Dudley E. Dawson is a reporter for Hawgs Illustrated. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Thurman impressed by in-state hoops talent
North Little Rock’s Kel’el Ware hangs on the rim after a dunk during the fourth quarter of the Charging Wildcats’ 65-55 victory over Little Rock Central in the Class 6A championship Thursday at Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)
As a former Arkansas basketball player and assistant coach and the current Little Rock Parkview basketball coach, Scotty Thurman has a unique perspective on the current level of talent in the state.
He has seen the 10 players in the 2022-24 classes that the Razorbacks have offered, including a pair of seniors-to-be in Magnolia guard Derrian Ford (6-4, 205) and North Little Rock forward Kel’el Ware (7-0, 210).
Ford and Ware, ranked 38th and 68th in 247 Sports’ 2022 national rankings, both begin official visits to Arkansas on Tuesday.
“I think there is a lot of talent in Arkansas and I think there always has been,” Thurman said. “Obviously, every year is different and probably Arkansas has gotten overlooked in the past. But with the way AAU is now and social media and the talent being put on display, Arkansas is getting a lot more notoriety.”
After a year of being unable to visit with prospects on campus or watch them play in AAU events because of covid-19 restrictions, college coaches will get to do both again.
“These guys deserve attention, and getting to play live games and coaches being able to see it means it is likely going to continue to happen," he said. "Maybe there will be even more kids getting some recognition.”
Arkansas has offered six in-state prospects in the 2022 class in Ford, Ware, Sylvan Hills guard Nick Smith (6-5, 180), Little Rock Christian forward Creed Williamson (6-8, 225) and Little Rock Mills guard Javion Guy-King (6-5, 200).
Smith is ranked 25th nationally by 247 Sports.
The Razorbacks have also offered two 2023 standouts in Little Rock Central guard Bryson Warren (6-1, 180)and former Little Rock Christian guard Layden Blocker (6-2, 160), who is slated to play at Sunrise Academy in Wichita, Kan., next season.
There’s also a pair of 2024 recruiting targets in Little Rock Central forward Annor Boateng (6-5, 200) and Little Rock Parkview guard Dallas Thomas (6-7, 170).
Thurman was pleased to see his college program’s run to the Elite Eight last season under second-year coach Eric Musselman, but he wasn't surprised.
“I wouldn’t say surprised, but from a projection and prediction standpoint, the way they finished out the year was great to see,” Thurman said. “I think the staff did a good job of assembling a lot of different (guys) who could play at a fast pace. It was the young freshmen that were Arkansas guys added to mature guys that had gone other places and played.
“I just think it was a great job of taking talent and blending it and then incorporating their own philosophy in terms of what they wanted to be able to do.”
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