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Q&A: Charles Balentine, Part 2

Balentine in Action

Welcome to Part 2 of our Q&A with former Arkansas Razorback forward Charles Balentine (Part 1, in which Charles discusses his game-winning shot in the thrilling 1984 upset of North Carolina, is here). In today's installment, the Newport native discusses other special victories, the best Razorback team that he played on, the best players that he played with and against ... and yet more travel woes.

Outside of the Carolina game, were there any other on-court moments that are particularly special to you?

Well later on that same year, we beat Houston in Barnhill in March. At that time, Houston had a 31-game winning streak in the conference. That was a huge game for us. Again, it was a Sunday afternoon.

Some other games that stood out - we went to play at Nebraska. They were undefeated, and we had Darrell Walker and Alvin Robertson. I've never seen quicker guards in my life on both teams.

Alvin just ran up and took the ball out of their guard's hands. He just took the ball out of his hands like he was mad at him and ran down, and we took off for the other end.

Nobody said anything. It was one of those moments. The Nebraska coach called timeout, and I remember going to the bench, and Coach Sutton said, "You guys came to play today." And they backed down from us right after that.

That was a great moment. I told Alvin, "Man, you were a bully that game."

Out of the four Arkansas teams that you played on, which do you think was the best?

I think it would probably be my sophomore year. The year that we had Alvin, Darrell, myself, Leroy and Joe.

That was probably the best overall team. Even better than the year before, the year that Coach Sutton had the six seniors.

That team my sophomore year was just an unbelievable team. We had the guards, the forwards, the center. We had a complete team. We won close to 30 games.

That was a great season. You guys only lost four games. Unfortunately, that great Houston team was around at the same time. Otherwise, I think people would really talk about that Arkansas team as one of the all-time great Hog teams.

We got as high as fourth in the nation, and then we played Houston. They beat us, and we dropped.

That was the first year I was ever on a complete team. You had Willie Cutts coming off the bench, you had Ricky Norton coming off the bench - two high-school All-Americans.

Maybe that team gets a little overlooked because it was after Moncrief and before Todd Day and Corliss.

Do I think we could have taken a Nolan team? Yeah, I think we could have.

This may seem like a random Razorback memory, but one really impressive victory that that team had was when you went on the road and beat Wake Forest with Ricky Norton hitting all those free throws down the stretch. To go on the road and win against a strong ACC team - that was pretty stout.

We had plane troubles getting to Wake Forest. We were on two planes, and one of the planes had to make an emergency landing. That was a big deal - we didn't know if half of the team was going to make it. Most people don't know that.

Sounds like being a Razorback in those days was a dangerous occupation.

Oh my god. Some of those planes we flew in, they were crop dusters.

But that was a great game. You think of those players we had during that time - Alvin, Darrell. They were just a tough set of guards.

We wanted to get your thoughts on this game. It was kind of weird one in Razorback history. In your senior year, when you guys played that ridiculously good Georgetown team and lost, the Hogs only scored 39 points, and you had 22 of them. What are your memories of that game?

Balentine Dribbling

We had no answer for some of the athletes on that team. They just clogged the middle.

And it seems like we couldn't get our guards to go anywhere.  In the middle of that game, Coach told me, "Charles, you go to the point. Handle the ball."

He told me, "Charles, you are going to have to shoot the ball. You are going to shoot the ball and hit those jump shots because you cannot throw the ball into Joe."

For half that game, I played point guard. That's where most of my shots came from, from around the top of the key.

That was tough game for Joe. They beat him up big time. Every time he tried a shot, they blocked it. Everybody was on him.

I fouled out with about two or three minutes left in the game. But John Thompson came up to me and said, "Great game. Great competitor." I still remember that. His big hands and big body. He said, "You did a good job."

It's not often that you can say you scored over 50 percent of your team's points against the number one team in the country. What were some of the more painful defeats of your Razorback career?

My junior year, the same year we beat North Carolina, we lost twice to Houston. During the regular season, we lost to them in Houston. We were really in a good mode, had a good ranking. We go to Houston, and they just drilled us. I had an awful game. Half of us had an awful game.

That was a tough loss, and then we played Houston again in the conference tournament, again in Houston.

That was the championship game, and I missed a 6-foot shot that could have won the game. I've got a picture of me walking away from the court after that shot, and the look on my face and on some of the other players' faces was like, "How did we miss this one?" They beat us by one point.

That was a really tough, hard-fought game. I know you guys lost, but that truly was a great game.

Yeah, Olajuwon fouled out with about two or three minutes left in the game. Joe was still in there. It was just one of those games were you wished it would never have happened.

And then my senior year, we go to the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii. We won only one game and had two of the most awful losses, against Georgia Tech and Iowa, over there. Boy! We couldn't hit the side of the barn. The game we won, I think Joe had something like 42 points, and I had around 20.

I remember coming back on the plane from Hawaii, and Coach told us, "I gotta get you guys some help. You guys don't have any help." That was painful for us.

I always hated to go play - hated to go play - in Fort Worth, Texas.

Why was that?

I just couldn't get into a rhythm in that gym (laughs).

It was a darkly lit gym, wasn't it?

Yes! It had the old high-school lights. It took me forever to get into a rhythm in that gym. Alvin Robertson

Was there a gym in the SWC that you really played well in and looked forward to traveling to?

Yes, SMU. I loved to go to Dallas, and I loved to go to SMU. I loved that environment. It was always a good environment to be in.

Austin, Texas - I loved Austin. I never had a great game there, but I loved that arena.

Those were my favorite places to go play in outside of Arkansas.

Who was the best player that you played with at Arkansas, and who was the best player that you played against?

The best player that I played against was Hakeem Olajuwon, hands down. I know that everybody says, "You played against Jordan," but no - Hakeem Olajuwon.

This man did things on the court that were unbelievable. And a very tough competitor.

I think the best basketball player that I played with was Alvin Robertson. He was a complete player. He was 6'3". He could jump, shoot, play defense, rebound. He was the ultimate teammate. If I'm going into a pickup game, I'm taking Alvin with me.

In tomorrow's installment, Charles discusses the immensely talented but immensely troubled William Mills, the music that reminds him of his playing days (spoiler alert: Van Halen is mentioned), Leroy Sutton's G-rated style of cursing ... and he reveals which former Hog did a spot-on impersonation of Eddie Sutton.