Evin Demirel – Will Little Rock Trojans Blast Boilermakers’ Pipes?

Little Rock Trojans assistant coach Wes Flanigan weighs in on

UALR’s first-round matchup with Purdue 


That’s exactly what Arkansas-Little Rock can accomplish on a national scale by knocking off the big, bruising Purdue Boilermakers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament this afternoon.

A breakthrough is also what Trojans head coach Chris Beard almost accomplished by allowing his hand to perform a tomahawk missile impersonation on a whiteboard during halftime of last Sunday’s Sun Belt Tournament title game.

The fact Arkansas-Little Rock is good enough this year to conceivably pull off the former definitely correlates to the kind of personality which attempts the latter. While the fiery Beard and his staff have carved out their own path on the way to March Madness, they are also in a unique position to establish a mini-trend: Last year, George State coach Ron Hunter had to wear an ankle cast in the first round after tearing his Achilles tendon celebrating his team’s 2015 Sun Belt title win.

All No. 14 seed Georgia State did was rally behind its hobbled coach to knock off No. 3 seed Baylor. Can No. 12 seed Arkansas-Little Rock do the same to No. 5 Purdue this time around?

“That’s the plan,” Trojans assistant coach Wes Flanigan recently said on The Buzz 103.7 FM. “We’re going to go in there and fight like we have all year. Our staff will put together a great game plan for our guys. I’m sure our guys will come ready to play. Obviously we’re playing a really good team in Purdue. They’re going to be a big, strong team. We’re more of a finesse team that wants to shoot the three and play on the ball-screen action.”

Flanigan, a Little Rock native and former Parkview High star, broke down the big game more and gave his take on the future of the Trojans’ backcourt. Below are lightly edited excerpts from his talk with Trey Schapp and Wally Hall on Overtime:

Purdue is a team that doesn’t like to really run up and down the floor. They like to slow it down a little bit and run their offensive sets. I know Chris Beard said yesterday the Trojans can play up and down the court if they want, or they can play slowdown, methodical run-sets type of offense. Playing at that altitude [in Denver], and as deep as Little Rock is off the bench, do you think that you guys might try to speed Purdue up a little bit?

Wes Flanigan: Definitely. We don’t want to turn it into a half-court game by any means. We never try to do that. What we try to do is play championship basketball. We want to take great shots. We want to take care of the basketball. We want to try to defend at a high rate.

This time of year, that’s pretty much what you get in a lot of teams that’s going to be in this tournament. You look at the scores, there’s not going to be a lot of scores in this here tournament where people are scoring 100 points. It’s going to be championship basketball.

Watching Purdue last night and today, I don’t think necessarily they’re a slowdown team. Obviously they’re going to run if they get transition opportunities and they will look to post in transition. At the end of the day, their strength is their post guys. They’ve got three guys that are 6’9″ and above, and all of them are well over 250 pounds.

We’re going to have to figure out a way to try to take that away, but again, we have to use that as an advantage on the offensive end too, because we have some guys that can kind of spread them out, shoot the ball, and also drive on them.

Louisiana-Monroe [Sun Belt runner up] was a team that basically played six guys. Our depth, which has been a strength of ours all year, really got to them in the second half and wore them down. Hopefully we can do the same thing to Purdue.

On Chris Beard’s leadership and game management:

Wes Flanigan: Chris Beard has a unique ability of saying the right thing to make guys feel good at the right time. There are some instances, in the course of the year, where he had a great feel for how to approach our guys. He may be the best I’ve ever been around in terms of that. These guys have responded all year to him in those situations.

In a recent game a ball went off what might have been a Little Rock player in front of the Trojan bench, but I’m not sure if Karl Hess [possibly college basketball’s most notorious referee] got it right. The call didn’t go the Trojans’ way. Everybody jumped up and I don’t know what Chris Beard said to him, but he had Karl Hess laughing uncontrollably. Were you right there? What did he say?

Wes Flanigan: I can’t remember. Obviously I was locked in. I didn’t really hear him, but I think that’s one of the things, during the course of the year in Sun Belt play especially. I talked to one of the head officials, and they talk about how much respect they have for [Beard]. Obviously he’s intense a lot of times on the sideline, but it’s never in a disrespectful way to any players, or any referees, or any opponents, for that fact. He’s gained a lot of respect nationwide and, I’m just telling you, Little Rock is very fortunate.


On how good a week it was for the Flanigan family, after brother Jason Flanigan won a conference title and his father Al Flanigan won a state title:

Wes Flanigan: Obviously I’ve grown up having that basketball in my hand with all the playing and coaching in my household. You know my brother was a coach of the year this year. He won a conference championship down at Holmes Community College. He’s got Daryl Macon, a kid who’s gonna be at Arkansas next year, probably one of the better schools in college basketball. Obviously my dad’s success as a high school coach speaks for itself — twelve state championships total, six on his own. He’s done a heck of a job keeping the tradition going over there at Parkview after Coach [Charles] Ripley left.

Obviously I’ve had my luck this year. It’s been great. It’s been great playing basketball at the Flanigan household over the last two years.

On Parkview senior guard Ryan Pippens, a UALR signee:

Wes Flanigan: As you know, there’s been a long stable of guards that’s come out of Little Rock Parkview. He’s the latest one. He’s going to have some toughness. He’s going to be a guy that’s going to be able to play with other guys. I wouldn’t say that at Parkview we’ve ever had a lot of guys score 25, 30 points.

That’s because they’ve always played team basketball. He’s another guy out of that stable that’s going to have some toughness… The biggest key is he’s going to know how to win basketball games.

Want more UALR-Purdue insight? Read more transcript excerpts from interviews with head coach Chris Beard and a Purdue beat sportswriter by visiting BestOfArkansasSports.com and TheSportsSeer.com.

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