Marvin Delph: Principal over opportunity
After completing stellar careers at the University of Arkansas in 1978, Marvin Delph and Ron Brewer were both projected as NBA draft picks.
Brewer was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers in the first round and had a successful NBA career. Delph was picked by the Boston Celtics, but never played a minute for the team that went on to win the NBA title the next year.
It seems unfathomable in today's era of multi-million dollar rookies that a young athlete fresh out of college could resist the allure of playing basketball for money. But Delph, one of the greatest to ever play the game at Conway High and a cornerstone of the modern Razorback program, did just that in 1979, turning down the NBA to play for Athletes In Action, a traveling Christian ministry team.
Brewer said he admires Delph for making a decision grounded so solidly on principal and faith.
"Marvin had an opportunity to be a part of something successful and great with the Celtics, but he made a moral choice," Brewer said. "He chose not to because the Lord directed him elsewhere. I'm 100 percent behind him in that decision because he is committed person to what he does, and that is living for the Lord."
A two-time All-Southwest Conference selection, Delph averaged 15 points a game in four seasons at Arkansas, ranking sixth on the all-time UA scoring list -- before the 3-point goal.
"He's one of the best shooters I've ever seen play the ballgame," Brewer said. "I don't think people realize the shooting range that he had. He had tremendous shooting ability and a great teacher in Eddie Sutton. I wish he'd been able to shoot 3-pointers because he probably be the leading scorer in the history of the University of Arkansas."
He formed on third of the "Triplets," the Hogs vaunted trio of Brewer, Delph and Sidney Moncrief from 1976-78. During that stretch, Arkansas was 58-6, earned two SWC titles, and reached its first ever Final Four.
"What (the Triplets) brought to Arkansas was three local players that most people didn't believe could go on a Division I team and be successful," Brewer said. "We showed that three players with great defensive ability could outmatch somebody with a size and strength advantage.
"We also brought in the three-guard lineup which is utilized so much today."
While Delph is considered by some to be the best long-range shooter in Arkansas history, Brewer believes his defense was overlooked.
"He was a great defender because of his long arms, but he would never get out there into the passing lane and steal the ball," Brewer said. "People think of great defenders as tenacious, denying the ball, but Marvin wasn't that type of player. Marvin, though, not only would he guard his man, he would block and intimidate shots inside.
"Coach Sutton didn't bring him to the University of Arkansas to play defense; he brought him to shoot the ball. But Marvin did a good job of playing defense within the team concept."
Brewer recalls Arkansas' 74-70 victory over UCLA in 1978 as one of the highlights of Delph's college career. In the NCAA regional semifinal game, he hit 11 of 14 shots for 23 points. The Hogs reached the Final Four that year, where they lost in the national semifinals to Kentucky.
"He was hitting jump shot after jump shot when the game was on the line," Brewer said. "He was hitting out there where most people wouldn't even break down to play defense because they didn't think he had the range."
Before Delph and Brewer teamed at Arkansas, they played against each other in the 1974 Arkansas Overall title game. Brewer and Fort Smith defeated Delph and Conway 37-32.
"In 1974, that was probably the biggest crowd and the most antipated game in Arkansas high school basketball history," Brewer recalled. "They were 28-0, and we were 29-0. They were presented as being a high-scoring team as were we. But it ended up being a 37-32 ballgame. Because of the atmosphere, it was still an exciting game."
As glowing a recollection as Brewer paints of Delph's basketball career, he is most of fond of Delph's character.
"You couldn't ask for a better person to have as a friend during that time and right now," Brewer said. "Anybody who knows Marvin knows what he stands for, living for the Lord. To this day, he doesn't look for credit for what he used to could do. That doesn't make or break Marvin Delph."