LITTLE ROCK — In what will be a fitting tribute to the only coach to win a college basketball national championship in school history, the University of Arkansas will name the court inside Bud Walton Arena after its Naismith Hall of Fame coach Nolan Richardson during a ceremony on Sunday, Oct. 20.
And oh by the way, as a back-drop to the festivities first-year head coach Eric Musselman has lined up an exhibition game for his Razorbacks against the Little Rock Trojans — led by second-year head coach and former Hogs star guard Darrell Walker — in what will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools in basketball.
The matchup is set to tip around 3 p.m. with the unveiling of Nolan Richardson Court to precede the start of the game. The NCAA granted a waiver to allow the two Division 1 schools to meet in an exhibition game as a charity event with all proceeds going to benefit in-state flood vicitms.
“We’re really excited for the opportunity to play a home game as a dress rehearsal in front of fans against a divison one oppponent,” Musselman said. “Darrell Walker is a close firend and it will be a great learning experience for our coaching staffs to exchange ideas after the game heading into the regular season.
“It’s a great opportunity for former Razorback great Coach Walker to be in Bud Walton Arena for the unveiling of Nolan Richardson Court.”
Walker, an All American at Arkansas while playing for legendary coach Eddie Sutton in the early 1980s before going on to playing 10 years in the NBA that preceded a 20-year coaching career in the league, is excited about the ceremony and the opportunity.
“I think it’s great,” Walker said. “I think it’s great for the state. I’m happy for Nolan and what he accomplished up there. Happy for our guys that they can come see Bud Walton Arena and play in there. And I’m glad to go back to where I started my career. It will be fun to go back.
“This is an opportunity to raise money for people who need it. We feel honored to get to play in this game.”
Musselman’s and Walker’s paths intersected often spanning decades while they were involved in the NBA game, a relationship that led Walker to come to Fayetteville for an Arkansas practice back in the spring.
“It was good,” Walker said of that spring meeting. “When I went up there and met with Eric Musselman, we had some good basketball talk. As coaches our paths crossed a lot (in the NBA), only 30 teams and there’s only so many coaches, so we get to know each other pretty fast.”
Arkansas’s baseball team — which went on to play in the 2019 College World Series — lost a regular-season home game to the Little Rock Trojans, 17-7, in early April at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville in what was the first meeting between the two schools in baseball. The last time the Hoop Hogs played an in-state school in basketball was in March of 1987 — a 67-64 overtime win over Arkansas State at Barnhill Arena in Richardson’s second season as head coach.
Arkansas’s athletic department has recently moved in a direction to lift the long-standing policy of not playing in-state colleges, but Walker cautioned that October’s exhibition game between his current school as a coach against his former school as a player is not about to spark a rivaly.
“It’s a great opportunity to play somebody else, it’s a great chance for Eric’s team to play somebody. Not just beat yourself up in practice before the season starts. We’re trying to build something, and Eric is trying to build something. This is not (the start of) a rivalry, we’re doing this to raise money and to hopefully learn and get better.”
Arkansas has won 30 consecutive exhibition games played at BWA, last losing in November 2003 against the EA Sports Midweast All-Stars, 76-71, in former coach Stan Heath’s second season in Fayetteville.
Arkansas will play its annual Red-White game on Saturday, Oct. 5, marking the first basketball game played inside venerable Barnhill Arena in nearly 26 years. The Razorbacks open their 2019-20 regular season at home in BWA against old Southwest Conference foe Rice on Tuesday, Nov. 5, which is the opening day for regular-season play in college basketball.
Walker’s Trojans, who finished 10-21 in his first season as head coach in ’18-19, will also open their ’19-20 regular-season on Nov. 5 — on the road against Missouri State.
Last March, the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution to name the court at BWA for Richardson. He was 389-169 in 17 seasons as Arkansas head coach and set a school record for wins and a .697 winning percentage. He led the Razorbacks to 13 NCAA Tournament appearances including six Sweet 16’s (1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996), four Elite Eights (1990, 1991, 1994, 1995), three Final Fours (1990, 1994, 1995), a national runner-up finish (1995), and the 1994 NCAA Championship in the inaugural season of BWA.
In Richardson’s 22 combined years as a head coach at the collegiate level — at Western Texas Junior College, the University of Tulsa and the University of Arkansas — he compiled a record of 508-206 (.711) and became the only head coach in college basketball history to win a National Junior College Championship, NIT Championship, and NCAA Championship.
Below are more details regarding the exhibition game that were included in a UA media release earlier on Wednesday …
* Doors to Bud Walton will open at 1:30 p.m. CT on Sunday, Oct. 20.
* The game itself is not part of the 2019-20 season ticket package. All tickets are $10, and seating will be on a first-come, first-served general admission basis excluding the suites, courtside seats and seats reserved by the athletics department. Those that have a suite or courtside seats may purchase those by contacting the Razorback Ticket Center.
* Parking for the exhibition game is free and fans are encouraged to park in the following lots: 56 (Razorback Road); 46, 56B and 60 (Leroy Pond Road); 47N, 74A and 74B (Center Street); 55, 59 and Meadow Street Parking Garage (Meadow Street). ADA parking is available in Lot 56 with shuttle service to and from Bud Walton Arena.