Evin Demirel: The Arkansas Connection to Gonzaga – Frank Burgess

Decades before NBA great John Stockton became Gonzaga’s best-known basketball player, an Arkansan put the school on the national basketball map

frank burgess full

Visit Evin's Author PageThe Arkansas Razorback basketball team (4-1) continues its push back to national relevance with an appearance in the fifth-place game of Maui Invitational Wednesday at 4 p.m. Central. It’s been five years since the Razorbacks made the NCAA Tournament and a win at 4 p.m. today against Gonzaga, ranked No. 11, would strongly bolster their credentials come March.

Arkansas’ prestige tailed off in the late 1990s just as former Cinderella Gonzaga’s was rising. The programs have never met, but their states share a common link: Frank Burgess, Gonzaga’s all-time leading scorer and first All-American, transferred from what is now the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Burgess and John Stockton are the only two players to have their jersey numbers retired by the Gonzaga program.

Frank Burgess, born in 1935, grew up in Eudora near the Arkansas-Louisiana border. He developed a molten jumper on dirt courts, while not exactly dedicated to the game.

“He had no interest in playing. He was more interested in studying,” his childhood friend Nathan Crawford told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2001.

Still, Burgess honed a sweet enough shot to help Eudora High make the state semifinals and rival Johnnie Greer as the best to come out of the area. Like so many other southeast Arkansas black student-athletes of this era, Burgess attended what’s now UAPB in 1953. The coach who recruited him died the summer before he arrived on campus, though, and the successor, Leroy Moore, arrived from Oklahoma with a lot of Oklahoma players, Burgess said in BraveHearts: The Against-All-Odds Rise of Gonzaga Basketball. “I got the feeling he thought nobody could play ball but folks from Oklahoma. It seemed like he was playing favorites.”

After a season, Burgess ended up following his brother into the U.S. Air Force, where he spent 31 months and developed his groove as a great shooter playing for an Air Force league team in Germany. Colleges such as Kansas and USC started looking at him, but he was sold on Gonzaga when a coach there stressed academics as well as athletics would be an important part of his life at the small, liberal arts school in Spokane, Washington. Plus, it appealed to the 23-year-old that he would not have to sit out a year because Gonzaga was independent. He would have had to sit out a year if he’d gone to a conference-affiliated program.

In the three seasons Burgess played at Gonzaga, the Bulldogs hardly set the world on fire. In fact, his first season (1958-59) was the firstfrank burgess at jersey retirement 2005 season Gonzaga played what would now be considered a Division I schedule. Gonzaga played elite programs of the era such as Detroit, Providence, St. John’s and Xavier but lost to them all. Still, Burgess made an individual mark like no others, finishing with a school-record 2,196 points without the benefit of a three-point line. His top two single season averages (28.9 ppg and 32.4 ppg) eclipse No. 3 scorer Adam Morrison. One of his finest games came in 1960 against a strong Seattle team which featured North Little Rock’s Eddie Miles, just a few years removed from nearly becoming the first black Razorback. “He was only about 6-1, but he could stop on a dime and fill the hoop up,” Miles told the Democrat-Gazette, speaking of Burgess.

After his playing days, Burgess had a cup of coffee in Hawaiian minor league basketball before entering Gonzaga’s law school. He graduated near the top of his class and started as an assistant prosecutor in Tacoma. In 1981, he became a federal magistrate judge and more than 12 years later got an appointment from President Bill Clinton as the U.S. district judge for western Washington (Burgess hadn’t met Clinton, but said his brother knew him). In 1997, the town of Eudora held a day in his honor. “They gave me a key to the city and presented me with an Arkansas Traveler certificate,” he said in 2001. “It was really nice.”

At age 75, Burgess died in 2010 after a yearlong battle with cancer. “He distinguished himself as a person of great talent and great humility, beloved by the people he played and worked with,” U.S. District Chief Judge Robert Lasnik told The Seattle Times. “He was a legend on two courts.”


Evin Demirel briefly considered Tweeting this story before he realized not even ten 140-character messages could do it justice. He blogs about sports, history and an aborted play called “Football, Biceps, Biscuits and Gravy: Confessions of a Razorback.”

Arkansas vs. Gonzaga Pregame Notes:

Arkansas (4-1) vs. No. 11/10 GONZAGA (5-1)

Date: Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Time: 4:00 P.M. CT
City: Maui, Hawaii
Site: Lahaina Civic Center (2,400)
Talent: Jon Sciambi (P-B-P) & Jimmy Dykes (Analyst)
Audio: Razorback/IMG Sports Network
Talent: Chuck Barrett (P-B-P) & Rick Schaeffer (Analyst)
Live Stats: www.ArkansasRazorbacks.com
Twitter: @RazorbackMBB | @EASPORTSMauiInv
Hashtags: #AloHogs | #Fastest40 | #WeHogs | #MauiHoops
Current Streak: W1
Neutral Record: 1-1
Maui Invitational Record (Appearances): 4-4 (3)
Vs. Ranked Teams: 85-120
Vs. Gonzaga: First Meeting
Up Next: vs. Southeastern Louisiana – Dec. 3



Arkansas will look to carry over momentum from Tuesday’s win against Minnesota at the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational into Wednesday’s first-ever meeting with No. 10/11 Gonzaga. Jon Sciambi (P-B-P) and Jimmy Dykes (Analyst) will have the call on ESPN2 starting at 4 p.m. CT from Lahaina Civic Center. The two teams are vying for fifth place at the Maui Invitational, as the Razorbacks seek to win two games at the tournament for the second time in three appearances. Arkansas is looking to start 5-1 for the third time in the last four seasons and is in search of its fifth win over a ranked opponent under head coach MIKE ANDERSON.


• Third in the SEC in scoring (85.6), while leading the conference in turnover margin (+5.6).
• Eight different players have scored in double figures.
• Gonzaga is third straight team Arkansas has faced that is ranked or receiving votes in the Associated Press Poll or USA Today Coaches Poll.
• Arkansas bench is averaging 43.8 points per game, good for 51 percent of the team’s scoring.
• Out-scoring opponents by 20 points per game (219-119) off the bench and 10.4 per game (112-60) in points off turnovers.
• Won the turnover battle in nine straight games dating back to last year.
• Sophomore class supplying 34.4 points per game – most by any of the four classes.
• Averaging 30 free throw attempts per game and out-scoring opponents 112-78 at the line.
• Own the sixth-longest current streak in the nation with a three-pointer in 809 consecutive contests.
• Own a 17-game home win streak at Bud Walton Arena.
• Won last 37 home games against unranked non-conference opponents, dating back to 2009.
• Of Arkansas’ 37 home wins under Anderson, 26 have come by double-digits.
• Forced opponents into 20 turnovers 16 times (15-1), including two of three games this season, under Anderson, while coming away with 10+ steals in 25 contests (18-7).
• Anderson’s #Fastest40 style of play has resulted in his teams winning the turnover battle in 310 of 367 career games.




Head Coach: Mike Anderson (Tulsa ‘82)
Record at Arkansas: 41-28 (3rd Season)
Overall Record: 241-126 (12th Season)
Maui Invitational Record: 1-1 (1st Appearance)



Head Coach: Mark Few (Oregon ‘87)
Record at Gonzaga: 379-94 (15th Season)
Overall Record: Same
Maui Invitational Record: 7-4 (4th Appearance)



#12 Fred Gulley III (G)

• Coming off a career-high 10 points against Minnesota.
• One of two players to start every game.
• Team leader at 2.8 assists per game.
• Arkansas is 9-5 when he starts.
• Started nine games as a junior after becoming eligible mid-year.

05 Anthlon Bell (G)

• Third on the team in scoring (12.2).
• Tied for fifth in the SEC in threes per game (2.8).
• Reached double figures three times.
• Has hit multiple threes in four of five games.
• Five threes in opener are the most by an SEC player this season.

#24 Michael Qualls (G)

• Has a pair of SportsCenter Top 10 Plays this season – both dunks.
• Leader in scoring (16.0) & rebounding (6.4) – 15th & 17th in SEC.
• Reached double figures in all five games.
• Scored a career-high 21 points against California.
• Averaging 10.8 points in the second half.

#02 Alandise Harris (F)

• Averaging 15.6 points & 5.2 rebounds, both second on the team.
• Has led the team in scoring three times.
• Made first start as a Razorback against Minnesota.
• Finished in double figures four of five games.
• Has 78 total points on 43 field goal attempts.

#10 Bobby Portis (F)

• Averaging 9.0 points and 4.0 rebounds.
• Coming off a 12-point and seven-rebound game vs. Minnesota.
• One of two players to start every game.
• Reached double figures twice.
• 13th Arkansas signee to play in the McDonald’s All-American game.



  • Wednesday’s first-ever matchup between Arkansas and Gonzaga features a pair of high-octane offenses. Between the two teams, they combine to average 174.8 points per game.
  • Gonzaga leads the WCC and ranks sixth in the nation in scoring (92.8), while Arkansas is third in the SEC (85.8).
  • Neither team has been held below 76 points in a game this season while they’ve reached the 80-point plateau a combined eight times out of 10 games played.
  • Seven players enter averaging double figure points, while 11 are at eight points or better.
  • Each team has eight different players who have scored double figure points in a game this season.
  • Held below 50 percent from the field a combined three times.
  • Combined nine double-digit wins.

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