Talent of Real Deal teams back on display

By: Wally Hall
Published: Thursday, April 17, 2014
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/STATON BREIDENTHAL --4/27/12 --  Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski (left) watches a game along with other coaches Friday night during the Real Deal in the Rock tournament.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/STATON BREIDENTHAL --4/27/12 -- Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski (left) watches a game along with other coaches Friday night during the Real Deal in the Rock tournament.

Bill Ingram had spent tens of thousands of dollars for his teams, the Arkansas Hawks, to play in tournaments from coast to coast.

One day he was talking to Mike Conley, the gold medal Olympian, and said he might start a tournament in Arkansas. He said it would be more centrally located than most of the major tournaments, which are in Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla., and if he started in the summer, he could catch some of the better teams.

The first Real Deal tournament was played in Northwest Arkansas in 2005, but by the end of 2008 Ingram couldn’t find enough gyms for all the teams that wanted to participate in the tournament that had grown in respect and stature every year.

Ingram wanted to keep it in the state, so he moved it to central Arkansas and now yearly faces the problem of limiting it to 400 teams.

“Once we went over 500 teams, and I felt like we lost some quality,” he said. “If you don’t have quality you aren’t going to have a tournament for long, so we set the maximum at 400 teams.”

And that’s how many will be in central Arkansas this weekend for the 10th Real Deal.

Actually, the tournament begins tonight at 6 with a couple of exhibition games, border wars if you will, at Little Rock Hall High School.

That’s when the Arkansas vs. Tennessee All-Stars tip off. The first game will feature girls and will be coached by Celia Anderson and Tina Webb-Jackson. The second game is boys and will be coached by former Arkansas Razorbacks greats Ron Brewer and Todd Day.

The players will get to hear NBA analyst Kenny Smith, one of the most knowledgeable evaluators of the game, at a luncheon before the games begin.

The Real Deal starts at 6 p.m. Friday at more than 40gyms around central Arkansas, but the primary venue will be P.A.R.K., where games will be played until the last team is standing in each division Sunday.

Despite the large number of teams, Real Deal in the Rock runs mostly on time. Admission is $10 per day and is good at any gym.

What you will see is the future stars of college and even the NBA. What you won’t see this year is a collection of recruiters taking up the best seats in the house.

In the 10 years since Real Deal began, four players went on to be chosen No. 1 in the NBA Draft, and there has been more than 75 first-rounders, some of whom went on to be MVP of the NBA, All-Stars and even a dunk champion.

“The best players in the country want to play in this tournament,” Ingram said. “It is an early test of what they are going to face all summer, and they want to not only see the other teams but play against them so they know where to improve.”

Whether it is one-and-dones on their way to Kentucky or guys who are just under the radar, Real Deal offers something for every basketball fan and it starts tonight at Hall High.

It is a little amazing how many armchair quarterbacks are convinced Brandon Allen is not the right quarterback to start for the Arkansas Razorbacks this fall.

Here’s a couple of things to consider: Most likely he was banged up the last eight games of last season, and under Bret Bielema, unlike Bobby Petrino, the quarterback doesn’t have to make every play. The offensive line and running backs have greater responsibility to make plays.

Also, it is the coaches who are in practice and film sessions every day. It is highly unlikely Bielema or anyone on his staff wants to start Allen if he is not the best quarterback on the field every day of this spring.

Sports, Pages 15 on 04/17/2014