By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Razorbacks had their 2019 signee and multiple recruiting targets in attendance for their annual game in North Little Rock on Saturday — an entertaining 79-67 win over Texas-San Antonio at Verizon Arena.
“I thought they looked good and promising,” new Hog signee Justice Hill said. “I’m excited to join them and I’ll be there Wednesday (at Bud Walton Arena in Fayeteville to watch the UA-Georgia Tech game). Also, getting my stuff ready for semester and and I’ll move up after Christmas.”
Hill — a 5-11, explosive, facilitator-first point guard from Little Rock Christian Academy — has been putting in a lot of gym time since earning Gatorade Arkansas High School Football Player of the Year honors after being named MVP for quarterbacking LRCA to the 5A state football title against dynastic Pulaski Academy a few weeks ago.
“Man, he (Hill) looks great,” said hoops trainer Bart Reid, who trains some of the best basketball players in the state, including Hog alum and Dallas Mavericks two-way-contract combo guard Daryl Macon.
2021 Jalen Ricks — a long 6-5 combo guard for Sylvan Hills and the Joe Johnson Hawks — has now been to at least two Arkansas games so far this season, and he continues to be impressed with Hogs.
“It was a great atmosphere and a good competitive game, so it was an exciting experience,” Ricks said.
Ricks — he had 30 points and 13 rebounds Friday in a 62-57 Sylvan Hills win Friday over Searcy — holds offers from TCU and Oklahoma State with Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Texas A&M, Auburn, and others showing interest.
2022 Nick Smith, Jr. — a 6-3 combo guard for Sylvan Hills and the Joe Johnson Hawks — has also attended multiple Hog games in 2018-19, and he also like what he sees.
“It was a great experience for me seeing how loud the arena was and a lot of energy in the arena,” Smith, Jr. said. “It was a great experience looking at how coach (Mike Anderson) talked to his players and the rest of the coaching staff.”
Smith, Jr. — he registered a 36-point game recently and has multiple double-digit assist outings — holds offers from Oklahoma State and Oral Roberts with Arkansas and others showing interest.
Other in-state players who attended or indicated they would attend the Arkansas-UTSA game: 2019 Arkansas offer Javon Franklin (6-7 combo forward, Little Rock Parkview, Holmes Community College in Mississippi); 2019 Arkansas interest Tim Ceaser (6-8 forward, Marion, Joe Johnson Hawks), 2020 Detrick Reeves, Jr. (6-2 shooting guard, Marion), 2021 Ryan Maxwell, Jr. (6-5 combo forward, Jacksonville), 2021 Jordan Maxwell (6-4 wing, Jacksonville), and 2021 Jacob Joe (5-11 combo guard, Fort Smith Northside).
2019 forward says Hogs still showing interest
2019 Arkanas interest Jalyn McCreary (6-8 forward, Legacy Early College High School in South Carolina) said that Hogs assistant coach T.J. Cleveland has mainainted contact with him and has discussed setting up another trip to watch him play. Cleveland traveled to watch McCreary weeks ago, but the game was cancelled. McCreary recently picked up an offer from DePaul to go with offers from Xavier, UMass, South Florida, and others.
2020 Hog offers go head-to-head in Conway with UA coach looking on
Arkansas associate head coach Melvin Watkins was on hand Friday night when 2020 Hog offers Chris Moore and Jaylin Williams went head-to-head in West Memphis’s 60-56 win over Fort Smith Northside in the John Stanton Classic in Conway.
Moore (6-6 combo forward, West Memphis, Woodz Elite 16U/17U in 2018, composite national 4-star prospect) finished with 13 points, 14 rebounds, 8 blocks, 4 assists, and 4 steals as West Memphis overcame a 48-38 deficit going into the 4th quarter to escape with a 4-point win.
“To me, it was all about who would be the better team,” Moore said of the much talked about big-man matchup.”Let the best man win. It was fun, but at the same time we were both playing for the same thing, and I’m glad my team got the win.”
Earlier Friday, Moore was honored in North Little Rock as the Downtown Tip Off Club’s Boys’ High School Player of the Week. Then on Saturday, Moore had 35 points, 16 rebounds, and 4 assists in West Memphis’s 100-95 triple-overtime loss against host Conway.
Williams (6-10 forward / center, Fort Smith Northside, Joe Johnson Hawks 15U/17U in 2018) had 10 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks, and 3 steals in the loss to West Memphis.
“I feel like I could have played way better,” Williams said. “I could have helped more on the offensive end, helped more on the defensive end, too. Chris (Moore) is a great athlete. Strong, athletic, crazy hops.”
Prior to the matchup, Williams was appreciative that Arkansas’s coaching staff would be attending the game.
“The (Arkansas) coaches showing so much support is really amazing,” he said.
Williams has been a double-double machine to start the 2018-19 season. Over the previous two weekends during events in Missouri and Texas, Williams routinely registered double-doubles, including an impressive outing of 25 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block in a Grizzlies’ win over St. Louis (MO) University High School.
With Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson and associate head coach Melvin Watkins in attendance in November, Williams had a double-double in a road win over Fayetteville. A few days prior to that, he had had 21 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal matching up against ESPN national No. 59 / 4-star prospect Nick Ongenda, a 6-10 center for Southwest Christian Academy.
In addition to the Hogs, Williams holds offers from Oklahoma State, TCU, Tulsa, and Lamar with Iowa State, Auburn, and others showing interest. He has taken a few unofficial visits since October — twice for Arkansas games and once to Oklahoma State — and he said he plans to schedule one of his junior-season official visits to Arkansas some time in 2019. Williams said he also plans to take an official visit to Oklahoma State some time in 2019.
Williams is the picture of the modern-day big man, possessing soft hands and ball skill (handling and shooting) as a face-up big while also being a volume rebounder and solid rim-protector. He’s a weapon in the high-post as a shooter, passer, and dribble-driver to the cup. He employs a host of smart low-post moves to get to a high-percentage shot.
On Nov. 27, Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson and Watkins attended a matchup between West Memphis and Little Rock Parkview when Moore finished with 22 points (8-of-14 field goals and 6-of-8 free throws), 14 rebounds, 4 blocks, 1 steal, and 1 drawn charge in the Blue Devils’ 64-62 overtime road loss to the Patriots.
Moore said after that game he was grateful Arkansas coaches were there to watch him: “It makes me feel good to know they were here tonight.”
Moore, who also holds offers from Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Auburn, Memphis, Ole Miss, TCU, SMU, and others, took his first junior-season official visit to Arkansas in early September. He has also taken an OV to Auburn, as well as unofficial visits to Ole Miss, Memphis, and Iowa State. He plans to take another unofficial visit to Arkansas, likely in 2019 during the current basketball season.
Moore is a chiseled, determined, relentless-motor player who impacts the game at both ends of the floor. He can turn a defensive rebound into a one-man fast break because of his versatility as an open-court handler. His quickness and explosiveness in the paint wears down defenders as he finds good finishing angles when he’s not dunking the ball.
Linked below are several tweets that include highlights from the Moore-Williams matchup Friday in Conway …
“Hammer time! ’20 Hog offer Chris Moore @ChrisMo2020 (6-6 CF, West Memphis) smashes in transition for the Blue Devils … CM2 has 2 pts & 2 rbs early … https://t.co/yQw9DOlHWT”
“’20 Chris Moore @ChrisMo2020 catches mid-post before getting to the cup for the and-1 opportunity … https://t.co/MQmLJDkyxZ”
“CM2, U nasty and vicious! ’20 Hog offer Chris Moore @ChrisMo2020 w/the steaming swatter in transition … https://t.co/vo6E3a8ODQ”
“’20 Arkansas offer Jaylin Williams @Jay_MWilliams_ works himself down for a turnaround off the window … he has 4 pts (2-of-4 FGs) & 2 blks as FSNorthside leads West Memphis, 10-7, midway thru 1st Q at John Stanton Classic in Conway … https://t.co/D1R6EiGqPE”
“Nice work on the baseline for the reverse lay-in by 6-10 Hog offer Jaylin Williams @Jay_MWilliams_ for FSNorthside against West Memphis on Friday at the John Stanton Classic in Conway … https://t.co/3k8WyikKwi”
“’20 Arkansas offer Jaylin Williams @Jay_MWilliams_ (6-10 F/C, FSNorthside is up to 10 pts, 4 rbs, 3 blks, 3 asts, 1 stl as the Grizzlies’ are on a 20-7 run to start the 3rd Q for a 44-36 lead over West Memphis … ’20 Arkansas offer Chris Moore @ChrisMo2020 w/11 pts, 7 rbs, 5 blk https://t.co/efI6ebQVmt”
“U see here why Arkansas has offered both 2020 ballers Chris Moore @ChrisMo2020 and Jaylin Williams @Jay_MWilliams_ … Williams with nice post-entry pass, Moore w/a man’s D reb, then Williams w/the super-sized eraser in transition! https://t.co/eJ7XkidVPV”