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Thurman Remembers, Part 1

Photo from Sports Illustrated Presents: A Heavenly Season, A Celebration of Arkansas's 1994 NCAA Title

If you need indisputable proof that time is moving much too fast, consider the following: this April will mark the 15th anniversary of the Razorbacks' first and only basketball national championship. The university will mark the occasion with a late February/early March shindig, but we here at RazorbackExpats are ready to get our party started. We'll be celebrating in various and sundry ways all winter and spring, so check the site frequently.

We start the festivities with a q&a with Scotty Thurman, last-second hero of the '94 championship game and perhaps the most clutch player in Razorback history. During his three-year Arkansas career, the 6'6" native of Ruston, La., scored 1,650 points and currently ranks 10th on the school's all-time scoring list. These days, Thurman lives in Little Rock and is the director of real estate at Cypress Properties. We interviewed Scotty in late September, and he was gracious enough to speak with us at considerable length. We can't thank him enough.

We will present a different part of the q&a each day of this week. In today's installment, Scotty discusses the championship game-day shootaround that wasn't, the sting of not being selected for the McDonald's All-Star Game and which former teammates he keeps in touch with.

It’s hard to believe that we are approaching the 15th anniversary of the national championship. Does it seem like 15 years to you, or does it seem like it happened just yesterday?

Well, it doesn’t seem like it happened just yesterday, but it does not feel like it happened 15 years ago, either. Time kind of flew by, and I appreciate you for reminding me of my age (laughs).

It seems like it was a few years ago, but it doesn’t seem like 15.

Everybody is so familiar with how the championship game played out, but we were curious about your recollections of the day itself, the buildup to the game. Did it seem like an endless wait? Do you remember feeling particularly nervous or anxious or just ready to get the game going?

Believe it or not, I was nervous before every game that I ever played, but once the ball got thrown up for the jump ball, it went away.

That day was a little bit different because, a lot of people don’t know, but the NCAA allows each team time for shootaround time. Somehow, our time got thrown off, and when we got there we had only maybe three minutes to shoot. By the time I got to the floor, it was maybe a minute.

You used to get 45 minutes, and that’s all you got. We wanted our 45 minutes. Well, it turns out, they didn’t give us any more time. So, we wound up winning the championship anyway, and we didn’t even get a chance to really shoot around. That’s my most memorable moment. I remember how Coach Richardson was very, very upset and very, very frustrated by us not being able to get to shoot around.

We felt like Duke already being in Charlotte, already we’re starting to get home cooking, so we took it as a slap in the face and used it to add fuel to the fire.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

That seemed like a pretty effective mindset for you guys. You guys seemed to have sort of an "us against the world" mentality throughout that season.

Right. That’s kind of what we fed on. We had a lot of guys that felt like they were under-recruited in high school and felt like a lot of schools overlooked them. Coach hit on that at times to make everybody remember that some of us were overlooked by other schools.

We were all recruited pretty heavily. Any time you get recruited by SEC schools, Big East schools, you’re being recruited heavily, but we did have some guys that weren’t recruited as heavily as they thought they should have been. That was just another notch on the belt because we used that as well.

Did you feel under-recruited coming to Arkansas?

I didn’t feel under-recruited. I felt like it was a slap in the face that I didn’t get a chance to play in the McDonald’s game. That was my thing. I always set goals for myself, even at that age. I didn’t get a chance to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game. I just felt like that was something that was not fair to me, because I played in Louisiana, where a lot of the sportswriters at the time didn’t go see guys play, especially in small parts of Louisiana. So for me, that was my fuel.

But, I was still recruited by a lot of the schools that I looked up to as far as being schools that I wanted to play at. So, I wouldn’t say that I was under-recruited.

Looking back on that championship team, do you still keep in touch with many of your ex-teammates?

I still keep in touch with a few. Not all. I’ve talked to all recently, within maybe the last year, with the exception of one or two guys. But, there are a couple of guys that I still remain in contact with pretty much on a daily, if not weekly, basis.

Who all do you see regularly or hear from regularly?

The only person that I see regularly is Corliss, because we live in the same town. Dwight Stewart, who is two hours away, I spend a little time with him from time to time. He’s in Memphis.

What is he doing now?

Dwight is an entrepreneur. He’s involved in real estate and the mortgage business. I don’t know if that’s the right business to be involved in right now, but that’s what he’s involved in.

Who else?

Ray Biggers. He’s a guy that didn’t play much for us, but was a pretty talented athlete. He’s in Houston, Texas. He’s in the mortgage business also.

(Tomorrow: Scotty looks back on the Razorbacks' rivalry with Kentucky.)