On January 22 2011, John Pelphrey’s final Arkansas team was obliterated by the Florida Gators in the unrenovated O’Connel Center. It was as bad of a performance by an Arkansas team as I have ever seen. We scored 43 points that night, and it was not a good 43 like an Eddie Sutton team might have had against Abe’s boys back in the day. Someone on the board challenged anyone to name one positive thing about that game. After pondering that question for a few minutes, I rose to the challenge. At least we didn’t put up any shots that went backwards, like a girl on my daughter’s sixth grade team did, I responded. I’m not kidding the girl really did put up several shots that went backward that year. She was a big girl who apparently had a very flexible back and weak elbows. Her form was terrible. She arched her back and with two hands on the ball unhinged her elbows and hoped for the best. Too many times, it did not clear her head. Of all the girls on that team, she was the last one that I thought would ever make a high school varsity. Or even a JV for that matter, even though she was easily the tallest girl on the team. Fortunately, she loved the game and had supportive parents. After that season her parents found her a personal coach to work with her one on one. She really put the work in and played on three teams for the next two years. She played on a pure rec team, a rec plus team and a select team. By 8th grade she was on her way to being a beast. She rattled my dental work and nearly broke my ribs with a hard moving screen in our end of the season parent/kid game that year. What she did to her mom that night would probably be considered elder abuse in some states. She not only made varsity at a large suburban St. Louis high school her freshman year, she has started every game of her high school career. I just checked the Post Dispatch, and she is averaging 18 points and 7 rebounds a game as a senior. Her rebounding numbers are a little down from her previous years. She is now 6’1 and considered to be a solid D-2 prospect. All of this just goes to show that you should never give up on a youth player. Things can and do change.
What a great story of perseverance.