When it comes to class of 2023 recruiting rankings, Razorback commit Layden Blocker and the most famous high school basketball player in the world are on different trajectories this summer.
Bronny James, the 17-year-old son of the LeBron James, has long been considered one of the best players in his class. As well he should have been, considering the genetic gifts with which he’s been blessed and the advantages that come from training with the likes of Dwayne Wade and LeBron James since toddlerhood. Arkansans saw the 6’3″ shooting guard’s preternatural dribbling ability and shooting stroke on full display three years ago in Bentonville.
In the last few months, however, Bronny James’ ranking has fallen in the major recruiting outlets. On Rivals, for instance, he fell from No. 29 to No. 60. On 247Sports’ composite, he was nearing five-star status but fell 13 spots to No. 46 in the nation.
It’s been the opposite kind of trend for Little Rock native Layden Blocker, the first Arkansas basketball commit in the class of 2023.
Blocker has steadily risen the ranks over the course of the last two seasons, similar to current Razorback freshman Nick Smith’s upward path throughout high school. He’s now ranked No. 27 in the ESPN Top 100 and No. 28 in the 247Sports composite, having blown by Bronny James in both the figurative and literal sense.
Leyden Blocker Barbecues Bronny James
The latter happened earlier in July during the AAU summer circuit, when Blocker’s Bradley Beal Elite team matched up against James’ Strive for Greatness squad. At one point, Blocker showed off his elite quickness and handles by crossing James up, and then leaving him in a vapor trail as he tore to the basket for a tectonic lefty rim wrecker:
It was all part of an overall star showing for Blocker on the Nike EYBL circuit, as he earned third-team honors for his explosive play and steady hand:
The showing only confirmed what so many recruiting analysts already predicted: Sooner than later, Blocker will become the latest of a suddenly long line of five-stars committing to the Razorbacks. It’s high times indeed for Arkansas basketball.
More from Layden Blocker
Blocker gave some details about his game in the below commitment video published by Hawgbeat’s Jackson Collier. In it, Blocker discusses what he needs to work on going forward:
“Catch and three point shooting, mid-range shooting. Draw the fouls, go to the rim, finishing with contact. And a couple things I need to work on: playing with pace. I’m so fast, sometimes I can go too fast. I need to learn how to slow myself down. Also, free throw [accuracy].”
In another part, Blocker gives advice to younger recruits eager to make a name for themselves: “Don’t get your head caught up in all the recruiting and all the rankings and stuff because that could really mess you up. Me, I really wasn’t on the radar last year for them. I just stayed in the gym. My dad didn’t like recording when I was in gym, posting all that stuff. He wanted people to just find out, you know? Just stay in the gym, play level headed, stay humble, just keep working.”
Not posting video is a far cry from Bronny James’ last few years, where every one of his highlights has been beamed to millions via the massive social media followings of his family and the sports outlets that follow his every step. To Bronny James’ credit, however, he doesn’t appear to treat the game as if he’s an entitled prince – he seems just as hard-working as the relatively anonymous teens against which he competes.
As far as where Bronny James would play college ball, his recruitment has been extremely hush-hush. Neither he nor his father have indicated where he could be leaning (or if he will opt to play professional ball like the G-League instead). Ohio State, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and even Tennessee have all been thrown out as possiblities, but given Arkansas’ recent rise and Musselman’s stature as a social media whiz, the Razorbacks may make more sense than the Volunteers.
What would it be like if Bronny James actually shocked the world and announced he was going to play alongside Blocker for the Razorbacks in 2023-24? Go down that rabbit hole in the below video. Start watching at the 11:40 mark to hear the Arkansan commentators go deep into fantasizing about Bronny James and Arkansas basketball:
More about Layden Blocker and Arkansas Basketball
As for as why he chose the Arkansas, Blocker told ESPN “they have a winning culture in basketball and other sports. Coach Muss has coached in the NBA and he has an NBA style of play. He is a cool guy off the court. He’s intense on the court. My goal is to play in the NBA.”
“When I attended their practices, it was intense with high energy,” Blocker added. “I liked the atmosphere. On my visit they had an in-depth breakdown of my game and that was impressive.”
Layden Blocker isn’t the only Blocker getting looks from big-time colleges. His younger brother by a year, Landren Blocker, is a 6-5 wing/big guard who has already gotten scholarship offers from Creighton, Missouri, Ole Miss, TCU, Tulane, UAPB, and UCA, according to HawgBeat’s Jackson Collier. But other schools, including Arkansas, Kansas State and TCU, are also showing interest.
It’s a good thing to hear from college coaches,” Blocker told Collier. “They all stood out and have something to offer. TCU offered me the first day coaches could contact. I thought that was pretty cool.”