As a freshman all those years ago, Mitch Mustain went 8-0 at Arkansas and was one of the key figures in some of the controversy that enveloped first-year college coach Gus Malzahn and head coach Houston Nutt as the 2006 season wore on.
We know the aftermath: Malzahn to Tulsa, Nutt out, Petrino in and Mustain gone to USC. Mustain had thrived in high school, then in college, under Malzahn but he never really worked out in SoCal. Aside from a start against Notre Dame, Mitch had pretty much faded into shades-wearin’ obscurity by last December.
Well, Mustain’s back. Not in the flesh, but in bullet form. His UA success – however fleeting – forms the base of a national recruiting pitch new ASU coach Gus Malzahn unleashed on ESPNU on signing day:
In this next video, you’ll notice in the following analysis that Mustain’s inclusion trips up ESPNU analyst David Pollack some, but it’s interesting to note that while Mustain’s playing days in the state of Arkansas are long over, he could still play a role in Malzahn’s ability to recruit future recruits.
Of course, ASU hopes to end up with QBs who pan out more in line with Malzahn’s latest star college quarterback, Cam Newton, rather than his first.
Little Rock Central hasn’t had an All-America caliber football player in decades, but that sure doesn’t mean the neighborhood cupboard’s bare. Two speedsters who have recently grown up in an area a few blocks southwest of the downtown high school both merited Parade All-America honors as seniors: Darren McFadden (who attended what is now Maumelle High School) and Fredi Knighten of Pulaski Academy. No, they didn’t know each other – not like McFadden befriended another high profile private school star soon to be Knighten’s teammate.
But Fredi was certainly aware of the McFaddens, who lived three blocks away from the home into which his mother moved when he started middle school. On many evenings, he recalls hearing stereos booming from McFadden’s car as it rumbled down his street. Of course, McFadden was also making all kinds of noise in Fayetteville, where he solidified his place as the best Razorback running back of all time with consecutive Heisman runner-up finishes.
It’s yet to be seen whether Knighten, a quarterback, can translate his own outstanding prep success to the college level. But if he does, it will likely be to the Razorbacks’ recruiting detriment in central Arkansas. Arkansas State now has three new inroads into central Arkansas it didn’t have during its record-setting 2010 season – Gus Malzahn, a longtime Arkansas high school coach, along with Michael Dyer and Knighten, the area’s last two Parade All-Americans. If ASU continues to build on its recent success, Jonesboro can’t help but become a hotter destination for central Arkansas high school players. A Little Rock native like Knighten, or Dyer, throwing up All-American-type numbers while at ASU would likely lavish unprecedented amounts of media attention on the Red Wolves program.
At the same time, it’s important to note as a Top 5 team the Razorbacks are also becoming a hotter name, not just at home but everywhere around the nation. Arkansas no longer needs to rely on nabbing every 5-star recruit that comes out of central Arkansas (or Springfield, Mo., for that matter). Sure, Altee Tenpenny, North Little Rock’s star running back, recently said “aye” to Alabama. But with the wide net Petrino and his coaches are casting over the nation – especially Western states – that loss doesn’t hurt the program like it would have in the Houston Nutt years.
With signing day on Wednesday, recruiting news is bigger than ever – especially in DGB-crazed Arkansas. But who are the men bringing us all this nonstop recruiting info? What draws them to this recruiting news niche? And why has the field grow so fast? Finally, how do the recruits and their families under the microscope feel about the process? I spoke with the father of Razorback commit Deatrich Wise, Jr. and found some of his statements remarkably candid (for more, read “The Recruit” section below) Get all this background and more from the following piece, originally published in the September issue of Arkansas Life:
Next fall, like all falls, our Saturdays become smorgasbords of flying leather, clashing plastic, arms thrust skyward – the roar of millions, the groans of millions more.Americans scream themselves hoarse more for college football than nearly any other sport. That passion has spilled into a 24/7 news cycle where all manner of info and opinion regarding the biggest programs is printed, churned through online message boards and discussed on airwaves before the next batch is served.
One of the fastest growing sports news beats is recruiting, where millions of fans want to know what hundreds of top high school athletes have to say about their favorite program. In Arkansas, the prime gatekeepers of this information power some of the state’s biggest sports sites. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s recruiting blog had 700,000 views in a month. Hawgsports.com, which covers all aspects of Razorbacks sports with a focus on recruiting, topped five million page views in January 2010, the month before National Signing Day on February 3rd.
These recruiting gurus constantly interview the athletes and churn out articles hitting on basics – weight, height, bench press, vertical jumps, 40-yard dash, schools visited, impressions made by coaches. Eight times out of ten, it seems, you can bank on a kid giving props to the UA business school and/or football team’s weight room.
The content may seem redundant, but there’s more at play. This is a trade built on dreams. When the recruit picks up the phone, he hopes his words bring a scholarship, a degree and career.
For the ever-hopeful Arkansas fan, though, these words can evoke something far more visceral: visions of an entire state wrapped in cardinal red, the last seconds of a dream season ticking away, all those goose-bumped arms slowly rising, falling, while one “Woo Pig Sooie” atop another cascades across the Ozarks, ringing into the night.
It’s hard to imagine a more favored team for an Arkansas state title coming into this season than Sylvan Hills High School.
For starters, all five starters returned from last year’s 25-4 squad, which had roared through conference play undefeated. Guard Archie Goodwin, a Kentucky signee, established himself as one of the nation’s best prep players. Over the summer, the senior-laden Bears added firepower with the transfer of sophomore point guard Kaylon Tappin from rival Little Rock Mills. To top it all off, the squad had strong motivation to redeem itself after losing to Alma – which lost its star player to graduation – in the 5A state title game last season.
Entering November 2011, the Bears were understandably confident. Head coach Kevin Davis scheduled four regional tournaments and out-of-state games against a caliber of competition far above Sylvan Hills’ usual non-conference foes.
But, in the early going, the Bears didn’t exactly devour the big dogs.
By New Years, Sylvan Hills had lost three games – to Memphis powerhouse Southwind 89-60, to Little Rock private school Pulaski Academy 82-72 and to Tupelo, Miss. 65-60. Soon afterward, the Bears lost 75-71 to Lexington Catholic High School in Kentucky, and on Jan. 12 in Missouri hit a low point.
The opponent: New York City’s national power Christ the King. The place: Springfield, Mo., during the first round of the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions. The outcome: a 71-45 shellacking, with Sylvan Hills held to 23% shooting from the field. Senior leaders such as Dion Patton, Devin Pearson and Larry Ziegler combined for 16 points. Goodwin mustered 21 points, but missed all five free throws and ten 3-point attempts.
The reeling Bears, with a record of 9-5, had their proverbial backs against the wall.
In the five games since, Sylvan Hills have bounced back with a vengeance.
Sylvan Hills wiped out its last two Missouri tourney opponents by a combined 44 points and has come to home to surge to a 6-0 conference start, including last Friday’s grit-a-thon with Mills. Dion Patton is once again orchestrating from the point guard position, while 6-5 center Pearson flirts with a double-double every night out. Meanwhile, Goodwin seems to have gotten his mojo back, scoring near 30 points a game while shooting at a 50%+ FG rate and 80%+ FT clip.
And those highlights just keep pouring in, as seen in this reel from the Bass Pro tournament. Best play? Check around 3:11 when Goodwin contorts around defenders in the lane to pull off an aerial whirling dervish of a maneuver. It’s unclear when he and the Bears will return to earth.
Can someone please organize a high school season dunk of the year voting contest? I’ll submit this Archie “Good God-er!” from Sylvan Hills’ 53-43 Tuesday win over Watson Chapel. (H/t to Sylvan Hills student Eddie Higgins for helping find the clip)
UPDATE: There must be something in the water down there in Jefferson County. Not long after Goodwin’s dunk, a college player at UAPB pulled off what simply may be the dunk of the year at any level anywhere. In case you haven’t drunk deep of its glory, here is Savalace Townsend boinging on someone’s silly head.
For a weekly look at high school basketball in central Arkansas, check out the new ARPreps.com prepscast featuring the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Tim Cooper.
A few Globetrotters have had Arkansas connections.
There’s former Trojan Tom Brown, for instance, who had the highest points-per-game average in UALR history. Brown’s 25.2 clip in 1975-76 helped propel him into a Globetrotters career at the height of the Disco Age. Brown rocked long braided hair, which earned him the nickname “Cochise” in honor of the famed Apache warrior chief.
But by far the most accomplished Arkified Globetrotters are Reece “Goose” Tatum and Hubert “Geese” Ausbie. None other than Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson has called Tatum the “most important player on the most popular team in the history of basketball” who “created Globetrotters basketball as we know it today.” The six-foot-four El Dorado native, known for comic walk, seven-foot-wide arm span and the hook shot he’s said to have invented, became a role model for thousands of young players in the late 1940s after helping topple the world champion Minneapolis Lakers in two exhibition games.
It’s the end of week 2 of conference season, and time again to serve up some Friday previews for big 6A and 7A games featuring central Arkansas teams.
Parkview (14-2, 2-2) @ Jonesboro (15-2, 3-1)
On Tuesday, Parkview beat Searcy 73-24 while Jonesboro lost to Jacksonville 68-41. Check out video highlights from that Parkview win here. Go to the video section on the page’s right side, scroll to the bottom and click “View Next 4 Clips”
Both teams are strongest at the guard positions – for Parkview, Anton Beard and I.J. Ready. For Jonesboro, watch out for sophomore dynamo Kahron Ross and Randle Tolliver. Throw some sweet-shooting Jacob Gibson in there, too. (n.b. Ready and Ross were Arkansas Hawks teammates last summer)
Listen to the game here, ye central Arkansas folk who’d rather not make the drive.
And although you’re listening, you can kind of imagine you’re watching TV if you slowly scroll through the pics on this Facebook page.
Want more on this matchup and others from Friday? ARPreps.com’s David Harten, Tim Cooper ( the Democrat-Gazette’s bball guru) and I talk our noggins off in our latest weekly prepscast.
Catholic (1-3, 2-7) @ Russellville (13-4, 4-0)
Russellville beat Van Buren 58-31. Cyclone Grey Harris, who would be making a run at early-season state MVP is such existed, scored 18 points. Catholic, meanwhile, lost to North Little Rock 67-51.
Catch the game at KCJC 102.3 FM or online at www.kcjclive.com.
If you think the above game was low-scoring, then you need to see my new …
!!?!!?? of the Week
I repeat: 28-24. That’s the score I saw in the Dem-Gaz for the Rogers’ boys Tuesday night victory over Fort Smith Northside.
Either way, I’m voting this half-court sludgefest of a game reason #73 I will always prefer central Arkansas ball to what’s going down in the NWA:
Searcy (6-11, 1-3) @ Hall (13-3, 4-0)
Hall beat West Memphis 52-47 on the road, while Searcy lost by 49 points to Parkview.
“We came out very flat,” its coach told The Daily Citizen. “Also, Parkview came out to prove a point because they had lost two in a row, and they shot well. That’s a bad combination.
“It was already a 16-point game at the half. They kept pressing. The coach could have pulled off the press, but he didn’t. It was a statement game for them. They’re the best in the state, and they wanted to prove it.”
Cam Woodruff, a junior on the team, said the Lions were not prepared for the Parkview game. “They came out and put it on us,” he said. “We weren’t prepared mentally.”
Hall’s Hog commit Bobby Portis was featured in this KATV video this week. In his past two games, the junior center has shot 9 of 20 on FGs, 1 of 4 on 3s and 10 of 13 on FTs for 29 points. He’s also totaled 28 rebounds, seven blocks, six turnovers two steals and three assists.
Pulaski Academy, the top-ranked team in 4A, lost its first game on Monday, falling to Briarcrest Christian School 70-54 in the Martin Luther King Basketball Classic in downtown Memphis. Junior guard Brandon Brady led the Bruins (13-1) with 15 points. Sophomore guard Marcus Wallace added 14 points. Two players scored 14 points for Briarcrest (12-4), an east Memphis private school. The 5 p.m. game was played at the FedEx Forum but the teams had arrived more than five hours earlier to watch the Memphis Grizzlies play the Chicago Bulls. Bruins head coach Roger Franks said he scheduled his team’s game through the help of a friend who works for the Grizzlies, and was excited his players got the chance to watch elite basketball.
I visited the Bruins, who were seated in the nosebleed section, in the second half. Here are some highlights:
Hunter Henry focusing on football in college
Henry, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound junior, is used to playing a pivotal role for the Bruins as the football team’s star tight tend. But in recent weeks, he’s shouldered more of the scoring burden for the basketball team because of teammate Dusty Hannahs’ injury. Henry estimates he has been scoring about 20 points a game and around eight rebounds, and added his favorite NBA player is Dallas Maverick Dirk Nowitzki. “I like to base my game off his. I’m a post man who likes to play out on the court.”
Henry is a high Division I recruit in football, but with his recent on-court success would he consider also playing basketball in college? Nah. He’s almost certainly going to devote himself to football. “Your time’s so occupied” as a Division I student-athlete, he said. “I’m gonna choose one and do it. Commit my time to it.”
Dusty Hannahs shooting for return to court next week
Hannahs, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard, was having a memorable senior season – averaging in the upper 20s – before hurting his right wrist six games ago. He hasn’t played since then, but despite his cast has still practiced his dribbling and left-handed (off-hand) perimeter shooting. He’ll return to his doctor Thursday and if the cast is removed, as expected, he should resume playing early next week. Hannahs is burning to get back onto the court after the layoff. But as we watched the Grizzlies pull away from the Bulls, I learned something else motivates him – Sacramento King rookie Jimmer Fredette’s background.
Hannahs said Fredette, the collegiate national player of the year last season at BYU, is one of his favorite players. “He has a killer instinct, he shoots well and is my size,” said Hannahs, a Texas Tech signee. Fredette was a 2-star recruit during high school, just like Hannahs. Dusty knows he has a 2-star ranking (out of a maximum five stars) on rivals.com and scout.com, and allows that to motivate him. “I laugh about it” and then get to working, he added. When it comes to excelling at a high Division I program and making the NBA, Fredette “shows me that if he can do it, maybe I can too it if continue to work hard.”
On Monday night, Bruin teammates Hunty Henry and Jack Snider rolled into downtown Memphis and had a little time to enjoy the scenery. They visited Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken and Blues City Cafe. At the cafe, the Bruins bumped into some Bulls when Chicago teammates Brian Scalabrine and Omer Asik (pronounced “Ah-shik”) entered. “We talked for a few minutes and got a pic,” Henry recalled. “It was fun.”
College football columnist Bruce Feldman’s no stranger to rolling the dice. Last summer, the national writer left a 17-year career at ESPN for CBS amid the controversial aftermath of the release of a memoir from former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach.
He relocated to Los Angeles, where he has a close view of the University of Southern California football team and its star quarterback Matt Barkley. On Thursday, Fayettville, Ark.-based radio show host Bo Mattingly asked who he felt were top contenders for next season’s Heisman Trophy. Feldman could have gone out on a limb by not putting Barkley at the top of his preseason favorites.
Instead, he said Wilson will contend but said Barkley begins the season with a few advantages. “You’re gonna see Barkley come into next season probably as the favorite. He’s a high profile guy and plays for a high-profile [team] … they’ll probably start off preseason #1 or #2. He’s at a school with a history of producing stars and has, as I mentioned before, two fantastic receivers. He’s gonna put up big numbers.”
“In the case of Tyler Wilson, I think he’s up there with [Oklahoma quarterback] Landry Jones. I think you could put [quarterback] Geno Smith, who’s from West Virginia and gonna come back. He had a huge game against Clemson,” Feldman said on Sports Talk With Bo Mattingly. “They scored 70 points in the Orange Bowl. All his best receivers are back; they should be even better on the offensive line … You’re looking at a guy who’s gonna put up ridiculous numbers.”
Among other possible early-season contenders, Feldman mentioned Wisconsin running back Montee Ball and Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray.
Mattingly also asked if Arkansas has a strong chance of toppling LSU and Alabama at home next season: “I think so. I really do think so. Alabama, as terrific as they looked on Monday night, is only returning four starters on both sides of the ball. A key for them is they do have a nucleus of an outstanding offensive line… you know Nick Saban is gonna have a strong defense.”
In the end, though, Feldman predicted the SEC will not win its seventh consecutive national title.