FAYETTEVILLE — Former U.S. President Bill Clinton won’t have a jersey hanging in the rafters of Bud Walton Arena after all.
But the program does plan to honor him in another way as part of its celebration of Final Four teams in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday.
Arkansas announced that Clinton will receive a framed No. 42 jersey as part of its festivities this weekend. The announcement came two weeks after an ESPN reporter asked Clinton — who attended a Brooklyn Nets game in late January — about having the number retired in his honor at Arkansas.
"Well, they’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of Arkansas winning the national championship when I was President," Clinton told an ESPN reporter. "So they said that I was their sixth man and they wanted to put a No. 42 jersey because I was the 42nd President, which I thought was really nice."
Arkansas didn’t indicate it was hanging or retiring any numbers in its news release Monday. Instead, Arkansas said Clinton is scheduled to attend the ceremony and "will be presented a framed No. 42 jersey" for his role in the national title run.
The former Arkansas governor was in attendance for the national title game, watching the Razorbacks beat Duke 76-72.
"The last time I saw him in the building was probably after the national championship," said Arkansas coach Mike Anderson, who was on Nolan Richardson’s staff during the national title season. "During the national championship year and after the national championship year. When you talk about an alumnus, former president, a Hog fan, it doesn’t get any better than that."
Arkansas also will honor members of its five other Final Four teams (1941, 1945, 1978, 1990, 1995) Saturday. Nolan Richardson, Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman, Al Dillard, Jim Counce, Lee Mayberry, Todd Day, U.S. Reed, Oliver Miller and former radio play-by-play broadcaster Mike Nail are all scheduled to attend.
The Final Four participants will attend a private reunion luncheon and will be recognized at halftime of Arkansas’ game against LSU.
"Arkansas basketball has a proud tradition of success, highlighted by the six teams who made it to the Final Four," Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said in statement. "We appreciate President Clinton, a longtime fan of Razorback basketball, for joining us to help honor these special former Razorback student-athletes. We look forward to giving our fans the chance to pay tribute to these greats and make them feel back at home in Bud Walton Arena."
Portis Earns SEC Honor
Arkansas forward Bobby Portis was named the Southeastern Conference’s Freshman of the Week on Monday.
Portis earned the honor after averaging 21.5 points in Arkansas’ wins against Alabama and Vanderbilt. Most of the production came against Alabama, when Portis set the school’s single-game freshman scoring record with 35 points.
The Little Rock native went 14-for-17 during his record-setting night. He also added 9 rebounds and 6 blocked shots, helping the Razorbacks overcome a poor shooting performance. Portis eclipsed former Razorback Scotty Thurman’s record of 34 points when he made two free throws in the final seconds of the Alabama win.
It was the third SEC Freshman of the Week award for Portis, who leads Arkansas in scoring (13.1 points), rebounding (6.6) and field goal percentage (54.4 percent) this season. He is the only Razorback who has started every game this season.
"He’s a young man that could be ahead of his time," Anderson said. "He’s on top of things. He knows what he wants out of life and he doesn’t mind working for it. I think he listens, and he’s coachable. He’s a character kid, so it doesn’t surprise me that he’s in this position to have a chance to be a very special player here at the University of Arkansas."
Arkansas climbed from No. 92 to No. 79 in the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) after going 2-0 last week.
The Razorbacks’ best RPI wins have come against Kentucky (No. 12), Southern Methodist (No. 39) and Minnesota (No. 41). Their worst losses have been to Georgia (No. 113) and Texas A&M (No. 144).
The Razorbacks will play at RPI No. 50 Missouri on Thursday, then No. 62 LSU in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday.