Here now is the second part of our Q&A with Razorback great Scotty Thurman (here's part 1). In this installment, Scotty discusses the Hogs' celebrated rivalry with the Kentucky Wildcats, the first game of his Arkansas career and which members of the 1994 national championship team were the most underrated. The interview is the part of our celebration of the 15th anniversary of the '94 season, an occasion that we will be commemorating in various ways during the next few months, so check the site frequently. On with the show:
One of the things that we wanted to talk with you about was the rivalry that you guys had with Kentucky back in the mid-90s. The two teams staged some pretty epic, classic games. We were curious if there was a particular Wildcat player that you flat out didn’t like or that you just found irritating and, on the flip side, which Kentucky player did you most admire, did you think I’d really like to have him on our team?
Jamal Mashburn. He was a 6’8”, 240-pound guy that could play, at that time in college, all five positions pretty much, and he did for that team. He was one of those guys that we just used to say, “Man, he would really fit in with what we do.” Being able to get out and press – they played the same type of style although their press was a little different – but Jamal Mashburn was one of those guys that I admired.
Now, a guy who I felt like was a pest was Travis Ford, now the coach at Oklahoma State. He was a real pest, man, but he was a dead-eye three-point shooter, and he would just always find a way to bury a dagger at some point, and he played real well with that team.
For some reason, as a fan, Travis Ford really annoyed a lot of Arkansas fans, too. He used to drive us crazy for some reason.
Being a little small guy and being able to shoot the ball as well as he could and have the confidence — I think he went to another school before he transferred to that university. He was at Missouri. He was a little bit more mature than a lot of guys, and I think he fed off it. That was confidence for him, because he shot lights out most of the time.
Would you say that Kentucky was the team that you guys got the most psyched to play? Or, was there another team that you guys felt were bigger rivals or as big?
When we came to Arkansas, our whole deal was — Todd and that crew had just left, Todd Day and Lee Mayberry — and we just felt like nobody respected us. So, we just fed off of that no matter who we played.
It was just one of those deals were we felt like we didn’t get any respect. Those guys finished in the Top 10 that year when they lost out of the tournament to Memphis State. We wound up coming into [the 1992-93 season] ranked 45th in the country or something. I’m like, “Whoa!”
To go from those guys being ranked one or two to that — even though we’ve got new guys, it’s still the same school — we were thinking we should have still been in the Top 25, and we weren’t. So, we just kind of fed off of that our whole career for the most part.
Your very first game against Memphis State – when you guys came back from 20 points down or whatever it was – was a pretty great victory. You were playing a highly touted team that was ranked No. 8 in the country at the time. As you've said, you guys weren't in the Top 25. Did the team feel that chip on its shoulder coming in, and did you feel like you were going to win it? Or was there a lot of nervousness?
I think it was a combination of both. We had guys on our team that were from Memphis. A lot of them had played high school and AAU with and against those guys. We knew that was a big deal. And then, of course, we still had the main factor that drove us, which was that the fact that we are all still underrecruited — I mean for the most part. We wanted to prove that as well.
Playing those guys, it was just a huge deal playing in Barnhill, seeing it packed out for the first time, because that was my first time actually seeing it just packed out and loud like that.
But then, we come out, and we go down 20, so, you know, it was anxiety as well. That was probably my worst game as a college player, because I was out to maybe prove a little too much and got caught up in the game. We wound up coming back and winning, and it was a great feeling afterwards.
When people think about that championship team, the first three players that come to people’s minds are probably you, Corliss and Corey Beck. Outside of those three, who do you consider the most underrated member of that team or an unsung key to your success?
The year we won it, I would say Clint McDaniel, because he was just a pest on the defensive end.
Darnell Robinson, although he probably in most people’s eyes never lived up to his potential and probably didn’t live up to his own expectations. But he averaged like 7 or 8 rebounds that year coming off the bench as a freshman. He got booed a lot, I think, because he was a McDonald’s All-American and scored the most points in California history at the time. There were a lot of expectations that came in with him. But, he was a catalyst.
And then, I’d probably say Roger Crawford [editor's note: Crawford broke his foot in the Hogs' second-round game of the '94 NCAA Tournament and was out the rest of the season]. We just felt like we owed it to him, so maybe he was a part of that “we’re out to shock the world” because he didn’t get a chance to experience it and that was his senior year, so he was a catalyst. He was a real, real talented player that many people didn’t get a chance to see play up to his potential because he was hurt a lot.
Tomorrow: Scotty discusses which of his three seasons in Fayetteville was the most enjoyable.(more at www.razorbackexpats.com)