Mladen Armus Draws Recruiting Attention from Hogs, Red Wolves

 

 

Recruiting never ends. It’s a cliché because it’s true, and the Arkansas Razorbacks basketball coaching staff travels all over the country between games, practices, and other team and family responsibilities looking for the next fit for the program.

With Arkansas still seeking to fill one scholarship to complete its 2017 class, and at least two more to fill the 2018 class, head Hog Mike Anderson and associate head coach Melvin Watkins were on the road in recent weeks to watch and evaluate prospects for both classes.

Watkins traveled to Houston the weekend of Jan. 13-15 to watch the Southwest Christian Academy (SCA) Lions open their Texas Christian Athletic League (TCAL) conference season, with 2017 SCA big men Mladen Armus and Gabriel Osabuohien among the prospects he was there to see play.

It marked the fourth time Watkins had seen Armus and Osabuohien in action with SCA, which is based in Little Rock.

“(Watkins) had seen them play in a game at our gym, at Battle of the Border, and a practice,” said Charles Baker, head coach at Southwest Christian Academy. “(Mike Anderson) has been down to see them, too.”

Mladen Armus is a 6-9 power forward / center who is big, strong, and knows how to use his frame to clear out space inside for rebounds and scoring opportunities. Not a leaper, but moves well laterally and is active. He’s also skilled enough to play facing the basket, and shows good vision passing down low from the high post and passing to cutters when he is posted down low.

Armus, who arrived to SCA in August by way of Serbia, seems to be acclimating to his teammates and Baker’s system well, and has gone on a recent run of putting up double-doubles as the Lions have played strong competition through 6 games in the TCAL.

After his Lions defeated the Little Rock Flames, 91-50, on Monday to move to 23-1 on the season, Armus talked about his recruitment when asked which teams were showing the most interest. ”Razorbacks, Arkansas State, Creighton, and Missouri,” he said. “That’s it for now.”

Osahuobien, a 6-7 combo forward from Toronto, seems to have the size and skill traits that Anderson likes for the Hogs’ combo-4 position. He talked about his recruitment as well.

“Arkansas, Little Rock (Trojans) for sure … Houston … St. Bonaventure …” Osabuohien said, among other schools he also mentioned.

An assistant coach with Central Florida (members of the American Athletic Conference that includes UConn, Cincinnati, Memphis, Tulsa, Houston, and SMU) was on hand Monday to watch the frontline duo.

2017 shooting guard Avery Benson, who came to SCA after playing at Springdale Har-Ber last year as a junior, is also getting recruiting interest from high- and mid-major programs.

“Texas Tech, TCU, and Stephen F. Austin,” Benson said.

As for 2018, we reported in this space last week that Anderson traveled to Oklahoma to see junior Keyshawn Embery, a 6-3 combo guard from Midwest City (OK), play on Jan. 19.

I’ve been told that Embery, who has a composite national Top 100 / 4-star prospect ranking, will receive an offer from the Hogs “soon.” He scored 50, 47, and 39 points in a span of recent games, and he brings the kind of tenacity to the floor that Anderson covets for his Fastest 40 system.

The Hogs face Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Saturday as part of the SEC-Big XII Challenge, so it’s conceivable Hog coaches will see him in action again this week, and if so, possibly offer at that time. Embery took an unofficial visit to Fayetteville in September.

Based on Arkansas’s recruiting activity and needs, a big and/or a point guard appear to be priorities to wrap up 2017, while a guard and small forward / wing seem to be the focus to finish 2018. I believe we’ll hear some more names (new prospects) in the next 30-60 days.

ESPN loves the trio of 2017 Hog signees:  A few weeks ago, ESPN’s recruiting gurus gave both Daniel Gafford (El Dorado) and Khalil Garland (Little Rock Parkview) a bump in their 2017 Top 100, moving Gafford from No. 48 to 47, and Garland from No. 55 to 54.

Well, ESPN moved them up again this week: Gafford comes in at No. 43, and Garland moved up to No. 53. ESPN also ranks Darious Hall (Little Rock Mills) a national 4-star prospect. ESPN ranks the Hogs’ 2017 class the 18th-best in the country.

ESPN has not updated it’s 2018 Top 60 lately, but Arkansas commits Reggie Perry (No. 31) and Ethan Henderson (No. 60) are among those ranked. ESPN also ranks Arkansas commit Isaiah Joe a national 4-star prospect.

My Top 10 Arkansas High School teams: For the week beginning Monday, Jan. 23 (results from Tues, Jan. 24, and Fri., Jan. 27, will alter the rankings next week, but here is how I had them at the start of the week) …

*1. Southwest Christian Academy (22-1) … asterisk because they don’t play AAA teams in Arkansas, but they do play a regional and national schedule and were recently ranked No. 10 in MaxPreps Independent Schools poll.

1. Jonesboro (18-0)

3. Little Rock Mills (18-1)

4. El Dorado (16-3)

5. Little Rock Parkview (15-4)

6. Maumelle (16-2)

7. Fort Smith Northside (12-5)

8. Bryant (14-3)

9. Baptist Prep (14-4)

10. Cabot (13-2)

 

Game of the Week may end up being the Game of the Year: Maumelle’s senior guard Tremont Robinson, one of the top players in the state, weaved through defensive traffic before flipping in a runner at the buzzer to upset Little Rock Parkview, 61-60, in a game on Jan. 20 between two Top 10 teams who at the time were both unbeaten in 5A-Central play.

Robinson finished with a game-high 27 points for the Hornets, while Parkview senior Khalil Garland led the Patriots with 17 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals.

Not only were the last 5.1 seconds exciting, but so was the entire game which saw both teams go back and forth with the lead in front of a raucous crowd in a packed Maumelle gymnasium.

I’d also rank Parkview’s two-point loss to El Dorado in the Rumble on the Ridge tournament over Thanksgiving weekend in Forrest City as a strong candidate for Game of the Year.

Downtown Tip Off Club: The 3rd weekly luncheon of the 2016-17 season was held on Friday, Jan. 20, at the North Little Rock Wyndham hotel, and Little Rock head coach Wes Flanigan was the featured speaker with ’17 Trojans signee Kris Bankston of Little Rock J.A. Fair HS in attendance to accept the Arvest Player of the Week award. Bankston is a 6-7 power forward who played for Team Portis Wings Elite on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League circuit in the spring and summer. On Friday, Jan. 27, the featured speaker was former Hog standout guard U.S. Reed, who played at Arkansas for coaching great Eddie Sutton in the late 70s, early 80s.

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Kevin McPherson is a former sportswriter and editor at both the Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Democrat, as well as a former contributor to newspapers in Northwest Arkansas — covering Arkansas Razorbacks basketball, high school football and basketball, and basketball recruiting. He’s entering his 13th year as a mortgage banker with Bank of England, but he still covers Razorback basketball and recruiting as well as high school sports. You can join him live every Monday and Thursday at 1:30 CST on The Hog Call, KREB 1190 The Fan in Northwest Arkansas by clicking here: http://1190thefan.com/listen-live/ You can also follow him live on Twitter @ARHoopScoop.

mladen armus

Mladen Armus takes the ball to the goal while playing in Europe.

 

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