Flamboyance, Fire Lead Orcholski
FAYETTEVILLE- Coming to Arkansas from Wisconsin, Cheryl Orcholski’s teammates couldn’t help but make fun of her accent. On the court, she shut them up. The Lady Razorbacks’ first flamboyant player, Orcholski played to win.
“She talked a little northern and we made fun and picked on her,” said Kim Bunge Sanchez, a post player and teammate of Orcholski. “She was headstrong and came in and was a hot-dogger and chewed gum. She did not want to lose and pushed the others not to lose.”
Orcholski’s first season in 1980-81, the Lady Razorbacks’ went 11-18. The next three years, Arkansas won 20 or more games, its first 20-game winning seasons.
Part of the reason was Orcholski’s guidance from the point guard position, and her fire for playing.
“Back then we didn’t have big budgets, you just played for the passion of the game,” Orcholski said. “As a point guard, I tried to get my teammates involved and would dish off to them. Arkansas was not established, and I think we laid the foundation.”
Orcholski developed her devotion for the game by playing with guys when she was growing up. She played basketball whenever she could. That intensity from playing with guys carried over to her attitude on the court as a Lady Razorback.
“She was a pretty determined player and wanted to be as good as she possibly could be,” said Charlie Fiss, the women’s sports information director during Orcholski’s time. “I admire her coming from Wisconsin to Fayetteville. She wanted to play basketball and wanted to excel. She left a lasting legacy on the Lady Razorback program.”
On the court, Orcholski just had fun. Her determination to play lasted through 123 consecutive games. When she left Arkansas in 1984, she owned the school record for consecutive games. That mark stood for 14 years until Karen Jones, a member of the Final Four team, broke it.
“She was not an all-star and did her job without complaining,” Sanchez said. “When she was not playing, she would sit on the edge of her seat and was ready to go in.”
While playing, Orcholski would chew gum and get up and down the floor quickly. She never experienced a dull moment. “She was a basketball junkie, a gym rat,” former Arkansas coach John Sutherland said. “She was a point guard with a two-guard perspective on everything. She had fun with the game.”
Tracy Webb Rice, who was a freshman Orcholski’s senior year, doesn’t even remember her being mad. Webb, who became the point guard after Orcholski, also recalls that she was a left-handed point guard.
“She always got on my nerves because I wanted to go right,” Rice said. “I’ll always remember that accent, and she was always so happy.”
Tired of the winters in the north, Orcholski decided to go south. Arkansas offered a scholarship and she grabbed it. Her enthusiasm for the game was seen nationwide because she was the 40th pick of the WBA 1984 draft. Arkansas’ first professional draft pick, Orcholski was picked up by the Columbus Minks.
“I was surprised (about being drafted),” Orcholski said. “I played for a year until the league folded.”
When Orcholski graduated, she was third in career points and was the assists leader. But, her main contribution was helping the Lady Razorbacks to 26-10, 21-8 and 20-9 records.
“She was a good point guard, not the best and not the worst,” Sanchez said. “She could shoot real well and directed traffic like a point guard and ran the team. She wanted to be the leader on the court and didn’t want to lose.”