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It was only natural for Kerry Joe Briggs to have the last word.

That was how it always had been at Hall High School in Little Rock: Oliver B. Elders would address his team before or after a basketball game, then he'd turn it over to his student team manager to close the meeting out.

Briggs would step in and speak to players like future All-American Arkansas Razorback and four-time NBA All-Star Sidney Moncrief or future Grambling State center Gary Tidwell.

Some of those players were out there in the April crowd at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock, where Elders, 86, had just been enshrined forever in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Briggs was about to make certain Elders' name would give back forever, too.

He boarded the ballroom stage and began the surprise announcement: Briggs, former players, alumni and friends had established the Oliver B. Elders Endowed Scholarship at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

The people who were influenced by Elders during his 36 years of coaching high school basketball in Arkansas -- when he won four state championships and broke racial barriers in the middle of nationwide desegregation -- had pooled their resources to make sure Elders would influence more people.

"You will continue to touch young lives for years to come," Briggs said to his former coach.

Briggs, the secretary of the OBEE scholarship, has set a fundraising goal of $100,000 by the end of 2018, and executive director Scott Green -- a former player for Elders at Hall -- said he expects donations can build the endowment's principal amount to as much as $500,000 by 2022.

The endowment funds will be matched dollar for dollar by Title III federal funding until October 2022, and Green said the interest payments made off the endowment's principal amount will fund an unknown amount of future scholarships at UAPB.

"It's as if he would touch lives from here to eternity," said Green, a 1981 Hall graduate. "As long as the university is in place and there are young people that are pursuing higher education, he will have a part in that."

Elders won’t say much about the endowment other than his thankfulness.

A few weeks ago, outside a Little Rock post office, he handed over a few forms that included details about the scholarship.

“You just read that and tell me what you see,” he said.

Comfortable laughter followed. It was a familiar prelude from a man who had accomplished much but didn’t want the pride that came along with telling you about it.

A month before, during a profile of Elders, he pointed toward his accomplishments instead of listing them: “Go drive under that bridge, up Roosevelt until you get to Horace Mann High School. You’ll see a name up there on the gym.”

That wouldn’t happen to be his name, would it?

“Might be.”

If you look for his accomplishments — dating back before his playing days at Arkansas AM&N (now UAPB) — you’ll find them.

No, listing them out would take time. Time better spent constructing character and spirit, distributing advice and encouragement, quoting scripture and poetry.

Green remembered a recent afternoon when he and “O.B.” were talking about “staying the course.”

“Out of thin air, he began to quote the 27th Psalm in its entirety,” Green said. “I’ve been a church boy all my life, and I have never been so moved by someone reciting a passage of scripture like that. It just blew me away. It challenged me to memorize the 27th Psalm, and I’m still working on it.”

It’s the sort of spirit Green and Briggs hope to preserve in the endowment, which will be passed along to future generations.

“We want something that will outlive Coach Elders,” Briggs said. “Fifty years from now, we want people to know who he was, and the endowed scholarship was the best way to honor a person like him.”

Back at UCA

Ken Collums started out fifth on the 1991 quarterback depth chart at the University of Central Arkansas.

"I didn't even get my picture made," recalled Collums, who is now UCA's offensive coordinator. "I wasn't going to play."

By midseason, Collums was the starter as a true freshman for the Bears, which went on to win its third NAIA national championship by beating Central State (Ohio) 19-16.

The championship highlights Collums' career in Conway, and the university announced Tuesday that he will be inducted into the UCA Sports Hall of Fame this fall.

The Class of 2018 also includes Laura Abbott (cross country/track and field), Cory Cangelosi (football), Sam Counce (football), J.W. Fullerton (football/basketball/track and field), Bobby Joe McDaniels (football) and John Outlaw (high school coach).

Collums arrived in Central Arkansas after quarterbacking Vernon (Texas) High school to an undefeated state championship in 1990. By Week 1 of UCA's 1991 season, Collus was third on the depth chart. The starter got hurt in the first game, and Collums and the No. 2 quarterback split time until Coach Mike Isom decided to start Collums in the fifth game at Ouachita Baptist.

The Bears beat the Tigers 21-6, and they never lost again.

"It wasn't the case where all of the sudden, now he's the hero, he's going to fix all our problems," said Collums, who was 47-of-101 passing that season with 4 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, while rushing for 247 yards and 7 touchdowns. "It was more, 'Hey freshman, you get in there and don't mess it up, 'cause we got a good deal going.' "

UCA had future NFL draftees at wide receiver Tyree Davis and defensive tackle David Henson, and cornerback Chris Smith was twice named an NAIA All-American.

Collums rushed for a touchdown in the 1991 championship game, running a naked bootleg during a driving snow storm.

By his senior year in 1993, UCA went 8-2 in its debut at the NCAA Division II level. Although the record was good enough to make the playoffs, the program's transition made it ineligible for the postseason under NCAA rules.

Collums earned his master's degree from UCA, served as an assistant coach from 2000-2004, and coached former quarterback Nathan Brown, who hired Collums when he was hired as the Bears' new head coach in December.

"I love this program," Collums said. "To basically come back home, and for home to open up their arms and accept me and say, 'Come on back home; but not only that, we're going to honor you?' It makes me feel really good.'"

Baker to UALR

Darrell Walker's coaching staff is complete.

The first-year head coach of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock men's basketball program announced Friday that he had hired Charles Baker as his third and final assistant coach.

Alfred Jordan, a New York native Walker hired away from Clark Atlanta in April, fulfilled loyalty and maintained Walker's recruiting pipeline in New York City.

Matt Wise, hired away from Wyoming in May, fulfilled a winning culture, since the Cowboys had won the Mountain West Conference title in 2014-2015.

Baker fulfills UALR's need to snag in-state talent.

Among his 19 seasons as a Division I assistant coach, Baker spent the past three seasons as the head coach at Southwest Christian Academy in Little Rock and the Arkansas Wings summer program.

In the past three years, 27 Wings basketball players have gone on to play Division I college basketball.

Two attended UALR.

Baker should be able to boost those percentages.


Arkansas State University is sending a program-record seven athletes to the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., which begin Wednesday.

Senior sprinter Jaylen Bacon will compete in the men's 100 and 200 meters, and his 9.97-second run at the NCAA West prelims on May 25 is the world's fastest time this year.

If he wins either event, he will become the second sprinter in ASU history to win an individual title.

Sharika Nelvis won the women's 100 hurdles in 2014.

Senior sprinter Elijah Ross will also compete in the men's 100; freshman Carter Shell in the men's long jump; senior Itamar Levi in the men's shot put; senior Cristian Ravar Ladislau in the men's hammer throw; senior Caitland Smith in the women's 100; and senior Calea Carr in the women's discus.

UALR will also be sending its 400 relay team of Charles Okeze, Travion Clark, Ch'kilas Calhoun and Keshawn Andrews to Eugene. The team placed first in the West prelims with a school-record time of 39.35 seconds.

Okeze, a junior, will also compete in the 200.

Sports on 06/03/2018

Print Headline: Elders continues to touch lives

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