Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He appears weekly on The Red Zone w/ JB on 92.1 FM Fayetteville, The Morning Rush w/ Tye & Tommy on 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home, 99.5 FM in Fayetteville and The Zone w/ Justin & Wess on 103.7 FM in Little Rock.
The Recruiting Guy:
Blocker's stock continues to rise
Layden Blocker and Arkansas coach Eric Musselman.
University of Arkansas point guard target Layden Blocker is having a strong junior season on a team loaded with talent.
Blocker, 6-2, 172 pounds, transferred to Sunrise Academy in Kansas after playing at Little Rock Christian and being named to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Underclassman Team as a freshman and sophomore.
Sunrise Academy has players committed to or have signed with Maryland, Duke, Kansas, Florida State and Baylor, while having others with several high major offers.
Blocker is the team’s third-leading scorer at 8.5 points per game, to go along with 4.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals. He’s shooting 53% from the field and 42% from beyond the three-point line in the first 10 games for the Buffaloes, who are ranked No. 1 nationally in at least two polls.
Sunrise Academy Coach Luke Barnwell said Blocker has been a great addition to the program.
“He’s been huge and tremendous for us,” Barnwell said. “I think coming in the door his speed [is] so elite and his athleticism is so elite with the ability to put the ball on the floor. I think we knew that, but what he’s provided for us that wasn’t expected is how well he’s shot the ball. … His ability to get downhill and get in the paint is as good as anybody we got.”
Blocker has worked with former Sunrise coach and Minnesota and Wichita State assistant Kyle Lindstead to improve his game.
“My confidence level is pretty high,” Blocker said. “ I’m playing well on one of the top teams in the nation. I’ve been working on my weaknesses at Sunrise and I feel like they’re becoming my strengths And I feel like my confidence level will continue to rise
Blocker has seen improvement on his catch-and-shoot and three-point shooting after working with Lindstead.
“He changed my shot a little bit,” said Blocker, who played for 16-under Bradley Beal Elite during the spring and summer. “I feel like I can make some money just off my shooting.”
Leaving family for Kansas was one of the biggest challenges.
“Being away from home has been one of the biggest adjustments,” Blocker said. “Not being able to see my family everyday. I just think about the end goal. I came here for a purpose and I’m going to fulfill that purpose for my family. I still get to call them. They still come and see me sometimes.”
Blocker, an ESPN 4-star prospect, announced a top seven of Arkansas, Memphis, Baylor, Kansas, Gonzaga, Auburn and Oklahoma State in October while maintaining his recruitment is still open.
Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman utilizes his entire staff when recruiting prospects and that stands out to Blocker.
“Mostly everybody on the coaching staff reaches out to me and text me,” Blocker said. “They do a really good job of connecting with me and try and build the relationship with me. I feel like that’s one of the things I’m looking for in a school is building a relationship with your coaches and having a bond with them and they’re also doing a pretty good job of connecting with me.”
He said recruiting coordinator Ronnie Brewer Jr. and assistant Gus Argenal keep in touch.
“Those are the two main people that send me things almost everyday or every other day,” Blocker said. “Just about the school and about me.”
Blocker made unofficial visits to Fayetteville and Baylor over the summer. He also communicates with Musselman and assistants Clay Moser and Keith Smart. Having so many of the Razorback staff members reaching out is unique.
“Arkansas is really the only school that really does that,” Blocker said. “Everybody on the staff reaches out to me but the other schools still have like a few coaches that reach out to me. They do the same thing but they just don’t have as many coaches. I say that’s the difference between them.”
Blocker’s play this season, along with his showing at the prestigious Wootten Camp Top 150 and Pangos All-American Camp has seen his stock rise and a boost in his star ranking might be in the works.
“It’s a time coming I think,” Barnwell said. “He’s well deserved. As well as he’s played at our level has kind of validated that It’s coming and if it isn’t quick, it should be quick in my opinion.”
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