Rival SEC School Coming Hard after Top-50 Recruit Jacob Lanier out of Little Rock

Jacob Lanier
Courtesy of Jason Lanier

It appears that the state of Arkansas might have its latest shining stars on the hardwood.

The Natural State continually punches above its weight in terms of NBA talent relative to its population and churns out top shelf basketball talent.

Especially from the central portion of the state.

In the Class of 2026, Maumelle High’s Jacob Lanier is one of a few central Arkansas standouts who are turning heads with their play. The 6-foot-6 small forward is a consensus 4-star recruit, ranked as the nation’s No. 43 player according to 247Sports Composite and led the Hornets to the Class 5A state quarterfinals as a sophomore this spring.

Lanier most recently participated in the Pangos All-American Top 30 game, where he took home MVP honors thanks to a 22-point performance, including hitting six 3-pointers.

He was devastatingly efficient, shooting 65% from the field, and averaging 17.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game according to The Athletic’s Tobias Bass. Two of those points were of the especially rude variety, as you can see at the start of this:

Jacob Lanier’s Tie To UALR

Jacob is the son of Jason Lanier, a former prep standout at Little Rock Hall on the staff for what was then called UALR from 2003-05 and currently does color commentary for the Trojans.

He had graduated from Little Rock in 2002 and founded a clinic in his hometown called In the Zone, for children ages 6-18 that helped develop individual basketball skills. While doing this, he also served as a referee, officiating over 300 middle school, high school and AAU games.

Last week, Jason Lanier recounted to Best of Arkansas Sports his son’s unusual level of dedication to the game as a child.

“At the age of 3-4 we would go downstairs and work on dribbling every night, I would throw in extra reps to see if he could keep up,” Jason Lanier said. “He always seemed to get new drills fast. And he always wanted to follow me to the gym. When I hosted summer basketball events he would stay all day, running around dribbling, getting in the way, I would even find him in the corner asleep with his basketball.”

Jacob Lanier’s competitiveness eventually helped land him a spot on the varsity team at Maumelle under coach Michael Shook’s tutelage. He averaged over 20 points a game and was clutch under pressure, like in this key 5A-Central showdown with Jacksonville in mid-February.

“One thing for sure, Jacob cares, he really wants to play well, he really wants to improve,” Jason Lanier said. “He’s willing to work. He doesn’t give excuses.”

6 SEC Schools Have Offered Lanier

All those years of toiling while his dad was hosting basketball events allowed him to eventually receive an invitation to play for Mokan Elite out of Kansas City, Mo., one of the most nationally renowned summer basketball programs on the Nike EYBL circuit.

“It’s considered to some to be the pinnacle of summer basketball,” Jason said. “Right now several of the top prep schools are reaching out to see if he’s interested. Then also he had that great showing at Pangos, which is one of the most prestigious youth basketball camps in the nation. To be invited is a big deal. Then he goes and wins MVP.”

The younger Lanier currently carries a 3.8 GPA at Maumelle and played football for a short stint before ultimately deciding to focus on basketball, where he has the highest potential to play at the next level.

As of Wednesday, he held 15 offers from Arizona State, LSU, Illinois, SMU, Pine Bluff, Georgia, Texas A&M, Kansas State, California, Clemson, Missouri, Ole Miss, TCU, Texas Tech and Arkansas thanks to Eric Musselman.

Then, on Saturday morning, the first day college coaches could contact class of 2026 recruits, LSU, Fresno State, Oklahoma and Rice reached out.

In all of this, it helps that analysis is a strong suit of Jacob Lanier.

“He’s also into computers, he built his own computer from scratch, (2-screen display and all),” Jason Lanier said. “I think he’s a very detail-oriented young man.”

“Jacob is very calculating, he’s going to ask questions that make you think…. He’s not a rah-rah guy. He’s looking for angles.” 

This means that he’s prone to go into some quite deep conversations about basketball, strategy and life in general with coaches. That has already happened with Ole Miss basketball coach Chris Beard, whose program stands as an especially formidable foe for anybody else recruiting Lanier.

“Him and Chris Beard really went to a different level in their [2-hour long] conversation,” Jason Lanier recalled. “Their wavelengths were really hitting each other genuinely.”

A major factor here is Ole Miss assistant Wes Flanigan, the former LR Parkview star who served on the UALR staff for one season alongside Jason Lanier. Later, Flanigan worked under Beard at UALR during Beard’s lone highly successful season as the Trojans’ head coach.

Arkansas Basketball Recruiting Lanier

Jacob Lanier continues to hone his game, sometimes playing in pick-up games in southwest Little Rock with former college players like Anton Beard, Bobby Portis and Archie Goodwin. The former Razorback star Jaylen Barford has taken a liking to him during these runs, often calling him “Young fella” and getting him for his team, Jason Lanier said.

Jacob’s rising profile has opened up the possibility of playing outside of the state for the remainder of his high school career, as he has fielded offers to go to elite prep academies such as Link Academy, Sunrise Christian and Monteverde. 

Jason Lanier said the family is considering whether it makes sense to make such a move ahead of his junior year and getting insight from other Little Rock families such as the Moodys (Moses) and Blockers (Layden) whose children made similar moves in high school. 

“I just pray his hunger and curiosity for the game continues to burn bright, and for continued improvement in all facets of the game,” Jason Lanier said. “And of course health and the ability to find a college program that fits him on and off the court.”

Given Lanier’s rise, it’s no surprise John Calipari’s staff at Arkansas already has him on his radar.

“We haven’t talked to Cal yet, but we have talked to Chin Coleman,” Jason Lanier said. “He likes Jacob a lot.”

Coleman’s far from alone in that regard. 

***

Evin Demirel contributed to this feature.

Here’s another angle of that ridiculous dunk:

More on Arkansas basketball from BoAS here:

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