What’s The Best Backcourt in Arkansas Prep History?

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Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman; Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe; Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars; Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili.

For basketball fans, each of these names follows the other as naturally as champion precedes both. You see, a team with great big men, but bad guards, is pretty much screwed. But a pair of great guards gives a team a fighting chance in most games.

If an elite point guard is the head of a snake, then pairing that PG with an outstanding shooting guard is like encasing said snake’s head in a polycarbonate helmet. Truly, the toughest backcourts make for the toughest teams.

Arkansas has seen its fair share of elite backcourt duos through the decades. What separates the very good from the great, though, is how they perform at this time of the year. Winners win when it matters, when the lights shine brightest.

This has played out during these state playoffs. Two top backcourts will be on display at Little Rock’s Barton Coliseum this weekend when Jonesboro (featuring guards Kahron Ross and Marquise Pointer) takes on Hall, and North Little Rock (featuring guards Kevaughn Allen and Dayshawn Watkins) clashes with Fayetteville.

Allen and Watkins have already proven they are likely the state’s top backcourt this year by leading North Little Rock to two victories over Jonesboro, as well as wins against Parkview, Hall, Fayetteville and Jacksonville.

But do Allen and Watkins have a legit shot at becoming the best backcourt in state history? Your answer may boil down to how you define “best”* or your age. Unfortunately, generation bias distorts many Greatest of All Time arguments. Whippersnappers favor “new school” players; old heads, naturally, go with their “old school” contemporaries.

We favor throwing era discrimination out the window and focusing on the pure skill, talent and ability.

So, who do ya got? Who’s your top backcourt in state history?

Yeah, we know: it’s hard to pin it down to just one. Fortunately, at first, you don’t have to.
Just vote in your top four backcourts. We’ll take the top four vote-getters and later in the week pit them against each other for all the marbles.

Let’s roll.

*There are a plenty ways to define “best” but for the sake of this piece it refers to the backcourt which best combines a) the ability to beat another backcourt in a game of 2-on-2 and b) clutch shooting, safe ballhandling and smart defense when playoff games are on the line.

Our choices for Best Backcourt in Arkansas Prep History:

Kevaughn Allen and Dayshawn Watkins; 2012-13, North Little Rock

Allen (sophomore): 6’3”
Watkins (senior): 6’0”

Allen, ranked as one of the top sophomore guards in the nation, combines superlative hops with a skill set years ahead of the curve. He shoots tear drops ambidextrously with ease, his trainer Kahn Cotton says.

Anton Beard and I.J. Ready; 2012-13, Little Rock Parkview

Beard (junior): 6’0”:
Ready (senior): 5’10”

They won two state titles in a row and for much of this season averaged more than 20 points a game. Parkview Al Flanigan said he’s never seen a more statistically proficient backcourt at this level.

Allie Freeman and Tim Scott; 1983-84, Little Rock Hall

Freeman (senior): 6’3”
Scott (senior): 6’2”

Led Hall through much of the most dominant  stretch by a Arkansas boys program since Scipio Jones in the late 1950s. Hall won four straight state titles and two overall championships in that run.

Rodney Peel and Jimmy Hinton; 1986-87, Little Rock Hall

Peel (senior): 5’10”
Hinton (senior): 5’7”

Peel averaged 21 points and 8 rebounds to help lead Hall to three consecutive AAAA-Central Conference titles. Former Hall coach Oliver Elders doesn’t recall Peel or Hinton fouling out during their high school careers, “and we were in some heated contests.”

DeShone McClure and LaQuinton Miles; 2008-09, Jacksonville

McClure (junior): 6’3”
Miles (senior): 6’4”

The Hall Warriors have won four of the last five state titles they have competed for. Why not five in a row? These guys.

Fred Allen and Danny McDaniel; 1971-72, Little Rock Central

“Allen would kill you with that long shot that he had and he didn’t care where he took it from,” Oliver Elders said. “He would just knock the eyes out of it.”

Derek Fisher and Kenneth Taylor; 1991-92, Little Rock Parkview

Fisher (senior): 6’1”
Taylor (senior): 5’10”

Hard to imagine a Fisher that weighed only 173 pounds, but he used all of it to help keep his good friend Corliss Williamson from winning a state title.

Eddie Miles and James Nash; 1958-59, Scipio A. Jones (North Little Rock)

Miles (senior): 6’5″

James (junior): 5’10”

Four straight state titles. Future NBA All-Star in the 6-5 do-it-all Miles. No other backcourt comes close to combining these kind of accomplishments.

Benny Green and Philip McKellar; 1985-86, Northeast High (North Little Rock)

Green (senior): 6’3”
McKellar (junior): 6’6”

Hard to find a more talented duo in state history. Indiana import McKellar was a magician with the ball and Green would be a McDonald’s All-American. [correction: Green wasn’t chosen as a McDonald’s AA. As penance, I offer this tasty trivia – On a per capita basis, Arkansas has as many McDonald’s AA selections as North Carolina from 1977 to 2012. Take that, Tobacco Road!]

Wes Flanigan and Kahn Cotton; 1992-93, Little Rock Parkview

Flanigan (senior): 6’1”
Cotton (junior): 5’10”

To this day, Cotton says he refers to his longtime friend, Flanigan, simply as “backcourt.” He could add “tough as nails” and “championship-winning” to the front of that, too.

RaRa Blackman and Reggie Mayo; 1991-92, Little Rock Fair

Blackman (junior): 5’10”
Mayo (junior): 6’2”

If any duo was more statistically dominant than Beard and Ready, it was this duo, this year. Mayo averaged 24 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists, while Blackman put up 18 points and 7 assists. {Interestingly, Kevaughn Allen’s father (Reggie Allen) and uncle (Rodney Allen) also played for Fair in the early 1990s}.

Marcus McDonald and Greg Alexander; Magnolia, 1974-75

Lifted Magnolia through a two-year golden run that included a 59-6 record, two state titles and a near-upset of LR Central in the ‘75 state overalls. If Alexander is considered a two guard, this ranks as one of longtime Gazette prep sportswriter Wadie Moore’s top five all-time backcourts.

Fred Gulley and Taylor Cochran; Fayetteville, 2008-09

Gulley (senior): 6’1”
Cochran (junior): 6’2”

Led Fayetteville to a 30-0 season and the Bulldogs finished ranked #8 in the nation by Sports Illustrated. Not a bad third wheel in Kikko Haydar, either.

Mark Mangum and Sonny Weems; West Memphis, 2003-04

Longtime West Memphis sportswriter Billy Woods has followed the program for decades. If Weems, who also played on the wings, is considered a guard, then this is the best Blue Devil backcourt he’s seen.

Alex Finger and Mark Green; Little Rock Central, 1998-99

Finger (senior): 6’0”
Green (senior): 6’2”

Forwards Joe Johnson and Jarrett Hart also handled the ball plenty, but these Tigers don’t contend for best all-time team without the scrappy Finger and high-flying Green. Central finished 27-3, losing once in state, and won all four of its state tournament games by a record-setting average of 42.5 points.

Ocie Conley and Carl Lott; Marianna, 1982-83

Conley (junior): 6’3”
Lott (senior): 6’4”

This rangy, extremely athletic tandem led Marianna to its last state title in 1983.

Write-in candidate* (Use comments below to write in your choice. Explain your answer.)

*There are more than 16 great backcourts in state history, so add your choice  if it’s not already listed. Possibilities include:

Jason Harrison and Jason Flanigan; 1996-97, Little Rock Parkview

Hal Crafton and Austin Sullivan; 1974-75, Conway

Ronald Claiborne, Randolph Morris; 1979-80, Parkdale

Brandon Glover, Andre Marsh; 1998-99, Stephens

A.J. Walton, Marland Smith; 2008-09, LR Hall

The Best Backcourt in Arkansas Prep History?


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Demirel blogs on the Lee brothers at Clarksville at thesportsseer.com. He rides the magical Tweet carpet here.

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