LITTLE ROCK — by Kevin McPherson
Arkansas has no seniors on the current 2018-19 roster, and coupled with 2019 Hog commit Justice Hill having put his official visit to Fayetteville (Oct. 5-7) behind him as he looks to sign his national letter of intent in mid-November before joining the Hogs in mid-December as an early enrollee, the Razorbacks are facing a temporary scholarship-numbers problem.
That should be alleviated by the expected early departure of sophomore center Daniel Gafford, who’s projected as a lottery pick in the 1st round of the 2019 NBA Draft if he leaves school after the ’18-19 season. The numbers problem could be worked out even sooner than that if redshirt freshman Khalil Garland is not medically cleared and subsequently goes on medical hardship this year, which looks to be a possibility.
However the numbers work out — and they always seem to — the Hogs are apparently not ready put a bow on the current class while looking ahead to future classes. In this era of mass transfers and heavy roster turnover in college basketball, Arkansas keeps chugging along on the recruiting trail in pursuit of 2019 prospects.
Based on the ’19 offers that Arkansas coaches started handing out in the spring, the focus has been on finding a forward-center type to replace Gafford, as well as small forward / wing prospects.
Hog offer Javon Franklin (6-7 combo forward, Holmes, MS, Community College via Little Rock Parkview) is planning to take his official visit to Arkansas on a weekend during basketball season when the Hogs are playing a home game, and he intends to sign during the spring period that begins in April 2019.
“We are still deciding when I’m going to take my official (visit to Arkansas),” Franklin said on Thursday, Oct. 11.
Arkansas coaches Mike Anderson and Melvin Watkins watched him practice at Holmes in September, as did coaches from Missouri, Georgetown, and Memphis. In addition to those schools, Franklin is being recruited by Auburn, Ole Miss, Missouri, Kansas State, Wichita State, and San Diego State. He took an unofficial visit to Auburn in late September.
“It was good and we had a great talk!” Franklin said last month of the Arkansas coaches’ on-campus visit. “They told me that they need a player like me with great athletic ability, and that my jump shot was looking better.”
Franklin averaged 10.8 points (on 63.2% FGs), 8.2 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 2.0 assists, and 1.0 steal in 29 games last season as a freshman at Holmes. A 2017 graduate of Parkview, Franklin possesses arguably the most explosive hops to come out of Arkansas in some time — and that’s saying a lot. He’s relentless and aggressive around the basket, finishing high-percentage shots while proving to be a volume rebounder and a plus-rim-protector.
But watching him match up with other D1 and high-major hoopers during spirited pick-up games back in early August — playing with and competing against the likes of Hog alum Anton Beard, Hog freshmen Khalil Garland and Ethan Henderson, as well as Auburn commit Allen Flanigan, among other college players — Franklin was not only his explosive self playing above the rim, but he also consistently took and efficiently made shots from the mid-range and behind the 3-point line, looking comfortable both off the bounce and in catch-and-shoot opportunities.
Yes, it was pickup basketball, but for a player viewed mostly as an interior and open-court finisher in high school, it was obvious that Franklin had worked hard to bolster his offensive arsenal beyond the paint and facing the basket, parts of his game that he said coaches told him he needed to improve.
“That’s what I’ve been working on the whole summer — my ball handling, my three-point shot, mid-range, face-up game,” Franklin said back in August.
Arkansas is known to be interested in and evaluating at least three 2019 bigs — Jalyn McCreary, Demontay Dixon, and Reyhan Cobb — who have all indicated they will likely sign in the spring period.
McCreary (6-8 forward, Legacy Early College High School in South Carolina, Game Elite Gold 17U on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit, composite national Top 200 / 3-star prospect) is in constant communication with Arkansas assistant coach T.J. Cleveland, who plans to watch McCreary play in a jamboree at Legacy that starts on Friday, Oct. 26.
“I spoke to (Cleveland) earlier today,” said McCreary, who’s middle school coach — former football Hog DeAnthony Hall — had been sending highlight-reel clips of McCreary to Cleveland. “Hopefully (Arkansas) will offer after the jamboree.”
McCreary added that Arkansas is in his “Top 5” schools along with “Georgia, Georgia Tech, Cincinnati, Xavier.” He said he’d prefer signing in the mid-November early period, but realizes it will likely be the spring before he signs.
McCreary holds offers from Xavier, UMass, and South Florida among others, and he’s taken one official visit (South Florida), an unofficial visit (Xavier in June), and plans to attend Georgia Tech’s midnight madness practice event this Friday night (Oct. 19). He’s also drawing interest from Texas, Georgetown, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, and Kansas State.
Asked about his game, McCreary talked about his front-court versatility.
“I’m a lefty and people usually say I’m aggressive and hard to stop from scoring,” he said. “I’m described as having a versatile game and have played the 3, 4, and 5. I’ve recently been developing my shot.
“I love dunking, too, and catching alleys or dunking on people. You can see that on most of my film.”
McCreary — he averaged 19.5 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks last season as a junior at Kennesaw Mountain (GA) High School — believes playing his senior season at Legacy Early College (SC) High School will help him develop for the next level.
“Legacy plays a national schedule,” he said. “Legacy is giving me the opportunity to get stronger and develop my skills even more. We are in the gym a lot.”
Dixon (6-9, 205, forward / center, Walters State Community College in Tennessee) said that Arkansas started inquiring about him in early September, and that he’s “very interested” in the Hogs.
Dixon said he’s also being recruited by Cleveland, who in the past week received a highlight reel of Dixon, according to Walters State assistant coach Darrian Jones.
“I sent (Dixon’s) highlights to Coach Cleveland, and he’s supposed to get back with me about coming out (to watch Dixon play),” Jones said.
Dixon is reportedly a skilled and bouncy big, and when asked if that was true Dixon said: “Yes, that’s pretty accurate.”
“At the next level I will play the 4,” he said. “I am an all-around player. I can handle the ball pretty well for a big man and I can run the floor. Also, I can shoot the ball.”
Dixon was originally Class of 2018 when he played at Summit High School in Spring Hill, TN, as well as with Team Thad 17U (Under Armour Association circuit) during the grassroots season, but he suffered a labrum injury and had surgery which affected him during his senior season at Summit. Still, he managed to average 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game.
He signed early (November 2017) with Illinois State. But, Dixon requested a release from his letter of intent in the spring of 2018 and ended up playing a few weekends during the grassroots season with Manimal Elite (KY) 17U on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit as he reopened his recruitment to explore his options. He enrolled at Walters State CC for the 2018-19 season.
Dixon is a freshman qualifier, which means he can sign as soon as the early period in November and have 4 years to play 3. In addition to Arkansas, Dixon said he’s heard recently from D1 schools Tennessee State and Morehead State.
Cobb (6-8 forward, Tyler, TX, Junior College by way of Atlanta) recently confirmed that Cleveland saw him play at the LoneStar Juco/Prep Showcase in Dallas in early October, and that Cleveland has since been in contact with him.
“(Cleveland) said he liked my game, and he wanted to talk more about Arkansas basketball,” Cobb said.
Cobb, who will be a redshirt freshman at Tyler after sitting out ’17-18 with an injury, is teammates with Little Rock Central alum and Tyler sophomore guard Cameron Johnson.
“I am a 6-8 forward/guard, very versatile and can play inside and out,” Cobb said. “3-point shot needs to be more consistent, but I can knock down mid-range all day.”
Things have gone quiet on at least two 2019 prospects who reported Arkansas offers — Sammy Hunter and A.J. Bramah. Both had previously indicated they would visit Fayetteville and likely sign in the spring.
Hunter (6-8 forward, British Columbia Christian Academy by way of the Bahamas) reportedly will take visits to both Ole Miss and Oklahoma in the coming weeks leading up to the mid-November early signing period, and he has given no recent indications that Arkansas is still in play for his services.
Bramah (6-7 small forward / wing, Sheridan College juco in Wyoming), recently added an offer from respected mid-major Nevada. Arkansas was his first reported high-major offer in September.
Hogs up to 3 official visitors this weekend who are ranked national Top 100 in Class of 2020
2020 Bryce Thompson (6-4 shooting guard, Tulsa Booker T. Washington, OK Run PWP 17U on the Under Armour Association circuit, ESPN national No. 45 / 4-star prospect) has upgraded what was originally intended to be an unofficial visit to an official visit to Fayetteville for Arkansas’s homecoming weekend (Oct. 19-21), bringing the total to 3 official visitors this weekend who are nationally ranked in the Top 100 for 2020.
“We are taking an official (visit) to Arkansas this weekend,” Thompson’s father, Rod Thompson, confirmed on Tuesday.
Thompson will join Little Rock native Moses Moody (6-5 shooting guard / wing, Montverde Academy in Florida, Brad Beal Elite 17U on the Nike EYBL circuit, ESPN national No. 20 / 5-star prospect) and Matthew Murrell (6-3 combo guard, Memphis Whitehaven, Team Thad 17U on the Under Armour Association circuit, composite national No. 82 / 4-star prospect according to 247Sports.com) as official visitors to Arkansas this weekend.
Also planning to be in Fayetteville for unofficial visits this weekend are: 2020 Arkansas offer Jaylin Williams (6-9 forward / center, Fort Smith Northside, Joe Johnson Hawks on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit), 2021 Arkansas interest Jalen Ricks (6-5 combo guard, Sylvan Hills, Joe Johnson Hawks on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit), and 2021 Arkansas interest Terran Williams (6-4 wing, Barton by way of Marianna, Joe Johnson Hawks on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit).
For more information on the 6 weekend visitors, including quotes and analysis, please click the following link to a story published last week at KNWA.com and Hogville.net … https://www.nwahomepage.com/sports/pig-trail-nation/espn-5-star-moses-moody-headlines-a-big-homecoming-weekend-of-visitors-for-hogs/1514768357
Moses Moody was the first player from a deep and talented in-state Class of 2020 to pick up an Arkansas scholarship offer, and Moody has decided to make Arkansas his first official-visit …
Young Arkansas hoopers invade Big D and show out
Arkansas was well-represented by prospects from the 2021 and 2022 classes last weekend (Oct. 13 and 14) at the prestigious Pangos All South Frosh / Soph Camp in Dallas, an event that hosted a record 261 campers from all over the southeast, southwest, and midwest.
Six players from Arkansas were ranked among the Top 35 prospects at the event according to Grassrootshoops.net, and a total of seven from Arkansas combined to make the Top 30 and Top 60 all-star games played on Sunday.
2022 Nick Smith, Jr. (6-2 / 6-3 combo guard, Sylvan Hills, Joe Johnson Hawks) was rated the No. 4 prospect overall at the event by Grassrootshoops.net, he was named to the Top 30 all-star game, and he reportedly had a 40-point game during the event. Smith is a silky smooth, long, and wired-to-score guard who can create shots at all three levels. He already holds an NCAA Division 1 scholarship offer from Oral Roberts, and Arkansas assistant coach Melvin Watkins watched him practice in September.
2022 Jesse Washington (6-0 combo guard, Jonesboro, Joe Johnson Hawks) was rated the No. 14 prospect overall at the event by Grassrootshoops.net, and he was named to the Top 60 all-star game (in which he scored 14 points). Another alpha shooter/scorer from the ’22 class, Washington has explosive burst and hops with the skills to finish. He appears to be the next in a long line of quality guards from Northeast Arkansas.
2021 Terran Williams (6-4 wing, Barton by way of Marianna, Joe Johnson Hawks) was rated the No. 23 prospect overall at the event by Grassrootshoops.net, and he was named to the Top 30 all-star game. Williams is a bouncy slasher supreme with emerging perimeter skill, and he’s a plus defender. Williams holds a TCU offer with interest from Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Auburn, and Colorado. He plans to take an unofficial visit to Arkansas this weekend (Oct. 19-21).
2021 Madison Peaster (6-1 point guard, Little Rock Mills, Joe Johnson Hawks) was rated the No. 28 prospect overall at the event by Grassrootshoops.net, and he was named to the Top 60 all-star game. Peaster is an explosive, athletic guard who led the 15U Hawks in scoring, assists, and steals during the 2018 spring/summer grassroots season playing on the ultra-competitive Adidas Gauntlet circuit. He holds a TCU offer with Indiana, Georgia Tech, Auburn, and Oklahoma State showing interest.
2021 Jalen Ricks (6-5 combo guard, Sylvan Hills, Joe Johnson Hawks) was rated the No. 31 prospect overall at the event by Grassrootshoops.net, and he was named to the Top 30 all-star game. Ricks is arguably the top in-state prospect in the ’21 class, and his 3-point game in July was tops for the 15U Hawks as he added to his capable mid-range arsenal. Ricks is a spindly 6-5 with at least a 6-10 wingspan, and he stuffs a stat sheet as a scorer, rebounder, and facilitator. He holds a TCU offer with Arkansas, Indiana, Oklahoma State, and Auburn showing interest. Ricks plans to take an unofficial visit to Arkansas this weekend (Oct. 19-21).
2021 Tracy Steele, Jr. (6-1 / 6-2 combo guard, North Little Rock, Woodz Elite) was rated the No. 35 prospect overall at the event by Grassrootshoops.net. Steele is wiry, an effective shooter from 3, and he’s raised his mid-game craft with improved ball-handling and mid-range-shot creativity.
2022 Jalen Nettles (6-3 wing, Sylvan Hills, Joe Johnson Hawks) was named to the Top 60 all-star game. Nettles has good size and athleticism (and he’s still growing), so he already looks the part of a blossoming D1 prospect. His skill level emerged through the summer and carried over to Pangos, where multiple recruiting analysts took notice. Nettles can score in a variety of ways and feels comfortable shooting from 3, and his combo of size and athleticism give him the potential to be a plus-defender on the perimeter.
More Arkansans who took part at Pangos All South Frosh / Soph Camp last weekend in Dallas: 2021 Jordan Maxwell (6-4 wing, Jacksonville, Joe Johnson Hawks); 2022 Joseph Pinion (6-5 wing, Morrilton); 2022 Jabari West, Jr. (6-7 forward, Hot Springs, Joe Johnson Hawks); 2022 Quion Williams (6-2 wing, Jonesboro, Joe Johnson Hawks); 2021 Caleb Campbell (6-1 combo guard, Hot Springs); 2021 Jadyn “JJ” Walker (5-9 point guard, Hot Springs); 2021 Jaylon Smith (6-0 guard, Estem); 2021 Jaydan Bush (6-0 guard, Joe T. Robinson); 2021 JD Smith (5-10 guard, North Little Rock, Joe Johnson Hawks); and 2021 Jacob Joe (5-11 guard, Fort Smith Northside, Joe Johnson Hawks).