Our Scotty Thurman Q&A rolls on today with part 3 of our interview (here's part 1; here's part 2). In today's installment, Scotty discusses his favorite season in Fayetteville, the mentorship of Darrell Hawkins and the locker-room dynamics of that championship era.
You won the national championship your sophomore year, so you may consider that year the most enjoyable, but out of your three seasons in Fayetteville, which one did you consider the most fun?
Probably my freshman year because, not to take away from the national championship – I mean, that’s probably my greatest team accomplishment and that was my most memorable moment – but the most memorable season was probably my freshman year. Coming in from Ruston, La., I was a young freshman. I enrolled at Arkansas at 17 and had a lot of people tell me that maybe I should redshirt because of maturity and all of that kind of stuff.
Coming in and leading the team in scoring – I think at one point I was averaging like 20 a game – and we went from being ranked 45th in the country to at Christmas break, we were in the Top 12. Going back home to Ruston, La., it was just an amazing thing to be like, "Man, look at what I did. Look at what I was able to do." Turning 18 that year, there weren’t a lot of expectations for me, I don’t think, coming in.
I think that was probably my most fun time. You go from being a big fish in a small pond in Ruston to – not that Fayetteville was New York City or anything – being a big fish in a big pond. That was probably my most memorable time just individually.
During your freshman year at Fayetteville, was there anybody on that team that took you under his wing and kind of showed you the ropes?
Darrell Hawkins was huge in that regard. I graduated high school on May 18th, and I was in Fayetteville May 29th with a summer job, involved in the strength and condititioning program. Corliss was there. Corliss and I had known each other from AAU basketball. He’s a year older than me, and he had already been in the spotlight for most of his career. It was a combination of Corliss and mainly Darrell Hawkins.
Hawkins was that one senior guy that knew the ropes, knew how to prepare for big games, knew how to carry himself well, knew how to be respectable as far as not just being an athlete, not just being out and everybody knows you play ball and that’s all people know you for. They don’t know that you go to class and carry yourself with respect and that you know how to treat people.
Give us some insight into the locker room dynamics of that team. Who were the cut-ups and who was perhaps more serious and took on more of a leadership role?
I think that was everybody. We all played, but when it was time for business, we knew how to shut it off. Even when we were working hard and Coach was running us, we’d all still find a way to laugh and joke about it afterwards. While you’re doing it, it’s tough, but when you get done, you’ve got to enjoy yourself. We would have been crazy not to. You’re at the best time of your life – you’re in college, you’re playing ball.
Elmer Martin was the comedian of the team. Myself – I laughed and talked a lot. Corliss – he played pranks from time to time. Corey Beck was always a clown. It was probably the whole group of guys – everybody had their own little deal that would make everybody laugh. I’d probably say everybody.
Even from watching you guys on TV, watching the bench, it seemed like you were a pretty close-knit group. Is that accurate?
That’s accurate. While we were in school, we were pretty much inseparable for the most part. We just shared such a bond from day one because it was like everybody got a chance to compete for playing time. Everybody got a chance to actually play, so that was something that Clint [McDaniel] and some of the other guys had never experienced. And we were coming from high school, and we’re getting an opportunity to play. It was like the best of both worlds for everybody. Now Todd’s gone, Lee’s gone, Big O’s gone, so there were minutes to go around for guys who had never really had a chance to play.
I think that’s what made us close. There was really no egos involved. Everybody wanted to see everybody do well. If a guy came out, even if he was having a bad game and another guy picked him up, it was never just, "OK, this group of guys is going to eat here, and this group is going to be somewhere else." It was pretty much everybody was always together.
In the 93-94 season, at what point did you guys really start to feel like this could be your year and you guys were probably the best team in the country and it was your championship to win.
Believe it or not, it was our second regular season game, against Missouri. They came in, and they had the big kid, Jevon Crudup. That same team, people forget, went within one shot of making the Final Four.
That was a complete annihilation. (Editor's note: The Hogs won by a score of 120-68.)
We didn’t come into the game expecting that. I think I only played like - looking back, Corliss and I were upset after the game because we wanted to really play to prove to people that we had gotten better as players. And we wound up not playing as much because it was a blowout.
We just sat over there and watched the game for the most part (laughs). We blew them out. It was like, "Man, we didn’t expect this." And then all of a sudden, we were just like, "If we’re beating one of the best teams in the country like that, nobody else should be able to play with us." It just kind of went on from there, and we took it and ran with it.
Tomorrow: Scotty talks about the difficulties of defending the national championship.
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