Real Deal in the Rock Draws, ‘Hog 5′ & Prep Phenom Zion Williamson

 

 

By now, everyone knows last year’s Arkansas Hawks 16U team had all five of its starters commit to play basketball at the University of Arkansas — juniors Reggie Perry, Ethan Henderson, Desi Sills, and Isaiah Joe, plus sophomore Justice Hill. It’s considered a first that the five starters of a grassroots basketball team all committed to the same high-major program, and they did so just weeks after their 2016 season with the Hawks had ended.

Since then, all five have flourished at their respective high schools, but Friday night The Hog 5 will come together again at the annual jam session known as the Real Deal in the Rock in what will be their first time to compete together as Hawks since committing to Arkansas. The Hawks, who finished their 16U campaign last year with a 33-5 record and ranked 10th nationally, will battle the Dallas Pacers at 7:30 p.m. CT at P.A.R.K. in Little Rock.

Ballers like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Hardin, Derrick Rose, and many other big names have played in Real Deal in the Rock over the years, but never before has it had this much Hog flavor that will surely bring out fans who want to get a good look at the future of the Razorbacks’ hoops program.

“They’ll (Hog fans) finally get to see these guys play together for the first time since they committed,” Bill Ingram, chairman of the Hawks, said. “All of them (his Hawks) have grown and developed, so this should be exciting for everyone who makes it out.”

Leading the way for the Hawks is 6-10 combo forward Reggie Perry, formerly of Little Rock and now in Thomasville, GA. Perry is rated by ESPN as 2018′s  No. 25 player in the country, a 4-star who is one spot shy of being rated a 5-star. Ethan Henderson, a 6-8 power forward at Little Rock Parkview, is the composite national No. 79 player, a 4-star in 2018. Desi Sills, a 6-1 combo guard at Jonesboro, comes in at No. 117 in the nation, also a 4-star. And though 6-4 shooting guard Isaiah Joe is ranked at No. 146 nationally, he is rated a 4-star by 3 national recruiting services (ESPN, Scout.com, and Lindy’s Sports).

Those four Hog commits make up the composite national No. 1 class for 2018, according to 247Sports.com. The lone 2019 Hog commit and Hawks’ starting point guard, Justice Hill, is a 4-star and Top 100 prospect according to Future150.com

The Hawks have added 6-7 combo forward DeShang “DJ” Weaver of Cypress Falls, TX, to their squad. Weaver was ranked as high as Top 10 nationally for the Class of 2018 when he was a freshman, but he missed all of 2015-16 as a sophomore with a knee injury. He returned to play at Cypress Falls mid-season in ’16-’17, and he’s expected to be a tough matchup this spring and summer because of his ability to shoot and handle while also being able to do work around the basket.

The Hawks also return ’18 power Caleb Stokes of Parkview (6-8 power forward) and ’18 J.T. Smith of Riverview (6-2 guard), and they recently added Tony Hutson, a talented guard who along with Sills helped Jonesboro go undefeated at 32-0 while winning the Arkansas 6A state title.

The Hawks’ second opponent in the tournament format, the afore-mentioned Atlanta Celtics, will be led by 2018 national Top 15 prospect T.J. Montgomery, a 5-star recruit who is committed to play at Auburn.

Perry, who reunited with his Hawks teammates over the past weekend as they practiced in preparation for Real Deal and their final grassroots hoops season together, was excited to be back with the Hawks.

“We have been in contact with each other since we left Vegas,” Perry said of the last time the team had played together as Hawks in 2016. “It feels good to get back on the court with them. We still have the same chemistry as last year, actually its grown a lot more.”

Is the next great player of a generation going to be at Real Deal? Yes, he will be. Zion Williamson, a 6-7 forward from Spartanburg, S.C., exploded onto the national scene last spring and summer by dominating grassroots hoops events that matched the best players from the Nike, Adidas, and Under Armor circuits.

And since that run of excellence, Williamson has become an internet sensation because of his his other-worldly dunks, he’s climbed the national prospect rankings to No. 2 for 2018 (although many believe he is the best player in the country regardless of class), and he’s even got rapper Drake wearing his jersey.

He’s being pursued by all the heavyweight schools, including Kentucky (John Calipari visited Zion this week), Duke, and North Carolina.

Williamson and his South Carolina Supreme 17U team will play Friday night at 8:45 p.m. CT against Team Portis Wings Elite 17U at P.A.R.K. At least one Arkansas Hawk is hoping for a chance to match up against Zion.

“I’m looking forward to playing against him,” Hawks’ forward Reggie Perry said of a potential matchup if both teams advance and meet up in the Real Deal tournament. “We were on the same team in L.A. (during the Adidas Nations Global event last year), and he’s a real good player. I think it’s going to be a pretty good matchup, but of course, I’m going to do whatever it takes to get my team a win.”

Another big-time player who will be at Real Deal is 2019 national Top 5 big man Matthew Hurt, a 6-10 combo forward who plays with D1 Minnesota.

More Arkansas Hawks and Team Portis Wings Elite prospects at Real Deal: Both 501 grassroots programs will have some of the best players not only in Arkansas, but in the country, representing their respective 17U, 16U, and 15U teams.

In addition to the Hawks already mentioned, the 16U team will feature 2020 guard Khalen “KK” Robinson, who will be playing up with the 16s after a fantastic all-state performance for 3A state champ Episcopal Collegiate. He’ll be joined 2019 North little Rock forward Shawn Fudge, among others. The 15U Hawks will have 2020 ballers Treylon Payne of Episcopal Collegiate as well as Detrick Reeves of Marion.

For Team Portis Wings Elite, their young hoopers are also going to be special. Coach Charles Baker‘s 16U squad features 2019 wing Collin Moore of North Little Rock and 2019 power forward Cole Anderson (who Baker also coaches at Southwest Christian Academy in Little Rock), as well as some promising out-of-state players such as Mylik Wilson and Jessie Davis, both of Louisiana. And TPWE 15U coach Antonio Buchanan has 3 of the best Arkansas prospects in the Class of 2020 on his squad: Chris Moore, an all-state selection this year after averaging a double-double for West Memphis as a freshman; Gerald Doakes, an explosive 6-3 freshman shooting guard at Jacksonville Lighthouse; and Devonte Davis, a flashy freshman point guard at Jacksonville Lighthouse.

Hogs’ 2017 signees getting in on the fun at Real Deal: No, the likes of Daniel Gafford and Darious Hall are not playing in the tournament, but they are part of a 10-player super squad from Arkansas who will take on the 10 best seniors from Tennessee in the Mike Conley, Jr., All Star Classic in Memphis on Saturday, April 8.

That’s the weekend after Real Deal, so Bill Ingram — who also runs the Mike Conley, Jr., All Star Classic — is bringing the 2017 Arkansas players together for a practice session that will begin at 6 p.m. CT Friday night at P.A.R.K. as a way to help kickoff the 2017 Real Deal while also giving hoop fans another chance to see next season’s newest Hogs, Trojans, and Red Wolves.

Arkansans playing grassroots hoops out of state: 2018 Connor Vanover, a 7-3 stretch-5 at Baptist prep, and 2018 Shakur Daniel, a 6-3 point guard at Southwest Christian Academy, are playing on the Nike EYBL circuit with ProSkills of Texas. Meanwhile, 2018 combo guard C.J. White of Little Rock Parkview and 2019 combo guard Isaac McBride will both be playing with Team Penny out of Memphis.

Razorback hoops recruiting tidbits: 2017 Hog offer Zhaire Smith, a 6-5 small forward and 4-star prospect from Garland, TX, took an official visit to Texas the weekend of March 17-19, but did not commit. He was set to take an OV to Texas Tech this past weekend, but he said he had to reschedule for April 7-9. Smith took an unofficial visit to Fayetteville in early March and received a Hog offer at the time, but has not said whether or not he will take an OV there in the future … a new name to keep an eye on as a potential target for one of the Hogs’ two remaining 2018 scholarships is Mark Freeman, a shifty 5-11 facilitating point guard from Southwind (Memphis) high school … for at least the 6th time in the past year, Arkansas coaches have stopped in to see 2017 Southwest Christian Academy frontliners Mladen Armus (6-9 from Serbia) and Gabe Osabuohien (6-7 from Toronto) — Head Hog Mike Anderson and Associate Head Coach Melvin Watkins were at SCA on Tuesday to watch the Lions go through workouts … 2016 Hog recruit Micah Thomas, who signed with Maryland and spent the ’16-’17 season with the Terps as a freshman, announced this week that he is transferring, so a natural curiosity is whether or not there would be any renewed interest with the Hogs — something to keep an eye on.

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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.

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