Arkansas High School Basketball Strong



The Arkansas Razorbacks got off to a strong start with their 2017 class in the early signing period by inking three 4-star players — Daniel Gafford, Khalil Garland, and Darious Hall currently make up the composite national No. 24 class in ’17 — leaving the Hogs with one scholarship still available to fill in the spring.

Head coach Mike Anderson and his staff have been evaluating high school and junior-college talent and will continue to do so into April when the spring signing period begins. They’ll also have the opportunity to consider senior-graduate-transfer options at that time. Obviously, if there are any unforeseen departures at the end of the current season, the Hogs will have more than one scholarship to give to round out the ’17 class.

Assuming they have just that lone scholarship to give, and based on their recruiting activity over the past few months, I believe the Hogs prefer to sign a “big” — a frontline player who can rebound and score to play either the 4 or 5 spot. Based on their performance on the court this year, I believe another position of need (if not a big) to complete the ’17 class would be a true, facilitating point guard.

As of now, the Hogs have been to see Little Rock Parkview forward Javon Franklin (6-6 combo-4 forward, composite national Top 150 player) multiple times, and they’ve seen Southwest Christian Academy (Little Rock) bigs Mladen Armus (6-9 PF / C from Serbia) and Gabriel Osabuohien (6-7 from Toronto) 2-3 times in the past couple of months.

Franklin, who told me he’s down to two teams — Arkansas and the Little Rock Trojans — on his wish list, may end up in junior college next season. He has elite athleticism but is under-sized to play inside at the high-major level, so he needs to continue to work on improving his ball skill and shooting. He’s averaging 15.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks for the Patriots.

Armus is big, strong, and ready-made to bang around inside, and he’s skilled enough to play at the high post / facing the basket. His athleticism is average, but he’s very active. Arkansas, Missouri, Creighton, Little Rock, and others are recruiting him.

Osabuohien is probably comparable to some of the undersized combo-4s that the Hogs have brought in — could play the 3 but in the Hogs’ system he would probably be a combo-4. He has good length and athleticism, and better ball skill than traditional “power forwards” who play the 4. He is drawing recruiting interest from Arkansas, Missouri, Little Rock, St. Bonaventure, and others.

More 2017 recruiting names and needs will be passed along later as they develop, and next week we’ll look in-depth at what’s left for the 2018 class and the prospects the Hogs are pursuing.

Congratulations to trio of 2017 Arkansas ballers:  ’17 Hog signees Daniel Gafford (El Dorado) and Khalil Garland (Little Rock Parkview), and ’17 Louisiana Tech signee Exavian Christon (Hot Springs) were all recently nominated for consideration for the 2017 McDonald’s All American team and game. It’s the first step in the process, but as they say at the Oscars, it’s quite an honor just to be nominated and good for Arkansas high school basketball.

Couple of 2018 recruiting tidbits:  1) Cordova (TN) junior small forward Rodgerick Brown, who the Hogs offered nearly a year ago, told me earlier this week that the Razorbacks were still in the lead for his services. He has already taken two unofficial visits to Fayetteville (same with Knoxville, TN, and the Vols), and he holds offers from Penn State, Chattanooga, and others with Memphis also showing interest. Brown has said all along he favors the Hogs, and this week he re-affirmed it.

2) The Hogs have been recruiting Midwest City (OK) combo guard Keyshawn Embery for months, and I expect them to offer the 6-3 composite national Top 100 / 4-star prospect very soon. He is having an excellent junior season, and recently scored 50 points in a game. He took an unofficial visit to Fayetteville (along with Rodgerick Brown) back in the fall. He currently holds offers from Oklahoma State, Kansas State, UNLV, Nebraska, and Tulsa.

2018 Hog recruit commmits to St. Louis:  Sikeston (MO) shooting guard Fred Thatch, Jr., who had been on the Hogs’ recruiting radar for several weeks, committed to St. Louis coach Travis Ford on Tuesday night. Arkansas assistant coach Scotty Thurman was in attendance recently for one of Thatch’s high school games, and Thatch told me on Tuesday that his “plans” were to take an unofficial visit to Fayetteville for the Arkansas-Missouri game on Saturday (5 p.m. CT on SEC Network).

Thatch had listed his Top 6 schools for me, with St. Louis No. 1 and the Hogs No. 2. A composite national Top 250 recruit in the 2018 class, Thatch also had offers from Missouri and Tulsa. He had been drawing recruiting interest from Arkansas, Creighton, and Wichita State.

Thatch is a strong 6-foot-3 shooting guard who routinely records double-doubles (points and rebounds). He scored 41 points in a recent holiday-tournament game, then turned around a few nights later and scored 37 points.

My Top 10 Arkansas High School Basketball teams: I released these rankings on Twitter — my first rankigns of the 2016-17 season — last weekend (see below), so by the time readers see this several more games will have been played and likely shifted and shaped changes in my next poll to be released on Twitter this weekend (i.e. No. 8 Fort Smith Northside’s double-digit win AT No. 7 Little Rock Central on Tuesday, Jan. 10) …

1. Jonesboro (12-0)

2. Little Rock Mills (13-1)

tie 3. El Dorado (12-2)

tie 3. Little Rock Parkview (11-3)

*5. Southwest Christian Academy (17-0)

6. Bryant (11-2)

7. Little Rock Central (8-3)

8. Fort Smith Northside (9-4)

9. Maumelle (11-2)

10. Baptist Prep (10-4)

Downtown Tip Off Club: The first weekly luncheon of the 2016-17 season was held on December 21 at the North Little Rock Wyndham hotel, and Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson was the featured speaker with ’17 Hog signee Daniel Gafford of El Dorado in attendance to accept the first Arvest Player of the Week award of the season. Gafford has recorded 9 triple-doubles (points, rebounds, and blocks) in 14 games for the Wildcats (12-2). He’s averaging 20.5 points, 18.5 rebounds, and 9.1 blocks per game.

The event was cancelled last Friday (January 6) due to inclement weather, but Little Rock Mills senior forward and ’17 Hog signee Darious Hall was selected Arvest Player of the Week. Hall has led the Comets to a 14-1 record and a No. 19 national ranking in MaxPreps computer rankings. Hall is averaging 17.5 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.9 steals per game.

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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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