By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas’ lone class of 2023 commitment to this point, Little Rock native Layden Blocker, headlines our list of top spring-and-summer, big-stage basketball performers among Hoop Hogs recruiting targets.
Blocker (6-2 point guard, Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kan., ESPN national No. 28 / 4-star prospect) committed to the Razorbacks in late June, sandwiched in between stellar play in multiple Nike EYBL sessions and the NBPA Top 100 camp.
Blocker was twice named first-team Nike EYBL all session, once third team, and once honorable mention — all by The Circuit — and he was also named 1 of 10 all-stars at the conclusion of the loaded-field NBPA camp.
Blocker wrapped up his grassroots career last week at the prestigious Nike EYBL Peach Jam as his 17U Brad Beal Elite squad went from winning a play-in game against 17U Team Melo a week ago to reaching the event’s championship bracket quarterfinals against 17U Team Takeover on Friday.
His Peach Jam run — going 5-2 in six days — proved to be a microcosm of Blocker’s career to this point. Averaging 16.3 points (47.3% field goals, including 34.0% from 3, and 75.7% free throws), 5.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.4 steals spread out over five Nike EYBL events including Peach Jam, it was more about the favorable descriptors than statistics when defining Blocker’s impact on his team while projecting his long-term value at the next levels of basketball.
Production, talent, clutch playmaking, dogged determination, and both-ends toughness — these are the phrases that come to mind watching Blocker compete going back to when he was an 8th-grader. Over time, he’s developed and emerged to display an elite combination of explosive burst and leaping ability with finishing skill. He takes over games at both ends of the floor as a scorer, rebounder, facilitator, and relentless ball-hawk defensively.
And he hunts the big-game competition without backing down. Case in point was his 27-point, 10-rebound, 4-assist double-double in a win during Nike EYBL session three in May when he was going head-to-head against 5-star guard DJ Wagner, who was at one time the national No. 1 prospect in the 2023 class. Blocker once again got the better of Wagner and his 17U NJ Scholars in Peach Jam pool play last week, hitting 2-of-2 free throws with 4.6 seconds to play to ice a 66-61 win on Monday as Blocker notched a team-high 15 points, team-high 3 assists, and 3 rebounds.
Two days later, Blocker’s runner in the paint with 0:23 to play extended a one-possession lead to a two-possession advantage in 17U BBE’s 63-62 win over 17U Team Griffen in Peach Jam pool play as Blocker finished with 12 points, a game-high 6 assists, and 5 rebounds.
“I mean I only saw him that one time at NBPA (Top 100 Camp) but was impressed with his quick twitch explosiveness getting to the basket, his toughness, physicality, and defense,” an NBA scout said when asked his thoughts on Blocker’s game. “That’s got to remain the cornerstones of his game while improving his 3-point shooting & playmaking for others.”
For his on-court excellence, Blocker is our MVP among the top Hoop Hog recruiting targets who took part in 2022 spring-and-summer grassroots play.
* 2023 Arkansas offer Baye Fall (6-10 forward / center, Accelerated Schools in Denver, Colo., 247Sports national No. 12 / 5-star prospect) made as strong a case as anyone for top billing here as he made the Pangos All American Camp Top 30 all-star game in early June as well as 1 of 10 all star honorees from the NBPA Top 100 camp in early July, two events wrapped around Fall’s consistently superior play on the Adidas 3SSB circuit. During NBPA Top 100 Camp, Fall was the only player to average a double-double in championship tournament bracket play. He was also honored with an invite to the Adidas 3SSB All American Camp. Long and athletic with a big motor and freakishly quick lift and long strides to rebound and block shots out of his area, Fall is a crafty interior scorer using footwork, quickness, elevation, and length to finish over defenders. Fall took an unofficial visit to Fayetteville for the Arkansas-Kentucky game in February, and he plans to return for an official visit in the fall.
* 2023 Arkansas offer Ron Holland (6-8 forward, Duncanville, Texas, ESPN national No. 4 / 5-star prospect) was the heart and soul of Team USA’s gold medal run at the U17 FIBA World Cup in Malaga, Spain, earlier this month, marking his second consecutive FIBA gold medal in as many years representing Team USA. Holland took time off last week for rest and reconditioning – consequently missing Peach Jam — but he was consistent and efficient for 17U Drive Nation during the Nike EYBL sessions in April and May. Holland is a long, athletic 3/4-combo forward who is elite in transition with above-the-rim finishing ability and an emerging face-up game all the way out to the three-point line. He’s unselfish and has the tools to project as a plus-defender at the next levels of basketball. Holland took an official visit to Arkansas in early June, and he has the Hogs, UCLA, Kentucky, Texas, and the NBA G-League as his Top 5 choices.
* 2023 Arkansas offer Assane Diop (6-10 3/4-combo forward, Accelerated Schools in Denver, Colo., ESPN national No. 47 / 4-star prospect) also took part in Pangos, NBPA, and Adidas 3SSB All Americans camps as he consistently put up scoring and rebounding production in those events as well as Adidas 3SSB circuit events throughout the spring and summer. A versatile, face-up talent with perimeter skills, Diop might be one of the most underrated players in the country. Along with his cousin and teammate Baye Fall, Diop took an unofficial visit for that Arkansas-Kentucky game in February in Fayetteville. He recently named Arkansas among his top 8 college choices, a list that includes Auburn, Ohio State, Arizona State, Colorado, Seton Hall, Kansas State, and BYU. Same as Fall, Diop looks to return to Arkansas for an official visit in the fall.
* 2023 Arkansas offer Wesley Yates III (6-4 shooting guard, Beaumont United in Texas, 247Sports national No. 34 / 4-star prospect) put on a three-point shooting show along with revealing real craft in his dribble-drive shot-creation game through most of the Nike EYBL’s four sessions followed by Peach Jam. He was among the top performers at Pangos All American Camp in early June coming off blistering shooting performances in late May during Nike EYBL session three. Yates scored 31 points in a game during Nike EYBL session four with Arkansas assistant coaches sitting courtside. Yates is currently in Las Vegas to compete in one more grassroots event — the Big Time Finale. He is looking at fall dates to take an official visit to Arkansas.
* 2023 Arkansas offer Chris Johnson (6-4 combo guard, Montverde Academy via Missouri City, Texas, ESPN national No. 24 / 4-star prospect) is one of the most versatile and talented players in the nation regardless of class or position, and after switching in July from Nike EYBL to the Under Armour Association circuit he led 17U Houston Defenders to the UAA Atlanta live-eval event championship earlier this month. He had more top-shelf performances at the UAA Next Finals last week. A gifted and creative playmaker both as a scorer and facilitator, Johnson was a stat-sheet stuffer at both Pangos and NBPA Too 100 camps before participating in Team USA training camp. He took an unofficial visit to Arkansas last fall and has indicated that he plans to come back for an official visit this fall.
* 2023 Arkansas offer Zayden High (6-9 stretch-5, Arizona Compass Prep via Spring Branch, Texas, composite national No. 37 / 4-star prospect) is as gifted a perimeter big as you’ll find at the high school level as he excels in two-man scenarios out on the floor — dribble handoffs, pick-and-roll, and pick-and-pop. He can knock down the three-point shot but he can also create out on the floor with his ball-handling and his passing is elite for a big. High was a consistent volume scorer and rebounder throughout the grassroots hoops season as he blew up for 17U JL3 Elite on the Nike EYBL circuit in April before having strong outings at Pangos and NBPA Top 100 camps while also continuing his productive play during Nike EYBL sessions in May and July. High also took part in Team USA training camp. He is looking at visiting Arkansas in the fall.
* 2023 Arkansas target RJ Jones (6-3 guard, Wasatch Academy via Texas, ESPN national No. 37 / 4-star prospect) was a flame-thrower shooting the ball mixed in with athletic finishes at the rim, especially in July, with 17U JL3 Elite on the Nike EYBL circuit. Perhaps no shooting guard raised his profile in July more than Jones, who consistently scored at all three levels during Nike EYBL session four and then Peach Jam last week. In a battle against 17U All Ohio on Wednesday, Jones cored 22 points, which included a 6-of-14 effort from 3. Jones took an unofficial visit to Arkansas last fall, and it remains to be seen if he works out an official visit in the near future.
* 2023 Arkansas target Kaden Cooper (6-6 wing / small forward, Ada, Okla., 247Sports national No. 47 / 4-star prospect) is a late-blooming chart-climber who added improved ball skills and consistent production to his elite athleticism this spring and summer while playing with 17U Team Trae Young on the Adidas 3SSB circuit. It will be interesting to see of Cooper, who was previously in the class of 2022 before reclassifying to 2023, includes Arkansas when he releases his list of top college choices.
* We’ve got 13 names on the standouts list from the Hoop Hogs’ current class of 2024 recruiting targets, with a spotlight here on 2024 Arkansas offer K. Annor Boateng (6-5 wing, Little Rock Central, 247Sports national No. 36 / 4-star prospect), who averaged 17.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.0 steals over six games last week at the Adidas 3SSB Open Championships in Seal Beach, Calif. Boateng averaged 25.0 points per game — including a 32-point outing — for the 16U Hawks during their 5-game run at the Adidas 3SSB Summer Championships in Rock Hill, S.C., in early July. He followed that up with a strong showing at Adidas 3SSB All American Camp. Boateng also took part in Team USA’s U17 training camp in June. A recent unofficial visitor for Arkansas Razorbacks practice, Boateng is a physical specimen using an elite combination of athleticism, quickness, and speed to blast his way as a slasher and above-the-rim finisher, and he’s made significant strides as a ball-handler and shooter (both mid-range and out the three-point line). He’s arguably the top on-ball defender in Arkansas. Boateng has an offer list that includes the Hogs, Memphis, Auburn, and a host of other high-major programs.
More from the 2024 class of prospects on the Razorbacks coaches’ collective recruiting radar who excelled during spring-and-summer grassroots and/or scholastic events play (and some international play for Team USA): Dallas “Slim” Thomas (6-8 wing, Little Rock Parkview, 247Sports national No. 27 / 4-star prospect); Dink Pate (6-7 guard, Dallas Pinkston, composite national No. 29 / 4-star prospect); Tre Johnson (6-6 guard, Lake Highlands in Texas, ESPN national No. 3 / 5-star prospect); David Castillo (6-1 guard, Bartlesville, Okla., ESPN national No. 7 / 5-star prospect); Ian Jackson (6-4 guard, Bronx, NY, composite national No. 2 / 5-star prospect); Trentyn Flowers (6-8 wing / small forward, Rosedale Christian Academy, Winchester, Va., 247Sports national No. 6 / 5-star prospect); Jahki Howard (6-6 wing / small forward, Donda Academy, ESPN national No. 15 / 5-star); Jase Richardson (6-2 point guard, Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, composite national No. 23 / 5-star prospect); Isaiah Evans (6-6 wing / small forward, North Mecklenburg, N.C., 247Sports national No. 20 / 4-star prospect); Asa Newell (6-9 forward, Montverde Academy, composite national No. 37 / 4-star prospect); Labaron Philon (6-3 guard, Mobile, Ala., ESPN national No. 31 / 4-star prospect); and Marcus Allen (6-6 wing, Miami, Fla., composite national No. 32 / 4-star prospect).
* We’ve included one recruit from 2025, and it’s the first prospect from that class that Arkansas offered a scholarship to: Terrion Burgess (6-8 wing, Marion), who not only made the move up from the 15U division for the two July live-evaluation periods, but he made the most of the opportunity by consistently finishing among the 16U Hawks’ top three scorers and rebounders while earning himself a late invite to the Adidas 3SSB All American Camp. Burgess continues to grow — he will possibly push 6-10 — and with a multitude of guard skills combined with his length and athleticism he is already hard to handle. Burgess holds multiple Division 1 scholarship offers headlined by the Hogs and Auburn. He recently took an unofficial visit to Arkansas to attend practice.
We had all bases covered throughout spring and summer basketball as it related to Arkansas Razorbacks men’s basketball recruiting, so for your one-stop shop on results, stats, highlights, and more, click the Hogville.net links below …
* First July live period (July 6-10) …https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=744102.0
* Second July live period (July 20-24) …https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=744318.0
* Team USA at U17 FIBA World Cup in Spain (July 2-10) …https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=744040.0
* Arkansas coaches’ first direct contact with class of 2024 prospects tracker (June 15) …https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=743542.0