Razorback basketball fans can be excused for wondering if it's the late 1980s or early 1990s. Not only is John Pelphrey reinstalling the fast-paced offense and full-court pressure defense of the Nolan Richardson era, but he's also recruiting hard in a city that served the former coach very well: Memphis.
According to an article in today's Democrat-Gazette, Pelphrey has a strong interest in Memphians Terrico White, a shooting guard, and Laurence Bowers, a small forward. (Bowers is the nephew of former Hog point guard Arlyn Bowers.) The two play for an AAU team that is sponsored by Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Miller - whom Pelphrey recruited to Florida - and that also features point guard Terrance Joyner, who committed to Arkansas in the summer.
More than 20 years ago, Nolan Richardson's rebuilding of the Razorback basketball program began in earnest when he plucked All-Everything forward Ron Huery out of Memphis' Whitehaven High School. After Huery, there was a steady flow of Bluff City talent into the Arkansas program, including such Hog heroes as Todd Day, Corey Beck, Dwight Stewart and Arlyn Bowers. No city was more important to the success of the Richardson years than Memphis.
Suddenly, though, in the late 1990s, the pipeline dried up. After Marlon Towns, who had a nice freshman year in helping the Hogs unexpectedly reach the 1996 Sweet Sixteen and then quit the team, Nolan never signed another Memphis hoopster. I'm not even sure if he recruited another player from the city. Why this was the case - and why his overall recruiting took such a nosedive in his final years - is a mystery, at least to me.
Pelphrey, though, appears ready to make serious inroads into Memphis, which Stan Heath never did (again, I'm not sure that he tried to.) Perhaps a Memphis signee - or two or three - will help propel Pelphrey's program the way Huery and Day did Richardson's. And maybe then John Calipari will deem the Razorbacks enough of a "national" program that he will get off his high horse and let one of college basketball's most underrated rivalries resume.