The Best LR Central High Recruit Since Joe Johnson Has Been Improving His Achilles Heel

Annor Boateng, Joe Johnson, Arkansas basketball, Arkansas recruiting
photo credit: NBCSBoston / Nick Wenger

Arkansas basketball recently made the top eight for the latest in-state star recruit, Annor Boateng of Little Rock Central. The consensus four-star wing ranks in the top 30 of ESPN’s recruiting rankings for the Class of 2024 and continues to impress on the national stage.

In an exclusive interview with Best of Arkansas Sports, Little Rock Central head coach Brian Ross said Boateng has been in “daily” contact with the Razorbacks’ coaching staff since last June, when it was first allowed.

After landing a haul of six ESPN top-100 recruits in the Class of 2022 – including three in the top 15 – Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman seems to have readjusted his roster-building strategy so that it leans more heavily on the transfer portal rather than the high school ranks. The lack of experience on the 2022-23 roster was one of the biggest downfalls for a relatively inconsistent team.

Still, Musselman hasn’t abandoned high school recruiting altogether. He brought in two more highly touted four-star freshmen in the Class of 2023 in Layden Blocker and Baye Fall, both of whom have a realistic chance at earning rotation minutes during their freshman seasons.

As for the Class of 2024, Musselman has not locked down his first commitment yet, though the Hogs have been connected to several top recruits alongside Boateng. Chief among them is Jase Richardson – son of former Golden State Warrior star under Musselman, Jason Richardson – and Tre Johnson, a consensus top-three recruit in the class.

Versatile On and Off the Court

When asked what makes Annor Boateng special, the first thing Brian Ross mentioned was his star player’s involvement with his teammates and community off the court.

“He’s an extremely well-rounded kid,” Ross said. “He’s obviously amazingly talented at basketball and extremely athletic and all that, but he’s a great student. He’s got a 3.7 GPA, he’s enrolled in all the AP courses that he can take, he plays saxophone in the school band, he volunteers at the Museum of Discovery, involved in church.

“I mean, he really is a kid that excels in every single area of life. That’s kind of the No. 1 thing that comes to mind when I talk about Annor.”

Ross went on to clarify that despite everything Boateng juggles in his personal life, he’s never had a player devote more time and effort into perfecting their game on the court. Ross noted that his star wing leads by example both during practice and outside the gym – he just happens to also be exceptionally gifted on the basketball court.

Annor Boateng vs. Joe Johnson

Annor Boateng‘s best traits are his measurables and versatility on the court. He’s strong for his age and incredibly athletic, built more like a linebacker or a tight end than a shooting guard. He’s listed at roughly 6-foot-6 and has a reported 6-foot-11.5 wingspan and 38-inch vertical jump, according to Ross.

“He’s the strongest kid on our team, he’s the second fastest kid on our team with all that size,” Ross said. “The measurables and athleticism really pop… He’s got all the measurables of an NBA player.”

The slashing wing certainly uses his size and athleticism to his advantage on the court by bullying his way past smaller defenders and breaking down bigger defenders with his quick first step. In that way, he is a bit reminiscent of Joe Johnson, the last Little Rock Central High recruit to be so nationally renowned. Johnson went on to star for the Razorbacks and become a seven-time NBA All-Star.

Annor Boateng isn’t yet the passer that the 6-foot-7 Johnson was, but he’s more explosive. He’s most comfortable making plays at the rim thanks to his adept ability to drive past defenders and hang in the air with excellent body control, allowing him to adjust and make decisions on the fly – literally.

The biggest knock on Boateng’s game has been 3-point shooting. The lengthy wing is known more for his defensive prowess and ability to glide through the air in the paint, but he has a smooth shooting stroke that won’t take much adjusting at the next level. Many prospects struggle from long range when transitioning to the next level, but Boateng’s form makes it easy to see a path for him to become an efficient outside shooter.

While playing with the Arkansas Hawks last summer in the 3SSB Circuit, Boateng shot roughly 26% from beyond the arc while averaging 19.6 points. During the 2022-23 season with Little Rock Central, Boateng shot roughly 24% from long range while putting up 16.0 points per game.

This summer, he’s seen a notable improvement in his outside shooting while playing in 3SSB, jumping up to roughly 31% from 3-point range while tallying 18.7 points per game – not every 3SSB game is listed, so those stats are relatively limited, but still encouraging.

Ross also noted that Boateng is more of a primary ball-handler in the summer circuit with the Arkansas Hawks.

“They let him make decisions and let him make plays with the ball in his hands,” Ross said. “I can tell by watching his games and looking at the numbers, he is improving in those areas and doing really, really well.”

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Boateng’s game is his defensive versatility. His exceptional wingspan allows him to defend players bigger than he is, but he’s also quick enough and smart enough to defend guards smaller than he is.

Much like the modern NBA primary defender – think Marcus Smart, Lugentz Dort, Mikal Bridges, potentially Anthony Black – Boateng isn’t limited to a singular position or role due to his size thanks to what he’s able to offer defensively.

“When he was a freshman, he guarded Kel’el Ware, a seven-footer from North Little Rock, All-American – and guarded him really well,” Ross said. “But then the very next game he may be guarding the other team’s point guard. He could literally guard anyone on the floor defensively and can just be a lockdown guy on that end.”

Boateng Fitting in at the Next Level

Annor Boateng’s defensive prowess should have college coaches licking their chops at the idea of plugging him into their lineups. Eric Musselman specifically has shown an affinity for lengthy, defensive-minded, versatile wing players like Moses Moody, Devo Davis, Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh, to name a few.

It’s already clear that he’s ready for the next level from a physical standpoint thanks to his great strength on a pro-ready frame, but Boateng’s skillset projects to translate well to the college level as well.

Oftentimes, uber-athletic high school recruits that dominate the competition with their ability to run faster, jump higher and hit harder don’t necessarily translate into effective players at the next level. Boateng, however, is well aware of which skills will earn him playing time early on beyond high school and has shown continued improvement in his shooting ability.

Even though he’s known more as a versatile, two-way player, his jump shot is smooth and won’t require much – if any – tinkering at the next level to become an efficient shooter.

“Offensively, he handles the ball, uses pick-and-rolls, can shoot the ball,” Ross said. “He’s continuing to work on his outside shot, developing range, along with his ball handling. Those are the two biggest [areas of improvement] right now.”

Defensively, the 6-foot-6 wing appears ready to make an impact from Day 1. He’s already shown a tremendous amount of defensive versatility at the high school level and boasts the size and athleticism to contribute immediately at the next level.

“He can walk in the door and play college defense,” Ross said. “He’s going to walk in one year from now and he’s going to be able to play big minutes because he’s not going to be a liability [defensively], which would be a problem most freshmen would have, even a lot of highly ranked guys.

“They just haven’t had to play defense the way he has throughout their high school careers. Well, that’s always been kind of what he’s best at since he was younger. He’s going to walk in and be one of your top defenders right off the bat no matter which team he’s on.”

The best part about a player like Boateng for coaches is his ability to mold and adjust to the hand he’s dealt. He’s got the tools to be a primary defender, or a knock-down shooter, or a secondary playmaker from the wing position, or potentially even a primary on-ball creator.

Perhaps he’s not ready to fill every one of those roles from Day 1, but he’s got the physical and mental tools to become whatever a team needs him to be at the next level.

“Offensively, it’s going to depend on what the team needs him to do,” Ross said. “They need him to be a scorer that goes and shoots 15 times per game? He can do that. Do they need him to be more of a 3-and-D guy where someone else is the creator and he’s spotting up more? He can do that.

“You just have to see what the roster is around him before you see exactly what role he’s going to fall into, but he’s capable of excelling at any of those roles. Wherever he goes, you’re going to have an extremely happy coaching staff. He’s going to be that guy that’s going to come in and fit in with the roster around him.”

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