbacks were still a national brand in basketball by 2001.

More than anything Calipari’s move was a matter of self-preservation. Cutting off the Arkansas-Memphis series gave the Razorbacks one less selling point to recruits in Memphis.

And it seemed to work. Arkansas has signed just one player from the town since 1996.

Is it a coincidence the program has struggled to compete nationally since then? Maybe. Maybe not.



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