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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Mike Conley Jr. beyond worthy of mention

by Wally Hall | April 26, 2023 at 3:21 a.m.

It would be nice to write this is the finale of Arkansans in this year's NBA playoffs, which it is, but it is because of a fumble.

Mike Conley Jr. was on the list made while researching who everyone has played for and did they make the playoffs, how many minutes they played, points, rebounds and assists averaged.

It happened near the finish line and Conley was next up when a roar from my ignored stomach went up that sent your scribe to the kitchen for a grilled chicken sandwich and a glass of 2-percent milk.

When diving back into Tuesday's column, with the finish line in sight, Conley was missed.

It is embarrassing because of the strong respect I have for everything Conley, starting with Mike Sr., who is one of the greatest athletes to ever compete at the University of Arkansas and in Olympics and is a really good person.

Not long after his son signed with the Memphis Grizzlies, Dad bought a specially-designed van with an office in it so he could work while on the road traveling to his son's games.

When Senior was a freshman at Arkansas, he walked on for Eddie Sutton and the Razorbacks and made the team. But that spring after watching the 18-year-old from Chicago compete in the triple jump, Sutton advised him to stick with track and field.

An All-American at the UA and an Olympic gold medalist, Senior was nine times ranked No. 1 in the world in the triple jump.

He always trained in Fayetteville, so Mike Jr. was born and raised there.

Widely recruited, Conley Jr. went to Ohio State, where he became close friends with Greg Oden. They led the Buckeyes to the final of the NCAA Tournament where they lost to Florida, which won its second consecutive national championship.

Everyone knew Oden was one-and-done, but it was a little surprising when Conley Jr. declared for the NBA Draft as well.

He didn't carry a lot of meat on his 6-1 frame and there were some questions how he would hold up to the demands of a full NBA season.

Oden was taken with the first pick of the 2007 NBA Draft by Portland and Conley with the No. 4 pick by the Memphis Grizzlies.

Sidebar: Conley Sr. had also gotten close to Oden and he wanted to protect the youngsters, so decided to be their agent. After both signed contracts, he took them on a spending spree at Best Buy. Each had a limit of $300 and neither spent it all.

Oden played parts of three seasons in the NBA because of injuries.

Conley, 35, is in his 16th season. He spent the first 12 with Memphis and then was in his fourth year with Utah when they traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He started all 24 games left in regular season.

With the Timberwolves, he is averaging 14 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds per game. But even more impressively he is averaging 31 minutes per game.

Minnesota was elinminated from the playoffs with a 112-109 loss to Denver on Tuesday night.

The Timberwolves were a No. 9 seed and had to play their way into the main tournament field, and Conley averaged 18.5 points per game to give them a shot.

There are not a lot of players in the NBA older than Conley (35), but from Day 1 he has been one to work out, eat right and live as far from controversy as possible.

He is a team leader for the Timberwolves. A few weeks ago when teammates Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson got in a scuffle, he was the one who addressed the media and said everything was fine, and it has been.

Being left out of Tuesday's column about Arkansas ties to the NBA Playoffs was my fumble, hopefully recovered today.

Print Headline: Mike Conley Jr. beyond worthy of mention


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