Fans who followed Razorback basketball during the early 1980s no doubt recall Ricky Norton's zone-busting jumper and ice-water veins at the free-throw line. Norton played for Eddie Sutton's Hogs from 1980 to 1984 and was a starter for most of his final two seasons. During his time in Fayetteville, Arkansas won two SWC regular-season championships and one SWC tournament championship. The Hogs also made it to the NCAA Tournament every year of Norton's career and advanced to the Sweet 16 in both 1981 and 1983. Now living in his native Okalona, Norton is the transportation manager for Pharmacy Care of Arkansas.
In the fourth installment of our Q&A (here are parts 1, 2, 3), Ricky answers two different questions: Who was the best player that he played with? And who was the most talented?
Expats: Who was the best player that you played with in Fayetteville?
Norton: Best player? Wow. Boy - y'all ask some tough questions (laughs). I wish you had asked me who was the most talented.
Expats: Well, we'll ask you that one as well.
Norton: I'm going to say probably the best player that I played with would have been Darrell Walker. Darrell wasn't the best shooter in the world, but Darrell was a scorer, and he was a great defender.
He had such a high intensity. He had a great IQ for the game as well. Darrell was an assassin. He had those long arms. He could defend you. He could take you down low. Darrell could take a 6'7", 6'8" guy and post him up. He had great moves around the basket. He could get in there and change motion in the air.
Coach Sutton used to just have fits when Darrell would get inside and throw up some of those shots but they'd go in. I told Darrell, "Man, you're probably keeping keeping Maalox in business" (laughs).
You go back - you had Scott Hastings, Tony Brown, Alvin Robertson, Joe Kleine, all those guys. They were all great. It's kind of like saying, "Who was the best of all The Triplets?" You can scratch your head, and you'll keep scratching until you scratch a sore on your head. I would have to give Darrell Walker a little, little edge.
He was one of those guys that if I took the ball inside and a fight broke out, I knew Darrell would have my back. Not to say that other guys wouldn't, but Darrell would probably be the one to start the fight (laughs). He was an exceptional athlete.
Expats: What about the most talented player?
Norton: Guys are going to think I'm crazy, but William Mills and Willie Cutts probably were the two most talented guys. If those guys' heads would have been on straight - I wish you that guys could have seen those guys when their minds were right, and they were focused and tuned in.
Willie Cutts would come to practice, and you would stand out there, and you'd think you were watching Isiah Thomas when he was in the pros. Not when Isiah was in college, but when he was in the pros. That's just how good Willie Cutts was.
In practice, the guy would do some things with the basketball, and you just dropped your bottom lip sometimes. Willie would pass the ball, and you would say, "How did he get that ball in there? I mean, how did he even know to pass the ball? How did he even know that guy was open?" It was stuff like that.
I think if you asked some of the other old Razorbacks, they'd say William Mills and Willie Cutts. And I would probably give the edge to Willie Cutts - he could shoot it, dribble it, pass it. And he was really deceptive. A lot of people thought Willie was slow, but he had a quick first step, and he could get by you.
(In the fifth and final installment of our Q&A, Ricky will discuss the influence of U.S. Reed, listening to "The Mothership Connection" and staying in touch with old friends. And before you read the next installment, be sure to check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 if you haven't yet done so.)