Could DJ Weaver End Up 6th Arkansas Hawk To Become Hog?



It’s long been believed the Arkansas Razorbacks have the inside track to land combo forward Deshang “DJ” Weaver of Cypress Falls, TX, and add to an already impressive 2018 recruiting class.

Not only has Weaver been attending Arkansas’s elite camp going back at least a couple of years, he earned a scholarship offer from the Hogs last fall while on an unofficial visit. He also joined the Arkansas Hawks’ 17U team — all 5 starters are committed to the Hogs — for the current spring/summer grassroots season on the Adidas Uprising circuit.

If signs were already pointing to a Weaver-Hogs union somewhere down the road, Weaver’s own confirmation last week that Arkansas was in fact the leader for his services might signal that the road is a quick, straight shot to Fayetteville.

“Yeah,” was DJ Weaver’s response when asked if the Hogs were No.1 on his wish list. “Time frame (to announce his college choice) is after this summer.”

That time frame sounds like the same course taken by the four 2018 Arkansas Hawks — Isaiah Joe, Reggie Perry, Desi Sills, and Ethan Henderson — in 2016 when they all announced commitments just after their grassroots basketball season concluded and before the start of their high school season. Those four commitments were made from early August to early September. The fifth Hawks 17U starter — Justice Hill — is Arkansas’s lone commitment for the 2019 class, and he announced in February 2016 when he was a high school freshman.

Weaver, a versatile 6-7 forward who can play inside and out, has garnered a combination of offers and interest from a bevy of Texas schools — Texas, Baylor, TCU, Houston, and UT-Arlington. Currently rated a 4-star recruit by ESPN, Weaver was ranked among the Top 10 players in the country for the class of 2018 by some national recruiting services after his freshman season.

But Weaver suffered ACL and MCL injuries to his knee and sat out all of 2015-16 (his sophomore season) and half of 2016-17 (his junior season) before rejoining his high school team in late December. That’s effectively 18 months out of basketball, and since returning, Weaver has been on a reduced/monitored minutes diet. Still, in limited minutes on the floor he shows why college coaches at high-major schools continue to recruit him.

Weaver is getting 11.5 minutes per game to this point with the Hawks, and his scoring (4.5 points per game) and rebounding (2.4 boards per game) don’t convey his value when he’s on the court. At 6-7 with good length, Weaver has impressive shooting touch out to and beyond the 3-point line. Through eight games so far during two Adidas Gauntlet sessions, Weaver is shooting 41.7% from 3-land (5-of-12) — that’s the second-best 3-point efficiency on the team next to Joe’s 50%. Weaver is also shooting 46.9% from the field overall (15-of-32). He’s committed only 7 turnovers (fewest among Hawks averaging at least 10 minutes per game), and his 4 blocked shots are second on the team (Perry leads with 19 blocks).

Looking beyond statistical data, Weaver has revealed a high basketball IQ, especially his decision-making and advanced understanding of spacing and timing at both ends of the floor. Combine that with his ability to play on the wing, at the high post, or inside with his back to the basket, and Weaver has been a spark off the bench as a nice utility player for the Hawks.

Weaver also fits a need at Arkansas. The Hogs have been actively recruiting smalls forwards, combo forwards, and interior bigs to fill what are presumably the last two available scholarships in the 2018 class.

The big unknown right now is Weaver’s ability to play extended minutes consistently. In one game at Real Deal in the Rock just over a month ago, Weaver played heavy minutes as the Hawks’ other bigs were plagued with foul trouble, and he responded with a double-double: 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks.

Weaver is playing at 75-80% of his pre-injury self, and members of the Hawks organization have expressed that is mostly due to a mental hurdle right now as Weaver continues to work through his lengthy injury-rehabilitation process. After being out 18 months, he’s really only been back competing for 4 months.

You can expect Arkansas coaches to keep a close watch on his progress, and if a Weaver commitment is just down the road at the end of the summer, the Hogs will have added a versatile piece at a position of need to a 2018 class that is currently ranked No. 1 in the country by most recruiting services.

* * *

Hogs offer 2018 North Carolina power forward: Just prior to the start of the multiple national grassroots events in late April, Arkansas reached out to Ian Steere, a highly regarded 6-9 power forward at Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, N.C., who plays with Team Charlotte 17U on the Under Armour Association circuit.

That initial contact has blossomed into full-blown recruitment, and the Hogs offered Steere a scholarship on Monday (May 1) after maintaining constant contact with him while also watching him play with Team Charlotte 17U at both recent UAA national events — April 21-23 in New York City and April 28-30 in Indianapolis.

“Arkansas offered,” Steere told me on Monday. “I’m very excited about the opportunity that Arkansas is giving me, and I plan on building this relationship with them the rest of the summer!”

“Currently I am developing a relationship with Coach Scotty Thurman and Mike Anderson. We text or call frequently and talk about both basketball and just life in general.”

Steere, who’s a composite national Top 175 prospect in the 2018 class, has been one of the hottest names in recruiting of late, picking up offers in just the past few weeks from the Hogs, Kansas, Florida State, Clemson, Missouri, Connecticut, Georgia, Texas Tech, Tennessee, Creighton, St. Joe’s, and others.

Steere said he is “very interested in Arkansas”, but is in no hurry to pick a school, although he is looking to start taking visits soon.

“I’m hoping to take a bulk of my visits in June,” he said, later adding, “As of now, I don’t have a cut list yet but I will probably do that shortly after AAU season ends.”

Steere is averaging 10.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks through two sessions of Under Armour play, and he’s shooting 60.6% from the field, which is third-best on the UAA circuit!

Steere is a sturdy 230 pounds at 6-9, but his highlight reels indicate he is very bouncy and quick off his feet, allowing him to make plays above the rim. He has a solid face-up, mid-range game in addition to an array of pet moves around the basket. Steere appears to be the ideal, complementary piece in the frontline to go along with 2017 Hog signee Daniel Gafford and 2018 Hog commits Reggie Perry and Ethan Henderson.

Those were my observations before asking Steere to critique his own game, and here’s what he said: “I feel that some of my strengths are my athleticism and speed for my height and size, and my effort on both ends of the floor. My mid-range, face-up, and post-game is improving every day, I feel like.”

Steere also sees areas he needs to work on.

“Some things I would like to work on are my pick-and-roll defense, and overall perimeter defense, so I can be a threat at both ends of the floor at the next level.”

It’s not all basketball all the time for Steere, though. Something Hog fans might find interesting is that he’s an avid movie-watcher: “I love movies,” he said. “Anytime I can, I try to go to the movies or watch them online.”

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Hogs offer 2018 combo forward from Louisiana: With wing and frontline players being an apparent priority for the Hogs as they look to fill those final two spots in the 2018 class, Arkansas extended an offer Monday (May 1) to Josh LeBlanc, a 6-7 combo forward from Madison Prep Academy in Baton Rouge, LA, who plays with Louisiana Elite 17U on the Under Armour Association grassroots basketball circuit.

LeBlanc, ranked the composite national No. 120 prospect / a 4-star for the class of 2018, said he thinks Arkansas is a “nice school” and that he found out about his Hog offer when “my coach told me (Monday) morning.”

LeBlanc also reports offers from LSU, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, TCU, Iowa State, Georgetown, St. John’s, Texas Tech, and Houston, among others.

Asked if he will visit Arkansas, LeBlanc said, “I plan on it.” He’s talked with head coach Mike Anderson, but the majority of his interaction has been with his lead recruiter, Scotty Thurman. “Me and coach Thurman talk a lot,” he said.

LeBlanc, who played at Real Deal in the Rock just over a month ago, has excellent length and bounce at 6-7, and he has one of the quickest bursts I’ve seen. He’s averaging 12.9 points, 8.6 rebounds (4th in UAA), 1.5 steals, and is shooting 57.9% from the field (5th in UAA).

LeBlanc previously said “I think I fit the (Hogs’) playing style … a transition team that defends.”

* * *

Hogs reach out to 2018 big man from Kentucky: According to the head coach of his high school team, 6-10 junior power forward / center Christian Lorng was the subject of an inquiry made by Arkansas coaches last week.

“University of Arkansas has called about 2018 big Christian Lorng” was the tweet last week from Wesley Christian (KY) high school coach Dave Meddings.

Lorng, who has reported offers from Tennessee, Creighton, and Houston, was an unofficial visitor to the Vols in Knoxville in early January when the Hogs came into town and left with an SEC road win. Playing for the undefeated Louisville Magic 17U squad, Lorng is averaging 10.3 points and 7.9 rebounds though 8 games / 2 sessions of the Adidas Gauntlet.

With Arkansas coaches Mike Anderson and Melvin Watkins in attendance in Fort Worth, TX, a couple of weekends ago, Lorng had 17 points and 7 rebounds in a Louisville Magic win over the Arkansas Hawks 17U team.

Lorng carries 240 pounds on his powerfully built 6-10 frame. He is both strong and athletic while playing the role of enforcer in the paint. It would not be a surprise if the Hogs were to offer Lorng a scholarship this summer.

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Southwest Christian Academy senior guard commits to Texas Tech, and two more SCA seniors close to decisions: 2017 shooting guard Avery Benson, who transferred to SCA in Little Rock for his senior season after playing at Springdale Har-Ber high school, announced via Twitter on Monday that he had committed to Texas Tech of the Big XII conference.

Benson, who at 6-3 is a good shooter and underrated slasher, had visited the Red Raiders in Lubbock, TX, in recent weeks. Chris Beard, the first-year head coach at Texas Tech in 2016-17, was the first to offer Benson a scholarship at the time he was head coach of the Little Rock Trojans (2015-16). In fact, not only was it Benson’s first college offer, it was Beard’s first offer to a player as a head coach.

Fast-forward to present time, and Beard offered Benson a scholarship again — this time to Texas Tech, and Benson wasted no time in accepting. SCA head coach Charles Baker said details are still being worked out, but that he expects Benson will sign his national letter of intent with Texas Tech on Wednesday at the SCA gym.

“I loved the campus and everything that came with it,” Benson said. “Also, I loved the coaches … and it’s no secret that me and Coach Beard and the whole staff are already like family.”

Benson, who led SCA in scoring this season as the Lions finished 34-3 including winning the National Association of Christian Athletes (NACA) national championship, was also recruited by TCU, Colorado, Colorado State, and Stephen F. Austin, among others. He was named NACA All American, Texas Christian Athletic League (TCAL) All Conference, and @ARHoopScoop All Arkansas.

With Benson’s commitment, SCA still expects to have a couple more seniors commit and sign soon with NCAA Division 1 schools. Mladen Armus, and Gabe Osabuohien have each made two trips for official recruiting visits in the past week.

Armus (a 6-9 power forward from Serbia) visited East Tennessee State and St. Louis, while Osahuobien (a 6-7 combo forward from Toronto) visited Illinois-Chicago and Murray State.

* * *

Trio of 2017 Arkansas signees talk about joining up together with the Hogs: Just minutes after seniors Daniel Gafford, Khalil Garland, and Darious Hall played together on the same court in the same game for the first time ever a few weeks ago in the Senior Showcase all-star game in Little Rock, they shared their thoughts on their upcoming transition to college basketball as teammates with the Arkansas Razorbacks … in the same interview.

“It feels good playing against each other, and with each other,” Garland said of Hall and Gafford as they stood next to him. “It’s going to be a special sight to see next year.”

Hall added: “We’ve seen each other’s weaknesses and strengths, we can talk to each other and work on it (our games), then come to The Hill and dominate next year.”

Gafford, who spoke last, didn’t mince words: “It’s gonna be crazy, boy!”

All three are rated 4-star recruits by ESPN. Garland recently tweeted that May 28 is his move-in date at Arkansas.

* * *

Recruiting interest picks up and offers go out to several 2018, ’19, and ’20 prospects from Arkansas: While the in-state senior class of 2017 is busy wrapping up late spring signings, recruiting has really picked up for several of the state’s underclassmen as college coaches had opportunities to see them compete in April at various national grassroots events

Hog coaches Mike Anderson, Melvin Watkins, T.J. Cleveland, and Scotty Thurman criss-crossed the country — New York, Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta, Hampton (VA), and Indianapolis — to evaluate in-state talent in addition to regional and national recruits, resulting in a few offers and multiple inquiries of interest. Coaches from all over the country have done the same, and based on the surging talent level in Arkansas, it is no surprise that several D1 offers went out to in-state prospects over the past couple of weeks.

The NCAA’s recruiting “quiet period” began on Monday, May 1, and runs through July 5, so as a follow-up to the offers and interest that came out recently, fans should pay attention over the next 6 or 7 weeks as prospects begin taking visits to college campuses. Here are the latest in-state recruiting developments …

Caleb Stokes, 6-8 PF, Little Rock Parkview / Arkansas Hawks 17U, Class of 2018 … Stokes, who already holds an offer from the Little Rock Trojans, recently picked up an offer from D1 South Florida. Stokes has drawn recruiting interest from Arkansas, Alabama, TCU, LSU, Nebraska, and others.

Gerald Doakes, 6-2 SG, Jacksonville Lighthouse / Wings Elite 15U, Class of 2020 … Doakes picked up an offer from Texas A&M, just aftter picking up offers from D1 schools Southern Miss and Abilene Christian, with Arkansas and SMU showing interest. Doakes averaged 19.5 points per game during the Wings’ most-recent run to the Nike EYBL 15U title in Indianapolis.

Chris Moore, 6-5 combo forward, West Memphis / Wings Elite 15U, Class of 2020 … Moore, who has a double-double in all 24 of the unbeaten Wings’ games, added Southern Miss and Abilene Christian offers to his Memphis offer, with Arkansas and SMU showing interest.

Davonte Davis, 6-2 PG, Jacksonville Lighthouse / Wings Elite 15U, Class of 2020 … Davis, like his Wings 15U teammates Doakes and Moore, picked up offers from Southern Miss and Abilene Christian, with Arkansas and SMU showing interest. Davis averaged 19.5 points and 6.6 assists at the Nike EYBL event in Indy.

Moses Moody, 6-4 SG, Little Rock Parkview / Team Superstar South 15U, Class of 2020 … Moody has been a reliable scorer and leader during his team’s tournament title runs in back-to-back weekends. He’s drawing recruiting interest from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Indiana, Purdue, Virginia, TCU, and more.

Khalen “KK” Robinson, 5-11 PG, Episcopal Collegiate / Arkansas Hawks 16U, Class of 2020 … Robinson, a consistent double-figure scorer who is playing up with the 16U Hawks, led his team to the elite eight of the Adidas Gauntlet 16U championship bracket April 28-30 in Atlanta. According to a member of the Hawks organization, Arkansas and Indiana have inquired and are showing a high level of interest in Robinson.

* Twenty-one more names to keep an eye on in terms of potential offers, interest, visits … 2018 combo guard Grehlon Easter of Little Rock Mills / Wings Elite 17U; 2018 point guard Shakur Daniel of Southwest Christian Academy / Pro Skills (TX) 17U; 2018 combo guard C.J. White of Little Rock Parkview / Pro Skills (TX) 17U; 2018 stretch-5 Connor Vanover of Baptist Prep / Pro Skills (TX) 17U; 2018 combo guard T.J. Smith of Riverview / Arkansas Hawks 17U; 2018 point guard Tony Hutson of Jonesboro / Arkansas Hawks 17U; 2018 wing Asa Hutchinson IV of Bentonville / Wings Elite 17U; 2019 combo guard Isaac McBride of Baptist Prep / Team Penny 16U; 2019 forward Shawn Fudge of North Little Rock / Arkansas Hawks 16U; 2019 wing Collin Moore of North Little Rock / Wings Elite 16U; 2019 combo forward Timothy Caesar of Marion / Team Penny 16U; 2019 forward Airion Simmons of Little Rock Parkview / Arkansas Hawks 16U; 2019 forward Maleek Cartwright of Clarendon / Wings Elite 16U; 2019 point guard Tylor Perry of Springdale Har-Ber / Team Mokan Elite 16U; 2019 combo guard Jay Campbell of Little Rock McClellan / Arkansas Hawks 16U; 2019 combo guard Allen Flanigan of Little Rock Parkview / Arkansas Hawks 16U; 2020 guard Treylon Payne of Episcopal Collegiate / Team Superstar South 15U; 2020 wing Detrick Reeves, Jr., of Team Superstar South 15U; 2020 guard Ryan Gordon of Little Rock Parkview / Team Superstar South 15U; 2020 wing Austin Garrett of Springdale Har-Ber / Wings Elite 15U; 2021 guard Madison Peaster of Horace Mann / Wings Elite 15U.

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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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