Marion has one hooper on Hogs’ recruiting radar, but should it be two?

By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — Even with the Arkansas high school state football playoffs and championships still undecided, don’t let it come as a surprise that at least one high school basketball program in Arkansas with two of the best in-state prospects has already made a very early bid as arguably the best team in the state.
2019 Arkansas interest Tim Ceaser (6-8 forward / center) and 2020 Detrick Reeves, Jr. (6-2 shooting guard) have combined to lead the Marion Patriots to a 4-1 record, including impressive double-digit-margin wins over Bryant, Little Rock Mills, and Little Rock Parkview in the past week.
Ceaser finished with 11 points (including three dunks), 16 rebounds, and 8 blocks against a talented Parkview team as Marion won, 71-59, on Saturday to capture the annual Battle on Barrow event on Parkview’s home floor. Ceaser touched on his Arkansas recruitment after the game.
“I’m still hearing from (Arkansas coaches),” Ceaser said. “I talk to Coach (Melvin) Watkins every other day.”
Ceaser was a force in July 2017 playing with the Joe Johnson Arkansas Hawks on the Adidas Gauntlet 16U circuit before excelling as a junior (2017-18) at Southwest Christian Academy, an independent school in Little Rock that plays a national schedule and appeared in back-to-back National Association of Christian Athletes national championship games (winning the title in ’16-17 and finishing runner-up in ’17-18). On that SCA team last year, Ceaser was one of several frontline players with NCAA Division 1 size and ability, and he stood out as the Lions’ most productive interior scorer and rebounder before sustaining a serious knee injury toward the end of the season.
At the time, programs like Arkansas, Missouri, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, and others were showing strong interest in Ceaser — a volume rebounder, shot-blocker, and opportunistic scorer with good athleticism and underrated skill as a face-up, mid-range shooter and passer. But the knee injury kept him from competing with the Hawks on the spring and summer Adidas Gauntlet grassroots circuit, and after transferring back home to Marion for his senior season, Ceaser enters ’18-19 with a lot of question marks.
“He’s probably 85, maybe 90%,” Marion head coach David Clark said of Ceaser’s recovery from the knee injury. “He’s played well so far and he keeps improving.”
Ceaser’s coach with the Hawks, Bill Ingram, said pre-injury that Ceaser would enter his senior season as arguably the top player in the state and possibly approaching national Top 50 status. 
“Before the injury, he was probably heading toward a Top 50 player once he got back on the (Adidas Gauntlet grassroots) circuit,” Ingram said. “Our system appeared to benefit him better than Team Penny (Nike EYBL circuit), and he showed it last year. Of course, he had the injury and it really slowed him down.”
Ingram watched Ceaser play against Parkview on Saturday, and he sees the improvement and strides Ceaser’s made since the summer.
“I thought he looked good, but he’s still working his way back and looked about 85%,” Ingram said. “If he gets back to 100%, Marion is going to be lethal. He’s moving a lot better now than when he tried to come back and play with us (the Hawks) in the summer.”
With Arkansas dedicating most of its Class of 2019 recruiting efforts on frontline players, expect Ceaser to be on a list of bigs that Hog coaches continue to evaluate leading up to the spring signing period that begins in mid-April.
As for Reeves, the junior’s star is rising and burning bright just five games into the regular season. A 35-point outing in Marion’s 96-72 win over a backcourt-rich Bryant squad on Nov. 17 was the first of several statement games for Reeves as he had back-to-back 25-point nights in wins over Mills and Parkview over the weekend at Battle on Barrow. 
“We’re trying to show ’em that we’re No. 1,” Reeves said after his team’s win over Parkview on Saturday. “I feel great.”
Reeves — he was ninth in scoring (15.5 points per game) on the Under Armour Association 16U national grassroots basketball circuit in the spring and summer of 2018 — holds scholarship offers from mid-major programs Arkansas State and Southern Miss, but he has taken unofficial visits to high-major programs Arkansas, Baylor, and Oklahoma State in the past year. With his dominating performances against some of the best players and guards in the state, expect Reeves to pick up more high-major interest.
“I think he can play at that level,” one high-major assistant coach recently said about Reeves. “Want to see more, but he looks like he can.”
Ingram agrees.
“From watching him, it appears he’s gotten much better,” Ingram said. “He’s got to be in the right situation (in 2019 grassroots’ play), similar to Issac McBride, and if he does there is no question he can be a high-major, a Power 5.”
McBride, a 2019 combo guard at Baptist Prep in Little Rock who signed with Kansas on Nov. 14, joined the Joe Johnson Arkansas Hawks in July 2017 along with Ceaser, and though Ceaser would miss the 2018 grassroots season due to the afore-mentioned knee injury, McBride would flourish as he went from a mid-major prize to a coveted high-major prospect by late July with multiple high-major offers.
At 6-2, Reeves is an aplha shooter-scorer similar in stature and impact to McBride, although Reeves has yet to transform his backcourt game to be serviceable as a handler and facilitator in the same vein that McBride did in the past year. But Reeves has time to improve in those areas. He’s solidly built, strong, athletic, and he can attack offensively at all three levels — 3-point line, mid-range, and at the rim — with craft and confidence as he employs his dribble-drive and pull-up game.
Arkansas has offers out to five in-state prospects from the 2020 class — shooting guard Moses Moody of Little Rock (currently playing at Montverde Academy in Florida), forward / center Jaylin Williams of Fort Smith Northside, forward Chris Moore of West Memphis, point guard Davonte Davis of Jacksonville, and combo guard Gerald Doakes of Jacksonville (currently playing at Milby High School in Houston). 
Reeves may have a chance to join that list if he continues to play at the level he’s shown so far in ’18-19.
Updates on 2019 and 2020 Hoop Hog recruits
Arkansas continues to recruit 2019 with the early signing period now in the rear-view mirror and the spring signing period still months away (mid-April 2019). Here’s the latest, including an update on a 2020 prospect …
—  Arkansas coaches traveled Saturday to watch 2019 Hog offer Doudou Gueye (6-9, 220, guard / forward, Daytona State College juco in Florida) in action.
“Yes, they (Razorbacks coaches) came to the game last night,” Daytona State head coach Brock Morris confirmed on Sunday.
Gueye, who picked up his Arkansas scholarship offer in October, is averaging 21.0 minutes, 10.8 points (54.0% field goals including 33.3% from 3), 5.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.9 steals, and 1.1 blocks for the 8-0 Falcons. His per-40-minute averages work out to 20.5 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 3.6 steals, and 2.1 blocks.
Arkansas coaches also saw Gueye play when Daytona State College took part in the Juco Showcase All American Jamboree the weekend of Oct. 12-14. In addition to Arkansas, he holds offers from Texas Tech, Seton Hall, and East Carolina with Illinois among the schools showing interest. Gueye will have two years of playing eligiblity at the NCAA Division 1 level beginning in ’19-20.


Gueye averaged 28 points and 14 rebounds in 2017-18 while earning Division 1 Player of the Year honors as a college freshman playing in Hachioji, Japan, according to Morris.


“He is a point forward,” Morris said back in October of the Dakar, Senegal native. “He has more of a guard game than a post game, but he can take a smaller defender to the block. He is a great young man.”


A one-time viewing of Gueye’s highlight reel (linked below) is all it takes to see that his combination of size, ball-handling, shooting skill, court awareness, and inside-out versatility are all pluses in his arsenal.  His counter moves are advanced as well and should help him create match-up problems for perimeter and interior defenders. 


—  2019 Dericko Williams (6-8, 212, power forward, Kinston, NC, Team CP3 on the Nike EYBL circuit) was on campus for an official visit to Arkansas the weekend of Nov. 16-18 — which fell in the middle of the week-long early signing period (Nov. 14-21) — but he did not commit or sign with Arkansas last week. 
A decision from Williams is likely to be announced  sometime this week. It is possbile, even if unlikely, that Williams signed a letter of intent with Arkansas or another school during the early period and held the announcement until this week. If not, then a commitment won’t be official until he either signs a letter of intent during the spring signing period that begins in mid-April or graduates early from high school and signs a financial aid agreement / enrolls at a NCAA Division 1 school.
“Freak of nature athleticially,” is how Nike scout Dain Ervin first described Williams. “Tenacious rebounder and strong finisher in transition. If he played football, he could possibly play on Sunday’s at defensive end.”
Williams — a multi-sport athlete who also excels in football — is aggressive and uber-athletic with a strong frame. He attacks the rim, glass, and shot-blocking opportunities with ferocity. He’s a plus-defender, but is limited in ball-handling and shooting skill. He was was one of several Class of 2019 frontline players that Arkansas evaluated during spring and summer grassroots play in anticipation of the early departure of sophomore center Daniel Gafford, who is expected to leave Arkansas in the spring to declare for the 2019 NBA Draft.
Williams reportedly holds offers from Houston, North Carolina-Greensboro, Kansas State, and Virginia Military Institute with several more high-major programs showing interest, including Arkansas, Louisville, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma State, Wake Forest, and others.
In June, Williams listed Arkansas among the 15 schools that were recruiting him, and Razorbacks assistant coach Scotty Thurman was a regular at Team CP3 games during the spring and summer while evaluating both Williams and his CP3 teammate, 6-7 forward / center Brian “BJ” Mack, who at one time scheduled an official visit to Arkansas for late October but ended up committing to South Florida before ever journeying to Fayetteville. Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson joined Thurman to watch Williams play in Las Vegas in late July, at which time a source confirmed that there was mutual interest and that the Hogs were “working” to get Williams on campus for an official visit.
— 2020 Arkansas offer Davonte Davis (6-3 point guard, Jacksonville, ESPN national No. 58 / 4-star prospect) may have missed a couple of planned unofficial visits to Arkansas on back-to-back weekends, but on Saturday he said he still intends to make it to campus in Fayetteville at some point.
“Working on it,” Davis said when asked if he would reschedule again.
Davis was set to visit on Saturday, Nov. 10, but changed that to Sunday, Nov. 18, to attend the Arkansas-Indiana game at Bud Walton Arena, but he missed that visit as well. Davis had previously said he also plans to set up one of his junior-year official visits to Arkansas in the near future. Davis took an unofficial visit to Arkansas in the fall of 2017, and he has already taken official visits to Auburn in late September and Oklahoma State in late October. Davis is also considering taking official visits to Oregon, Florida, and Ole Miss — all three have offered him. Arkansas associate head coach Melvin Watkins was in Jacksonville in September to watch Davis practice.
Davis led his Jacksonville team with a double-double — 14 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals — but his Titans team lost their ’18-19 debut, 68-66, against North Little Rock on Nov. 17 in the Hoopin’ 4 Hoodies event.
Anderson and Watkins were regular spectators as Davis helped lead Woodz Elite 16U to national titles in July at the Nike Peach Jam and Las Vegas Fab 48. He’s a long-armed, long-legged, wiry-strong lefty who combines quickness, skill, and long strides to get into the lane and to the basket seemingly at will. He’s a plus-facilitator with great court awareness and timing, an electrifying open-court playmaker who has improved his perimeter shot out to the 3-point line, and a dangerous defender who when locked in gets a lot of deflections and steals using that length and quickness.
2019 Arkansas interest Jalyn McCreary (6-8 forward, Legacy Early College High School in South Carolina) had 21 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 blocks in Legacy’s 63-62 weekend win over nationally ranked Huntington (WVa) Prep, the same school that produced Hog alum Moses Kingsley.
Arkansas assistant coach T.J. Cleveland is the lead recruiter for McCreary, and Cleveland traveled to Legacy on Nov. 16 with intentions of watching and evaluating McCreary until Legacy’s game against Faith Assembly was cancelled.
“Coach Cleveland came to my game tonight, but it got cancelled,” McCreary said at the time, clarifying that the cancellation was a result of the Faith Assembly team being delayed in traffic due to a vehicle accident. “He left after the (game-cancellation) announcement and after speaking with my coaches.”
McCreary said Cleveland has indicated he will return at a later date to watch him play. On Saturday, Oct. 27, he was expecting Cleveland to be at Legacy to watch him during a jamboree, but McCreary had a scheduling conflict and took the ACT while missing most of the jamboree as Cleveland ended up not making the trip.
McCreary, who will sign in the spring period, has said Arkansas is among the leaders on his wish list of schools. He holds offers from Xavier, UMass, and South Florida among others with Arkansas, Georgia Tech, and a host of other high-major programs showing interest. He’s a bouncy lefty who has added some perimeter shooting skill to his slashing game. He had a 30-point scoring night earlier this month during Legacy’s 103-60 win over Combine Academy.

2019 Arkansas offer Javon Franklin (6-7 combo forward, Holmes, MS, Community College by way of Little Rock Parkview) is still in the early stages of recovery after suffering a season-ending broken leg and subsequently having surgery several weeks ago.
“It’s a tough situtation, but he’s doing well considering,” Holmes head coach Jason Flanigan said Saturday. 
Franklin will redshirt in ’18-19 with three years of playing eligiblity in front him at the NCAA Division 1 level beginning in ’19-20. 
“Oh yes, I feel better knowing that,” Franklin said on Nov. 11 regarding his opportunity to effectively pick up an extra season at the D1 level. 
In the off-season, Franklin put in hours in the gym improving his ball-handling and perimeter shooting skill to complement his explosive effectiveness in the paint. He had 6 points (on 3-of-3 field goals), 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks just 11 minutes into Holmes’ season-opener against Copiah-Lincoln Community College on Nov. 1 when a player “fell on (Franklin’s) leg and broke the lower part, a clean break,” according to Flanigan.
Franklin had surgery on Nov. 2 and was out of the hospital within days. He said he was expecting to be out of basketball at least “three months” recovering from the injury.
Franklin, who said coaches from “Arkansas, Memphis, Auburn, and Seton Hall” had reached out to check on him shortly after the injury, 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. He is beng recruited by Arkansas, Memphis, Auburn, Ole Miss, Missouri, Kansas State, Seton Hall, Wichita State, and San Diego State among others.
“Once I start walking again, that’s when I’ll start my visits,” Franklin said on Nov. 11.

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