Arkansas Basketball: 2016-17 Team Rankings, Postseason Awards



Whether in this space, on my radio segments, or my Twitter offerings, I’ve repeatedly said the high school and grassroots Arkansas basketball are at an all-time high right now. Statistically, Arkansas was 6th nationally per one million residents in number of Top 100 hoops prospects produced in the 5-year span of 2011-2015 — according to data provided by MaxPreps a few months ago.

No doubt that number will go up in the current 5-year span (2016-2020), but aside from Top 100-type players, the state is a hotbed for next-level ballers. And the quality of the teams and coaches — both high school and grassroots — are top-shelf as well.

There is not enough time or space to recognize everyone, but as we say goodbye to the 2016-17 season, we’re going to salute the best of the best with the @ARHoopScoop …

* Final Top 10 High School Rankings

* Coach of the Year

* Player of the Year

* First- and Second-Team All Arkansas

* All Sophomore Team (includes Sophomore of the Year)

* All Freshmen Team (includes Freshman of the Year)

A few nuances with the @ARHoopScoop All Arkansas 1st and 2nd teams are: 1) Selections are based on the entire “basketball year”, which is to say that 2016 spring-and-summer grassroots achievements and production are factored in with the 2016-17 Arkansas high-school season. 2) Selections are not limited to players who were part of the AAA. So, if you played on a team in Arkansas that was NOT part of the AAA, it is NOT a disqualifier. 3) Projecting to the next level played a role in the selection of these teams.

Let’s do this …

@ARHoopScoop Final 2016-17 Arkansas High School Top 10

1. Jonesboro (32-0) ran the table in ’16-’17, capped by a decisive 74-57 victory over El Dorado in the 6A state title game and a No. 5 national ranking in MaxPreps’ Top 25. Senior Marquis Eaton was named the MVP of the title game, but a testament to the depth and balance of Wes Swift’s team was that 3-4 other players could have been given that honor. It was a microcosm of the Hurricane’s season, because it was a committee of excellence that led to a perfect season against a strong overall schedule. 2018 Hog commit Desi Sills, ’17 Arkansas State football signee Jonathan Adams, ’17 Ben Harvey, ’18 Tony Hutson, and a cast of others made the Hurricane a deep and determined crew. The Hurricane also defeated Parkview at home, West Memphis three times, and claimed several respected out-of-state wins against the likes of St. Louis (MO) Vashon and Kickapoo (MO) among others.

2. Little Rock Mills (31-2) The Comets were 6 points away from being undefeated! A last-second 2-point loss to Litle Rock Fair in December, and a last-second 2-point loss in OT against Little Rock Parkview in the 5A-Central district tourney finals were the only minor speed bumps along the way in a great season. Senior Darious Hall, one of three Razorbacks signees for the class of 2017, was both a highlight reel (made ESPN) and a leader for a deep, talented, and balanced team. He was the best forward in the state. The Comets swept El Dorado in 2 showcase matchups, swept Little Rock Central, swept Jacksonville, defeated Maumelle in the 5A state quarterfinals, and got revenge against Parkview in a classic battle, 65-61, in the 5A state title game. 2017 UA-Fort Smith signee Jeremiah Toney, Qwan Marshall, Grehlon Easter, and Orion Virden were all part of a great Mills team.

tie 3. Little Rock Parkview (28-6) won the Jammin’ 4 Jackets tournament in Little Rock back in December, won a co-championship with Maumelle in the brutal 5A-Central, won the 5A-Central district tourney over Mills, and fell just short in the 5A state title game. In addition to beating the likes of Mills, Maumelle, Little Rock Central, the Patriots defeated Whites Creek (TN), Olive Branch (MS), and West Lake (TX) among other in what was the toughest schedule played in the state. 2017 Hog signee Khalil Garland was the best guard in the state and earned himself the nickname 501 Boss as a result, but he missed 3 games late in the season due to a deep heel bruise. 2017 Hog recruit Javon Franklin was a beast in the paint and around the basket. Those two seniors along with 2018 Hog commit Ethan Henderson, juniors CJ White, Rod Terry, and Caleb Stokes, sophomore Al Flanigan, and freshman sensation Moses Moody helped make Parkview the most talented team in the state.

tie 3. El Dorado (28-5) won the Rumble on the Ridge tournament in Forrest City back in November and the Wildcats won their conference and district tourney titles as well. El Dorado made it all the way to the 6A title game where it led No. 1 Jonesboro at halftime, 30-29, before falling by a score of 74-57. 2017 Hog signee Daniel Gafford had 11 triple-doubles and was a monster on the glass and blocking shots. He and senior combo guard Czar Perry were explosive, electric, and a couple of highlights waiting to happen. Wins over Parkview, North Little Rock, Bryant, Texarkana (twice), Pine Bluff (twice), and Marion speak plainly enough about the strength of this El Dorado team.

5. Fort Smith Northside (24-7) overcame two 7A Central losses against North Little Rock to edge past the Charging Wildcats, 50-49, in their third matchup, which also just happened to be the 7A state title game! The Grizzlies won the Coca-Cola Classic tourney earlier in the season, knocking off No. 3 El Dorado in the semifinals in doing so. The Grizzlies may have had the most explosive backcourt in terms of offense and scoring in the entire state. 2018 Hog commit Isaiah “Zay” Joe and 2017 UA-Fort Smith commit Tevin Brewer were both going off for 30 points on any given night. In addition to El Dorado and North Little Rock, the Grizzlies had wins over Bryant (twice), Little Rock Central (twice), Springdale Har-Ber, and Cabot.

tie 6. North Little Rock (25-5) won the regular-season title in the competitive 7A-Central with sweeps of Northside, Cabot, and Bryant. Seniors Deion Dobbins and Jarvis Ricks, and super sophomores Collin Moore and Shawn Fudge were the headliners. The Charging Wildcats lost to El Dorado in a close game in the Rumble on the Ridge tourney title game back in November, and after losing to Conway in the 7A-Central opener, they won 15 straight games before falling by a point to Northside in the 7A state title game.

tie 6. Maumelle (27-5) ended a fabulous season with a loss to Mills in the 5A quarterfinals, but the Hornets did win a share of the 5A-Central regular-season title. Led by Tremont “The Show” Robinson, Maumelle had one of the most explosive backcourts in the state as Pat Greene and Quan Richardson joined Robinson to forge a formidable guard corps. The Hornets notched wins over Parkview, Harrison, and West Memphis.

8.  Baptist Prep (31-4) After a 9-4 start to the season, the Eagles finished up by winning 22 straight games, collecting conference, district-tourney, and 4A state titles along the way. Big man Connor Vanover — a 7-3 stretch-5 junior — talented sophomore Isaac McBride, and senior Dylan Hogan were the leaders in a season that will go down as one of the best at Baptist Prep

9. Little Rock Central (19-10) Brutal schedule against 5 of the Top 7 teams in the state — three Ls to No. 6 NLR, two Ls to No. 5 Northside, two Ls to No. 2 Mills, one L to No. 6 Maumelle, and one L to No. 3 Parkview — accounted for 9 of the Tiger’s 10 losses, otherwise they were 19-1. Senior wing Cam Johnson and senior big man Raekwon Rogers led a talented squad that could play with anybody. Central had wins over Cabot, Bryant, Jacksonville, Springdale Har-Ber, and Little Rock Fair.

10. Episcopal Collegiate (28-7) won its last 18 games of the season, including a 14-point victory, 61-47, over Tuckerman for the 3A state title. Senior guard Kam Brasfield led a talented backcourt, with freshmen guards Khalen “KK” Robinson and Treylon Payne showing they will be a handful over the next 3 seasons.

* Independent-school No. 1: Southwest Christian Academy of Little Rock (34-3) is not a member of the Arkansas Activities Association, and thus is not allowed to compete against AAA teams, but the Lions were one of the top independent schools in the country. SCA won the National Association of Christian Athletes national title and the Lions were regularly ranked in MaxPreps’ independent-schools national Top 10. Senior Avery Benson, a transfer from Springdale Har-Ber, was the Lions leading scorer. Seniors Mladen Armus (a 6-9 power forward / center from Serbia) and Gabe Osahuobien (a 6-7 combo-forward from Toronto) were steady frontline forces for the Lions. Emir Ahmedic (Oral Roberts signee), Shakur DanielJevon BrownMiykah McIntosh, and others were also instrumental to SCA’s 10-1 record for first place in the tough Texas Christian Athletic League.

@ARHoopScoop Arkansas High School Coach of the Year

Wes Swift, Head Coach at Jonesboro: They say if takes Jimmy’s and Joe’s (talented players) to win titles, but I’ve seen plenty of teams over the years loaded with talent without the right leadership to win a title. Wes Swift pushed all the right buttons — whether it was drawing up Xs and Os, his personnel choices, in-game adjustments, or simply saying the right thing at the right time — to get his team to a perfect 32-0 record and the 6A state title, beating the likes of El Dorado, Parkview, St. Louis Vashon, Kickapoo (MO), and many more along the way. Swift had great balance, depth, and talent at Jonesboro, and he brought it all together to lead the Hurricane to the top spot in Arkansas while finishing ranked No. 5 in MaxPreps’ national high school poll.

@ARHoopScoop Arkansas High School Player of the Year

Daniel Gafford, 6-10 center, senior, El Dorado: As good as the talent was in Arkansas this season, Gafford was the clear No. 1 for Player of the Year in Arkansas. His 17.4 points, 16.1 rebounds, 7.7 blocks, 2.5 steals, and 70% field-goal shooting looks great on paper, but seeing the way he controlled both ends of the floor was at times breath-taking. His 33 points, 18 rebounds, and 15 blocks in an OT win over Pine Bluff in the season opener was a foreshadowing of things to come as Gafford finished with 11 triple-doubles and 29 double-doubles. According to MaxPreps he ranked 2nd nationally in blocked shots, 8th nationally in rebounds, and 6th nationally in double-doubles.

Gafford’s most-memorable games were against the toughest competition: 21 points, 22 rebounds, 10 blocks, and 2 steals in a win over No. 3 Parkview in the Rumble on the Ridge semifinals; 18 points, 28 rebounds, 13 blocks, and 5 steals in a win over No. 6 North Little Rock in the ROTR title game; 23 points, 31 rebounds, 12 blocks, and 5 steals in an OT win over a solid Texarkana team; 22 points, 21 rebounds, 10 blocks, and 3 steals in a win over a good Bryant team in the Coca-Cola Classic; 17 points, 16 rebounds, 12 blocks, and 3 steals in a loss to No. 5 Fort Smith Northside in the Coca-Cola Classic; 25 points, 20 rebounds, 8 steals, and 6 blocks in a win over Mississippi State signee and 4-star big man Garrison Brooks of Auburn, AL, in the Hotbed Classic in New Albany, MS; 34 points, 26 rebounds, and 9 blocks in a win over Texarkana in the 6A-West district tourney title game; 16 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 blocks in a win over Pine Bluff in the 6A state semifinals; and 16 points, 17 rebounds, and 6 blocks in a loss to No. 1 Jonesboro in the 6A state title game.

Gafford’s combination of 7-2 wingspan, elite athleticism, soft-but-strong hands, and instincts to rebound, block shots, and dunk everything that dares come into his zip code made him one of the best high-school players in the country. Ranked the composite national No. 33 prospect for the Class of 2017, Gafford was recently named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Arkansas. He signed with the Arkansas Razorbacks in the November early signing period.

@ARHoopScoop First Team ALL ARKANSAS

Khalil Garland, 6-5 combo guard, senior, LR Parkview: Also known as the 501 Boss, Garland was the best guard in the state in 2016-17. It started with a stellar spring and summer playing for nationally ranked Team Penny 17U in the Nike EYBL when Garland was the team’s 3rd-leading scorer, and it continued as the leader of the Little Rock Parkview Patriots, who finished ranked No. 3 in the state with a 28-6 record. Garland had a season-high 36 points against co-No. 3 El Dorado, including a highlight-reel dunk over POY Daniel Gafford. What stands out most about Garland, who ESPN ranks as the No. 53 prospect nationally in the Class of 2017, is his play-making and finishing ability in the open-court. Ferocious slasher with plus-athleticism and a high basketball IQ who can play all 3 backcourt positions, and he raised his 3-point shooting up to over 45% this high-school season. The 501 Boss signed with the Arkansas Razorbacks in the November early signing period.

Darious Hall, 6-6 small forward / wing, senior, LR Mills: No player has flown under the national radar in the 2017 class like Hall has. Rated a 4-star recruit by ESPN, Hall should be a composite national Top 100 player, because he proved it over and over in a great year of hoops. He was the leader and best player for the Team Magic Elite (Memphis) 17U squad on the spring/summer Adidas Gauntlet circuit, holding his own against the likes of ’17 4-star Amir Simms and ’18 5-star Romeo Langford. And he carried that over as the best player and leader of the Mills Comets, who went 31-2 and won the 5A state title over Parkview. Hall garnered 5A title-game MVP honors after finishing with 24 points and 13 rebounds. At 6-6 with a 7-0 wingspan, Hall has guard skills, a high basketball IQ, he’s a leader, and he attacks the rim and glass with relentless effort. Hall was the unquestioned best forward in the state of Arkansas, and he signed with the Arkansas Razorbacks in the November early signing period.

Javon Franklin, 6-6 combo forward, senior, LR Parkview: Rated a composite national Top 150 prospect in the Class of 2017, Franklin proved over and over again he’s not just a highlight-reel dunker, although he was the king of the throwdown in Arkansas this year. Sporting the best hops in the state, Franklin’s elevator went as high as he needed it to for dunks, rebounds, and blocked shots. Franklin was a double-double machine for the Patriots, and he always played hard and was clutch. He had as much dog in him as any big in the state, although he was under-sized compared to the best frontline players in the state. He was also a productive reserve for nationally ranked Team Penny, playing with Parkview teammate Khalil Garland. Franklin has drawn recruiting interest from Arkansas and Little Rock, among others.

Exavian Christon, 6-4 shooting guard, senior, Hot Springs: One of the best offensive and defensive guards in the state, Christon proved himself with the Team Portis Wings Elite 17U squad on the Nike EYBL circuit last spring/summer, and he continued to be one of the best players in the state for the Trojans once the ’16-17 high school season got underway. He’s athletic with good size, he’s an offensive weapon at all 3 levels, he rebounds well from the guard position, and he’s a solid defender. Christon signed with Louisiana Tech in the early signing period, and he’s my pick for the one player out of Arkansas this year who high-major coaches will be wishing they had offered.

Desi Sills, 6-1 combo guard, junior, Jonesboro: Sills is arguably the best backcourt defender in the state, but to sum up the kind of player he is, he’s a fierce competitor who lays it all on the line every night for a W. He was already one of the Arkansas Hawks 16U squad’s most reliable players when he took his game to another level in July on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit, turning the heads of high-major coaches all over the country. He stuffed the stat sheet, bringing points, rebounds, assists, steals — whatever it took. And he brought that production and toughness to Jonesboro to help lead a magical 32-0 championship season. In a couple of the Hurricane games I saw in person, Sills took over when his team was trailing. He had 10 points in a Jonesboro 14-0 run that broke open a tie game in the 2nd half against El Dorado in the 6A title game. His AAU coach, Bill Ingram, has said repeatedly that Sills is one of the few high-school players that he’d be confident putting on the floor of a college game today. Sills committed to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks in August.

Isaiah Joe, 6-4 shooting guard, junior, Fort Smith Northside: Joe is undoubtedly the most gifted long-range bomber in the state, but what many may not realize is he is also one of the most complete players in the state. Do NOT make the mistake of painting him as just a shooting specialist, because he does so many other things at a high level that impacts games. One of the starters for the Arkansas Hawks’ 16U team last summer, Joe was a scorer whose overall game did not go unnoticed by several high-major coaches. He is strong handling with both his left and right, he’s got a nice drive and mid-range game, he can get to the basket and finish, he lets the offense come to him and is unselfish with the ball, he’s a strong rebounder from the guard position, and he is one of the elite defenders in the state. That’s right, elite defender! Joe regularly gobbles up steals, takes charges, gets deflections that disrupt, and does a good job staying in front of his man. Joe had six 30-plus-point scoring games, and he had 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals in the 7A title-game victory. Joe committed to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks in August.

Shakur Daniel, 6-3 point guard, junior, Southwest Christian Academy: If you ask SCA head coach Charles Baker, Daniel is his most valuable player. He’ll tell you that when Daniel comes off the court, you can see a drop-off in the performance of his team at both ends of the floor. What a huge compliment. Daniel is one of the 3 best point guards in the state, and he was the unquestioned leader of a Lions squad that won their conference and a national title. Daniel can score, but he is a facilitator first and foremost who does a great job getting the offense to run at the pace that Baker wants. Daniel is also a good defender. Iowa State and a host of other schools are showing interest.

Czar Perry, 6-2 combo guard, senior, El Dorado: Perry played for Team AAO during the spring/summer grassroots season, but he absolutely blew up once the high school season started. To give you an idea, he hung 43 points on a good Hot Springs team while going against a strong defender in Exavian Christon. Perry was one of the most electrifying players in the state, and he led the Wildcats in scoring (over 21 points per game) and assists (over 7 dimes per game). He can score at all 3 levels, and his combination of speed, quickness, hops, and skill make him nearly impossible to defend one-on-one. He had 14-first half points to lead El Dorado into the lockerroom with a 30-29 lead over No. 1 Jonesboro in the 6A state title game. Perry, who signed with Itawamba juco in November, has drawn recruiting interest from Arkansas, Southern Miss, and others.

Marquis Eaton, 6-2 point guard, senior, Jonesboro: You don’t go 32-0 and win multiple tournaments including a state title without an all-state point guard to lead the way, and Eaton was both a leader and a finisher when the Hurricane needed him to step up to show the way. Eaton had a successful run with his coach Wes Swift and Team AAO during the spring/summer grassroots play. If you watched Eaton play this season, he showed great “feel” in choosing when to get others involved and when to take matters into his own hands. He’s a solid handler with an array of dribble-drive moves that help him penetrate the paint, forcing help-defenders into making tough choices that usually resulted in Eaton finding an open teammate. Eaton was named MVP of the 6A state title game. He signed with Arkansas State in the November early signing period, but has the option of seeking a release from his NLOI in lieu of the coaching change at ASU.

Kris Bankston, 6-8 power forward, senior, LR Fair: If Louisiana Tech got the backcourt steal of the year in Exavian Christon, then Little Rock head coach Wes Flanigan very well may have gotten the frontcourt steal of the year in Kris Bankston, who signed with the Trojans in the November early signing period. The big man was a productive part of the Team Portis Wings Elite 17U squad during the Nike EYBL circuit, and he was arguably the best big in the best conference in the state — the 5A-Central. Bankston had 6 dunks and 14 points in just the first-half against Parkview in the 5A-Central district tourney. Another double-double maker, Bankston can be physical and explosive, and with his length and frame he has many of the attributes you see in high-major bigs. Flanigan landed a promising frontcourt prospect in Bankston.

Mladen Armus, 6-9 power forward, senior, Southwest Christian Academy: Armus joined SCA in August by way of Serbia, and it did not take him long to mesh with the nationally ranked independent school’s roster made up of players from different parts of the world. He regularly put up double-doubles for SCA, and was named MVP of the National Association of Christian Athletes national title game as SCA defeated Mount Mission. Armus put up a double-double in a late January game against a loaded, talented, big, an athletic Hamilton Heights team. Armus has drawn recruiting interest from Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa State, and Creighton, among others.

Justice Hill, 5-11 point guard, sophomore, LR Christian Academy: You have to look past the team struggles of the Warriors (13-13) as well as individual stats to see the value in the performance that Hill gave this season. His basketball year actually began by playing up with the nationally ranked 16U Arkansas Hawks as their starting point guard. Hill showed out at the 2016 Real Deal in the Rock, and though he mostly facilitated for and deferred to his older teammates on the offensive end, he raised his scoring late in the summer circuit when injuries plagued the Hawks. And on a LRCA team playing in the toughest league in the state — the 5A-Central — Hill constantly faced full-court double-teaming as coaches schemed with junk defenses to get the ball out of his hands. But if you watched closely, Hill did a phenomenal job “getting off the ball” to give his team a numbers advantage, or he split the double-team with a combo of speed and handles before dishing to an open teammate at the right time. No player in 2016-17 showed the overall court vision and awareness that Hill did, but too often he was needed to score the ball on a team that did not have nearly enough pieces around the true point guard. In the final 6 regular-season games in that brutal 5A-Central, Hill led the way with 20-plus-point / 6-plus-assist averages as the Warriors went 4-2. A plus-athlete with solid handles and an improved shot, Hill committed to the Arkansas Razorbacks as a high school freshman in February 2016.

@ARHoopScoop Second Team ALL ARKANSAS

Tevin Brewer, 5-7 point guard, senior, Fort Smith Northside: There may not be a more exciting one-on-one player in Arkansas than Brewer. He can take over games at the high school level on his own, and did that multiple times, including the 7A state semifinals against Springdale Har-Ber when he scored a game-high 38 points to help lift the Grizzlies to victory. He followed that up with 18 points to earn MVP honors in the title game as the Grizzlies’ prevailed by a point, 50-49, over North Little Rock. Brewer is lightning quick, athletic, and has the toughness and ball skill to finish at all 3 levels. He was committed to play at UA-Fort Smith, but recently re-opened his recruitment.

Brandon Fenner, 6-3 shooting guard, senior, Charleston: Fenner ended his career with 2,546 points (7th all-time in Arkansas), 418 made 3-point shots (1st all-time in Arkansas), and he was a 3-time all-state selection. Aside from his prowess from 3-land, Fenner was skilled and crafty in how he manufactured ways to score in the mid-range and at the basket. He also helped lead Charleston to back-to-back state finals during his career. If you like a show on offense, Brandon Fenner was one of the best in the state at getting buckets!

Tremont Robinson, 6-2 combo guard, senior, Maumelle: Nicknamed “The Show”, Robinson led Maumelle to a share of the 5A-Central title with Parkview. In what might be the Game of the Year, Robinson weaved his way through Parkview defenders for a buzzer-beating runner in the lane that gave the Hornets a one-point victory on their home court. Robinson is up there with Czar Perry and Tevin Brewer in terms of ability to break down an entire defense on his own. He may be the smoothest baller in the state in the way he makes tough drives and shots look so easy.

Jonathan Adams, 6-4 power forward, senior, Jonesboro: Jonathan Adams is following in the footsteps of his Dad as he signed to play football with the Arkansas State Red Wolves, but on the basketball court, Adams was one of the best front-court hoopers in the state in 2016-17. Adams was named all-state in basketball, and he had a double-double in the 6A state title game battling against Daniel Gafford. On a 32-0 team, Adams was the most-consistent and best option for the Hurricane on the interior. He was good at both ends of the floor, and he was clutch in tight games.

Isaac McBride, 6-1 combo guard, sophomore, Baptist Prep:  McBride was the catalyst for the Eagles’ 22-game win streak, especially when you consider much of the was accomplished while junior big man Connor Vanover was sidelined with a stress-fracture. McBride is strong, athletic, and skilled. When he warms up from 3, he’s almost impossible to defend because if you try to play him tight or close out on him, he can blow by you with a determined dribble-drive to the rack. He averaged 20 points for the 4A state champs.

Jeremiah Toney, 6-5 small forward, senior, LR Mills: Toney teamed up with Darious Hall to form a powerful 1-2 small-forward punch for the Comets in 2016-17, a formula that had Mills 6 points away from an undefeated season. Toney was a tireless worker on the glass at both ends, and he was one of the best slashing forwards in the state. An underrated defender, Toney was similar to Hall in that he could handle a big inside or switch out and lock down a guard. Toney signed with UA-Fort Smith in the November early signing period.

Deion Dobbins, 6-5 combo forward, senior, North Little Rock: Dobbins might be the most overlooked senior talent in the state, but he was a big part of North Little Rock’s march through the 7A-Central with only one conference loss. He has good length and plus-athleticism, and was a tough customer in the paint all season long. A more physical presence down low than his frame might indicate. Dobbins was selected all state, and he was one of the most gifted dunkers in Arkansas. He’s definitely one to keep an eye on at the next level.

S.K. Shittu, 6-9 power forward / center, senior, Providence Academy (Rogers): Shittu had a strong 2016 summer campaign playing with Team AAO, and he passed on offers to Houston, Tulsa and other mid-majors when he signed in the early period to play at D1 University of Central Arkansas. Shittu has excellent length and athleticism, and he was effective in the low-post as well as facing-up from 12-feet-and-in. He averaged a double-double at Providence Academy, and he was a dependable defender and rim-protector, too. Shittu could end up being a difference-maker for the Bears.

Ethan Henderson, 6-8 power forward, junior, LR Parkview: Going back to the work Ethan did in the 2016 spring/summer with the Arkansas Hawks 16U team, not only was Ethan a productive scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker over the multiple sessions of the Adidas Gauntlet, but he also earned invitations to some big-time events: The NBPA Top 100 Camp in June, and the Adidas Nations Global event in late July/early August. At Nations Global, Ethan went head-to-head against the best of the best from the 2017 and 2018 classes — the top players from the Nike, Adidas, and Under Armor circuits — and he showed well, enough to earn his composite national Top 80 and 4-star status in the Class of 2018. His playing time and productivity in ’16-’17 at Parkview were not equitable to his national prospect rankings, but Ethan had some of his best plays and games against the best competition Parkview faced. He committed to the Arkansas Razorbacks in September.

Connor Vanover, 7-3 stetch-5, junior, Baptist Prep: He may have missed some games due to a stress fracture in his foot, but Vanover was one of the best in the state pre- and post-injury. And really, he took a big step in July when he joined Team Texas’ 16U grassroots basketball squad and produced as a scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker. You could see he had added strength to go along with his sharp skill set. His effective range goes beyond the 3-point line, and his shooting form is Dirk Nowitski-esque. His July development translated well with Baptist Prep this season, as the duo of Connor Vanover and Isaac McBride helped the Eagles win 22 games in a row, including the 4A state title. Vanover has reported offers from Arkansas, Alabama, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt, among others.

Avery Benson, 6-3 shooting guard, senior, Southwest Christian Academy: The leading scorer for the Lions, Benson ran the floor and attacked the rim with a nastiness that you like to see from a guard. He was also an opportunistic defender who got his share of steals, and believe it or not, got plenty of blocked shots from the guard position. Benson earned all-conference honors in the Texas Christian Athletic League as he helped SCA to a 10-1 league record and league title, in addition to the NACA national title. He’s getting recruiting interest from TCU, Texas Tech, and Stephen F. Austin.

Cameron Johnson, 6-3 shooting guard / wing, senior, LR Central: Cam has one of the best offensive games around, as evidenced by the 39 points he scored in a game during the Jammin’ for Jackets tournament in December. He can be a volume rebounder when he crashes down from the wing. Strong, plus-athlete who is deceptively quick. He was the 9th-ranked Tigers’ leading scorer in 2016-17, and he recently had a strong showing at the Metro Classic all-star game by getting a double-double. Johnson has drawn recruiting interest from Missouri and recently picked up an offer from Mississippi Valley State.

Tyree Appleby, 6-0 point guard, senior, Jacksonville: Appleby can beat you either as a facilitator or by getting his own buckets, and he put on a show recently in earning MVP honors in the Metro Classic All-Star game by scoring a game-high 32 points, including making 8 triples in the 2nd half. Appleby plays bigger than he looks, and is unafraid when attacking the paint. He demonstrates excellent “feel” as a playmaker, knowing where to put the ball so his teammates can finish high-percentage shots. Definitely one of the most exciting offensive players in the state.

@ARHoopScoop ALL ARKANSAS Sophomore Team

Justice Hill, 5-11 point guard, LR Christian Academy … Arkansas Sophomore of the Year: As previously stated, no point guard in 2016-17 displayed the overall court vision and awareness that Hill did, then add in his explosive ability to finish above the rim, score in the mid-range after a variety of stop-and-go moves, and his adequate/improved 3-point shooting — it all adds up to being recognized as the best sophomore in the state. Defensively, Hill has the quickness and lateral footwork to be one of the best on-ball defenders in the state — he had many multiple-steal games — but he is still a work in progress at that end of the floor, as are most young players.

Isaac McBride, 6-1 combo guard, Baptist Prep: Already tough, both mentally and physically, McBride is a winner who consistently puts pressure on defenses because he can score in so many ways. There are not many “go-to” types in the state who aren’t upperclassmen, so McBride was in rare company when it came to having the ability to carry a team on his sophomore shoulders, which is what happened while junior Connor Vanover was out with his injury. No doubt McBride projects as a D1 caliber prospect after his production and talents were on full display in ’16-’17.

Collin Moore, 6-3 small forward / wing, North Little Rock: Moore signaled back in October that he might end up being a big factor for the Charging Wildcats when he received positive feedback for his performance at the ESPN Elite 80 Camp in Dallas-Fort Worth, where he also won the dunk contest (Justice Hill finished 2nd, BTW). Moore was a big part of 6th-ranked NLR’s rise to the top of the 7A-Central in the regular season, and he led the Charging Wildcats with 19 points in their one-point loss to Fort Smith Northside in the 7A state title game. Moore has excellent length and bounce, and his ball skill continues to get better and better. He plays relaxed and fearless, and already shows promise that he could end up a high-major prospect.

Tylor Perry, 5-10 point guard, Springdale Har-Ber: Perry is a facilitator-first point guard who has a knack for making clutch buckets or getting to the foul line in tight-game situations. His ability to get his team into winning situations reveals a high basketball IQ, and he helped Har-Ber reach the 7A state semifinals with those sharp basketball instincts. Perry is quick, but he’s also clever in how he shifts directions at the right times when defenders are trying to adjust as he uses their momentum against them. Perry is arguably the best returning player in Northwest Arkansas for 2017-18.

Bomani Roberson, 6-0 combo guard, Tuckerman: Roberson scored 21 points for Tuckerman in a losing effort in the 3A state title game, he was honored as an all-state player this season, and what makes him so effective is his ability to drive left or right and finish with great efficiency. Anticipates and tracks the ball well as a rebounder and defender. He’s one of those players who doesn’t rush or get rattled, regardless of the score or situation. Again, like others on this list, he plays the game like an upperclassman.

@ARHoopScoop ALL ARKANSAS Freshman Team

Chris Moore, 6-5 combo forward, West Memphis … Arkansas Freshman of the Year: Moore came into the season as one of the best 9th-graders in the country, rated the No. 12 prospect nationally by Coast2CoastPreps after wowing at several summer camps, including the famed CP3 Rising Stars camp late in the summer. Moore, who attended the Razorbacks’ elite camp in August, has already been offered by Memphis with several other high-majors showing strong interest. It was reported he was the first freshman to ever start at West Memphis, and he did not disappoint as he was consistently putting up double-doubles for the Blue Devils. A member of Team Portis Wings Elite 15U squad, Moore will likely add some offers during the spring/summer grassroots circuit. He’s dominant right now playing around the basket, but he also has good enough handles to put the ball on the floor and drive to the rack from the wing.

Moses Moody, 6-4 shooting guard, LR Parkview: Moody began the season as a deep reserve for the guard-heavy and loaded Patriots, but by the time Parkview had gotten into conference play, Moody had become one of the first off the bench and an eventual starter when Khalil Garland sat out a few games with a heel injury. And Moody was clutch, not just as a shooter-scorer, but as a rebounder and a guy who battled to win the hustle plays — diving on the floor to win 50/50 balls, taking charges, making the right pass at the right time. Moody’s late 3-pointer helped Parkview get into overtime against Maumelle in the 5A-Central district tourney title game, and his 2 free throws were the game-winners in overtime. Moody also came into the season with national accolades, as he won the 3-point shooting contest at CP3 Rising Stars and was ranked the No. 28 freshman in the country by Coast2CoastPreps. Moody is silky smooth and has a 6-10 wingspan, and he is reminiscent of Scotty Thurman in the way he takes and makes big shots with poise and confidence. Moody is a no-doubt high-major prospect.

Khalen “KK” Robinson, 5-11 combo guard, Episcopal Collegiate: A strong case could be made for KK as freshman of the year, which should tell you how good this 2020 class is in Arkansas. Robinson is quick, athletic, smart, basketball IQ through the roof, talented, great length in his arms, and NEVER gets too high or too low. He can deliver the knockout punch with a 3, with a drive and finish, with a pass, with a rebound, with a steal, with a blocked shot. Got to see him beat folks in every way imaginable, as a freshman. He’s the kind of player you build championship teams around. In fact, he did just that — he was the best player for Episcopal, which won the 3A state title after rattling off 18 straight wins to end the season. KK is playing up this spring/summer on the Arkansas Hawks’ 16U squad, and he is a high-major prospect.

Devonte Davis, 6-2 point guard, Jacksonville Lighthouse: Another member of Team Portis Wings Elite 15U squad who took part in last summer’s CP3 Rising Stars camp, Davis is a flashy point guard who is always looking to create an exciting play. He can score or facilitate, and is comfortable when the pace is up-tempo and he’s attacking the defense. His “feel” in up-tempo pace was comparable to seniors Czar Perry and Tremont Robinson. Davis is going to be on the wish list of plenty of D1 coaches sooner rather than later.

Gerald Doakes, 6-3 shooting guard, Jacksonville Lighthouse: The 3rd member of Team Portis Wings Elite 15U to make this list, and like Moore and Davis, Doakes took part in the CP3 Rising Stars camp last summer, and he emerged ranked No. 82 in the nation among freshmen according to Coast2CoastPreps. Doakes is lightning quick and very creative off the bounce. He is a volume shooter-scorer, and as they always say about those alpha-scorers, he hasn’t met a shot he doesn’t like. Doakes also has plus-athleticism and can finish above the rim. He was invited to the Team USA tryout camp last year. Another D1 talent in the 2020 class.

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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: You can also follow him live on Twitter @ARHoopScoop.

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