Final Four Of Best All-Time Backcourts

Evin Demirel on Sporting Life Arkansas
For the rest of the nation, the grand, sweaty spectacle that is Final Four weekend is still a few weeks away. But here at Sporting Life Arkansas, we’re kicking things off right now with our final four selections for best prep basketball backcourt in state history.

As you recall, last week we asked you to vote on the best combo of guards who have played together on an Arkansas high school team.

We served up a ridiculously rich creme brulee of backcourt possibilities – more than 20 combos in all – and not for a second did you consider reaching for antacids while skimming four of the best candidates off the top.

Some added their own suggestions to expand the ballot. Hats off to those who brought up the likes of Ron Brewer and Jon “Preacher’s Kid” Raybon at Fort Smith Northside, or Willie Cutts and Brad Goshien at Bryant.

Now, though, the dust has cleared. A king’s throne sits empty, and only four seekers still wield blood-stained swords in the nearby chamber.

Who, at last, will take the crown?

You decide from among:

Tim Scott (senior), Allie Freeman (junior)

1982-83 – Little Rock Hall High

In the two seasons they played together, in which they led Hall to a 49-7 record, Scott by far got the most pub.  As a junior, the 6-3 shooting guard was an entrenched starter while Freeman sometimes came off the bench. While that team won a AAAAA state title – the second of four straight – it was upset 66-65 in the final round of the Overall championship by Class AA Gurdon.

The next season, Scott averaged 22 points, six to eight assists and five rebounds a game. He shot about 46% on field goals and 80% on free throws, according to an Arkansas Gazette article. Scott, along with forward Darrell Watson, helped Hall knock off Marianna 62-49 for legendary coach Oliver Elders’ first overall title.

Freeman was hobbled in that game because of a toe injury, but made clutch shots down the line. Clutch shooting and leadership was Freeman’s m.o., Elders says today. “He was a coach on the floor.”

After High School:

Both became key players for the Razorbacks. Freeman went directly to Fayetteville, while Scott landed there after first playing at Lon Morris Junior College in Texas. Either player would help stabilize the erratic shooting and ball handling of this season’s Hogs.

Rodney Peel (senior) and Jimmy Hinton (senior)

1986-87 – Little Rock Hall High

The roles of the “diminutive duo” changed in their three seasons together.

As a sophomore, Peel was point guard but stepped in as a zone buster during his junior season. “If that three-point shot would have been in the rules during his time here, he would have torn that thing up,” Hall coach Oliver Elders told the Democrat-Gazette in 1992. “He was pure from out there.”

Peel averaged 21 points, eight rebounds, while shooting 55 % from the floor and 75% from the line his senior year.

Jimmy Hinton was the ball-handling wizard that could slither through any trap thrown his way. He also had a proficient mid-range game, similar to Parkview’s I.J. Ready, said Ron Ingram, Sr., a longtime high school coach in the central Arkansas scene. Hinton and Ready “were sort of the same type of player … Ready might be a little better shooter than Jimmy.”

Ingram then compared Peel and Ready’s running mate, Anton Beard, who is a junior and Razorback recruit. “Peel was a better shooter than Beard,” Ingram said. He added Beard, a stout six-footer who can guard every position, defends better.

As seniors, Peel and HInton led Hall to a co-championship of the AAAAA-Central but lost to a much larger Fayetteville team in the state quarterfinals. Hall finished 26-7.

After High School:

At Appalachian State, Peel averaged 11.4 points while starting 115 of 116 games and setting numerous school records for three-pointers. In his tenure at Boone, N.C. ASU put together its first five-year string of winning seasons since going D1 in 1972.

Hinton’s career was far less smooth. As a freshman, Hinton played for East Carolina University where he teamed with future NBA borderline star Blue Edwards and led his team in assists.

But Hinton often clashed with his coach, and transferred to Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. Before even playing there, he transferred again, this time to Henderson State. But he only briefly played there before life took a turn for the worse.

A misdemeanor marijuana charge, drop out of college and move back to Little Rock spiraled into cocaine trafficking, fast cars, nice clothes and loose women, Hinton told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette‘s Charlie Frago in 2007.

Hinton eventually served seven years in prison before turning his life around and using the story of his fall and redemption as a motivational lesson for elementary children in northwest Arkansas.

Derek Fisher (senior), Kenneth Taylor (senior)

1991-92 – Little Rock Parkview

Early in their prep careers, Fisher and Taylor learned their craft behind Parkview’s Anthony Edwards and Alfred Warren. During an historic senior season, they put those lessons to good use.

Yes, were more important players on the Parkview team that went 35-1 and finished #4 in the nation in  ESPN’s Scholastic Sports Poll. Big man Maurice Robinson, for one. And, for two, a devastating three-point shooter in Dion Cross (a wing as well as guard) who shot more than 59% from the field.

But it was Fisher and Taylor who did the small things to keep this juggernaut rolling. Fisher usually guarded opponents’ best player and averaged 11.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals a game. Taylor, at 5-10 and 153 points, orchestrated the show. He averaged 9.2 points, 3.1 assists and 2.8 steals a game.

The Patriots’ toughest in-state test was on the road against Corliss Williamson’s Russellville squad in the state semifinals. In front of 5,100 mostly pro-Cyclone fans, Parkview won 64-61 when Williamson missed a last-second three-pointer.

In the title game, Parkview beat Fort Smith Southside 67-57 and later beat Eudora 84-67 for the overall state championship.

After High School:

Taylor attended Murray State, where he would team with West Memphis’ Marcus Brown, who was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame last weekend. Taylor played off the bench most of his four seasons there, never averaging more than 4 points a game.

And Fisher? C’mon now. It’s Derek Fisher, ya’ll.

Wes Flanigan (senior), Kahn Cotton (junior)

1992-93 – Little Rock Parkview

Talk about keeping the ball rolling. One season after Parkview’s historic ‘91-’92, these two guards step in and lead the Patriots to another state title while carrying a larger offensive burden than Fisher/Taylor had.

Behind Fisher, Taylor and Cross, the 6-1, 165-pound Flanigan had averaged 5.5. points and 2.5 assists per game, but broke loose as a senior to average 16.8 points (on 57% FG shooting), 4 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals a game.

Kahn Cotton, the younger brother of Kotto Cotton, who played wide receiver for the Razorbacks, played a complementary but fierce role as an off guard specializing in defense. He averaged 11 points and 3.5 steals a game.

Parkview slightly stumbled early on during the regular season, losing two games to Jonesboro at the buzzer, but finished strong.  It knocked off McClellan 69-62 in the state finals to finish 31-4.

After High School:

Cotton wrapped his prep career by transferring to North Little Rock High so he could team with his brother Kareame in the same Charging Wildcats backcourt. He then played for Southeast Missouri State, putting up 12.3 points, four rebounds, four assists and 1.8 steals a game as a sophomore. Today, he works as a budget coordinator for the state of Arkansas while coaching in the AAU basketball program Arkansas Soldierz.

Flanigan played at Auburn, where he was team co-captain for three seasons and finished his college career averaging 10.1 points, 4.8 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. Today, after coaching stints that include UALR and Nebraska, Wes Flanigan is an assistant at Mississippi State, the school with which Parkview’s standout guard I.J. Ready has signed.

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In Arkansas High School History.


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