Fayetteville, Ark. – On Thursday Little Rock Hall power forward Bobby Portis was named a McDonald’s All-American. Portis, a University of Arkansas signee, has become the 13th Arkansas Razorback signee to play in the prestigious high school all-star game.
Die hard Arkansas Razorback fans may know the exact number of Arkansas Razorback men’s basketball players off the top of their head to play in the McDonald’s All-American game but since Olu Famutimi in 2003 was the last eventually Razorback player to play in the game Hogs fans may need to be remembered of the players, some great, some not, that have come and gone while bringing hope and promise before ever stepping a foot in Barnhill Arena or Bud Walton Stadium.
A little history… the McDonald’s All-American honors began in 1977 with the first McDonald’s All-American game played against others selected coming in 1978. Those to don the moniker of McDonald’s All-American across his chest includes a whose who of current and future NBA Hall of Fame players including Michael Jordan (1981), Magic Johnson (1977), Shaquille O’Neil (1989), Jason Kidd (1992), Jerry Stackhouse (1993), Kobe Bryant (1996), LeBron James (2003), and Kevin Durant (2006).
Arkansas was quickly able to get on the wagon train of McDonald’s All-Americans when then head coach Eddie Sutton signed two in 1980, guard Ricky Norton and center Joe Klein. Klein came to Arkansas as a footnote as does power forward Al Jefferson. Klein signed with Notre Dame out of high school transferring to the Hogs after his freshman season. Jefferson the last Arkansas signee to play in the game opted for the NBA instead of enrolling at Arkansas in 2004.
Klein would go on to have an accomplished NBA career playing for 14 seasons and totaling the second most rebounds by an Arkansas player in the NBA with 3,991 to Alvin Robertson’s 4,066. Norton never made an NBA roster.
The next Mickey D’s signee was Willie Cutts. Cutts played two seasons for the Hogs from 1982-1984 before transferring to Arkansas State. In two years Cutts only played in 31 games averaging 2.9 points per game as a freshman and 2.8 as a sophomore.
1984 brought homegrown talent Andrew Lang (Pine Bluff, Ark.) to Fayetteville. Lang was an accomplished rebounder in college and shot blocking specialist leading the team all four years he played.
Lang played in the NBA from 1989-2000 appearing in 737 games, sixth most among former Arkansas players behind Joe Klein (965), Joe Johnson (884, active), Williamson (822), Robertson (779), and Sidney Moncrief (767). Lang swatted an Arkansas alumni record 1,099 shots in the NBA; Olive Miller ranks second with 758.
Ron Huery was the first McDonald’s All-American signed by former head coach Nolan Richardson in 1986. Richardson coached the Hogs from 1985 through 2002 coaching eight players from the fast-food classic.
Huery would have a solid career at Arkansas averaging 11.6 points through four years on the Hill and helped the Hogs to the Final Four in 1990. Huery would not go on to play in the NBA.
Perhaps one of the more talented but frustrating players to ever play at Arkansas was Todd Day, the sixth all-American signed in 1988.
Day had a highly celebrated career at Arkansas leaving the school as the all-time leading scorer with 2,395 points with two first-team All-American Wooden honors (1991 and 1992). Depending how one rounds up, Day had three seasons of averaging 20 plus points per game beginning in his sophomore season posting 19.5 points per, 20.7, and 22.7 points in 1992.
When Todd Day was hot there was little anyone on the college level could do to stop him. Day at times seemed to take a half off from the game either heating up in the first half to cool down in the second or wait until the second half to turn it on. Some fans may use the word streaky others may use the word frustrating.
Day played parts of nine NBA seasons after being a lottery pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in 1992 (eighth overall). Day averaged a very respectable 12.3 points per game during his NBA career.
The second grouping of double McDonald’s All-Americans to sign in the same year brought point guard Lee Mayberry to Arkansas. Mayberry had breakout freshman and sophomore seasons shooting lights out from behind the arc hitting .446 percent and .504 percent in ’88-89 and ’89-90. After a stint playing in the Pan Am Games Mayberry’s legs coupled with heavy minutes and the up and down pace of the Hogs’ 40 Minutes of Hell seemed to take a toll on the once automatic stroke from downtown away from Mayberry’s arsenal.
A great distributor of the ball, Mayberry still averaged 14.0 points per game in four seasons with the Hogs while feeding Todd Day, Isaiah Butch Morris (IBM), and Oliver Miller the ball.
Mayberry played six seasons in the NBA after being a first round draft pick of the Bucks in 1992, 28th overall.
The most celebrated, and rightfully so, player to wear the Razorbacks’ uni was 1992 signee Corliss Williamson. “Big Nasty” missed most of his freshman season due to a foot injury but still captured the attention of college basketball fans and media after averaging 14.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in 18 contests earning freshman All-American honors.
Williamson led the Hogs to back-to-back Final Four Championship Game appearances in 1994 and 1995 beating Duke in 1994 and losing to UCLA in 1995. Corliss earned MVP honors of the Final Four in 1994.
A lottery pick of the Sacramento Kings in 1995 with the 13th overall pick, Williamson played until 2007 averaging 11.1 points per game for his career. He was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2002 and won an NBA Championship with the Detroit Pistons during the 2003-2004 season.
A talk of dominance… listed at a generous 6’7”, during Big Nasty’s sophomore season he hit 273 of 436 shots from the floor for a .626 shooting percentage. During his three seasons at Arkansas Williamson never shot below .500 percent from the field. His outside touch needed a little work, during his senior season he attempted his first collegiate three-point attempt finishing his career and his junior season 1 of 6 from downtown.
Darnell Robinson was the first McDonald’s All-American to make it to the Arkansas campus from outside the immediate geographic region coming from Emery High School in Oakland, CA. In 1993 Arkansas fans had high hopes and expectations for the all-time leading scorer in California basketball history.
At 6’11”, 270 pounds, Robinson was slated to take over for Williamson on the blocks and be the next true center the Hogs coveted since Olive Miller’s graduation in 1992. Robinson never fully developed into the player Razorback Nation and the media had hoped he would become but he was a solid college player during his career having a strong junior campaign averaging 12.7 points per game and 7.0 rebounds. Spending the majority of his career coming off the bench, he played in 84 games starting in 32.
Comparative to the destruction the shorter Williamson was able to do down low, “Tank’s” highest field goal percentage came during his freshman and sophomore seasons when he hit .457 percent of his shots.
The Dallas Mavericks drafted Robinson in the second round of the 1996 NBA Draft and he later signed with the Philadelphia 76ers but never played in an NBA game. Robinson spent the majority of his career playing overseas in Italy, Greece, and France.
Should’ve been four inches shorter… most fans may remember Tank for not banging as much on the blocks choosing to float outside the arc for three pointers. Tank may fancy himself a Dirk Nowitzki for his time but his .329 career shooting percentage from three-land paints a different picture, not bad for a 6’11” but also not what was really expected from the team’s center.
Point guard Kareem Reid was the third consecutive McDonald’s All-American landed by Nolan Richardson in 1994. Reid redshirted his freshman season due to NCAA concerns over his ACT scores. Beginning play in 1995 Reid became the Hogs’ all-time leader in assists with 748… thank you Pat Bradley. Reid averaged 5.70 assist per game compared to Lee Mayberry’s career total of 729 assists at a clip of 5.24 per.
Reid’s shooting percentage was never something an Arkansas fan would want to look at in the box score the next day. He was a career .409 percent shooter from the floor but to his credit was not afraid to take it inside against the big guys. Some games it worked for the Hogs, some games it did not. Reid was also not afraid of taking a three-pointer hoisting up 406 in his career and only hitting 120 for a .296 career shooting percentage.
The Bronx, New York, street-ball star never made it to the NBA but did sign with the New Orleans Hornets in 2003. He helped lead many D-League teams to successful seasons in the NBDL, the CBA, and the American Basketball Association.
A McDonald’s All-American in 1995, Derek Hood looked the part to be the next dominate power forward for the Hogs but was another line of “big men” that never developed under Nolan Richardson’s instructions.
As a senior the lights came on for Hood as he averaged 12.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, leading the SEC in rebounds, but never fully hit his potential at the collegiate level.
During the 1999-2000 NBA season Hood played in two games for the Charlotte Hornets. Hood attempted three shots in his two games without scoring. He did grab one rebound in the four career minutes he played.
By 1996 on paper Richardson had assembled a monster college roster signing Derek Hood, Kareem Reid and had the all-time leading scorers in high school history from the state of California in Robinson and now Texas with the signing of small forward Glendon Alexander (3,634 points).
Alexander, from Newman Smith High School in Carrollton, Texas, is the saddest tale of them all. Alexander would only play through a season and a half at Arkansas before transferring to Oklahoma State but the highly sought after high school scoring machine was playing another game off the courts, a game of fraud and supposed money handshakes.
Alexander’s dark past took him from being the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Texas, to a McDonald’s All-American, to a SEC All-Freshman selection in 1996, an appearance in the Elite 8 with Oklahoma State then eventually to being an inmate in a Dallas area prison just a few years later.
Long story short Alexander and his family were receiving “loans” from former sports agent Sherwood Blount, Jr., the same Dallas area booster associated with the downfall of the SMU program. After reportedly receiving payoffs throughout his high school and college career to the minimum amount of $75,000, the mounting need to bring in money eventually led Alexander to commit wire fraud stealing $1.5 million from California strip club owner Henry Mohney and stealing $46,500 from a Dallas area dentist.
Alexander never made it to the NBA, even before all of the legal problems began to bubble up. The one-time surefire NBA player is now a tragic tale of wasted talent and greed.
The 13th Value Meal Member to play for the Hogs was Olu Famutini. Famutini, 6’5”, 212 pounds, was plucked from the backyard of Michigan State playing for Northwestern High School in Flint, Mich.
During his freshman season he earned All-SEC Freshman honors after scoring 7.0 points per game and hauling in 3.5 rebounds per. His sophomore campaign was slightly better averaging 9.4 points per and 4.2 rebounds, still not NCAA All-American levels. Regardless, Famutini opted for the NBA in 2005 going undrafted.
Al Jefferson becomes a footnote of the University of Arkansas and McDonald’s All-American intertwined history. Jefferson signed to play with the Hogs but became a first round draft pick of the Boston Celtics, 15th overall, in 1995. The 6’10” power forward/center has had a solid eight-year NBA career to date averaging 16.3 points and 9.0 rebounds for his career.
Of the 14 Mc D’s All-Americans to sign with the Hogs seven have gone on to play in the NBA. In total 26 former Arkansas Razorback players have played in the NBA, the first being Mel McGaha in 1949, playing one season, and the latest being Patrick Beverly in 2013 with the Houston Rockets. Beverly was a second round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 not making his debut until 2013.
Four former Arkansas Razorbacks have played or are playing in the NBA during the 2012-2013 season, Beverly, Joe Johnson (Nets), Ronnie Brewer (Knicks), and Jannero Pargo (Toronto, Washington, and Atlanta).
Portis becomes the 15th Razorback to be selected for the Golden Arches game. Thus far in his senior season the Little Rock Hall standout is averaging 20.8 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 4.3 blocks per game.
Over the summer Portis helped transform himself into a consensus top 20 player in the nation by playing in numerous AAU tournaments. He has also been selected to play in the Jordan Brand Classic and the Nike Hoops Summit high school all-star games.
One note of interest, former Arkansas Razorback center Steven Hill, not a McDonald’s All-American, played exactly one game in the NBA, still counts, for the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008-2009. In that one game he played two minutes going 1 for 1 from the field and grabbed three rebounds, two of those being offensive boards. Hill turned in one heck of a two minute professional debut and career.