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April 16, 2005

Real Deal gaining momentum on opening night

FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. - At a stone's throw away from the action at Bud Walton Arena, two gyms were going strong at Fayetteville High School. With teams like Indy Spiece Elite, DTA Wisconsin, Blessed IJN (Ind.), Arkansas Angels, Georgia Hurricanes, Team Texas, Athletes First (Okla.) and Jackson (Miss.) Panthers there was plenty of action to go around.

Action at Fayetteville HS

The best game had to be against the Georgia Hurricanes and Team Texas. And it's a crying shame the stands had a dozen or so spectators…and that's including the scorekeeper and clock manager. Nevertheless, the two teams battled it out in a good one.

Team Texas, a perennial Nike-sponsored power, took on the newly-formed Georgia Hurricanes, a Reebok-sponsored outfit. Playing without the services of Bryan Davis, Team Texas looked to their stud Darrell Arthur when they needed the buckets the most. In the end, the boys from the Lone Star State come home with a hard-fought 69-66 victory.

Arthur has all of the physical tools in the world. He's got incredible length at 6-foot-10. He has a frame that can add 30 more pounds of steel-like muscle. He's incredibly athletic. The list goes on and on. To his credit, he doesn't coast by with his physicality's. In Friday night's win, Arthur did much more than score inside and rebound.

Picking up from last week's impressive performance at the Boo Williams tournament, Arthur showed off his three-point range by connecting on a couple of long balls. But it was his ball-handling skills particularly on a play late in the first half where he brought the ball up the court and passed off to Jermaine Beal for a three-pointer to take the lead.

Those kinds of plays as well as his presence inside the paint on the defensive end of the floor were keys to the victory. Arthur finished with 20 points while Beal had 18 to lead Team Texas.

Beal, a 6-foot-1 point guard from Desoto (Texas) High School, looked sharp. He's quick with the ball and knows how to run the show when called upon but he's also keen enough to know when to pull up for the jump shot. The Big 12 is hot on his trail.

The Hurricanes got a good game from Jodie Meeks and was an inch short from the biggest bucket of the night. The 6-foot-4 guard from Norcross (Ga.) High School buried what looked like a three-pointer from the corner with 5.5 seconds to play and could have tied the game but the men in stripes called it a two-pointer.

Regardless of the call, Meeks made big buckets when the squad needed them the most. He finished with 16 points.

Tracy Smith led the team with 21 points and was impressive on every score. The 6-foot-7 big bodied forward from Michigan via Mt. Zion Academy (N.C.) scored inside time and time again and somehow finds a way to score with his deceptive athleticism. The class of 2006 prospect (yes, he says he is back in the '06 class now) has soft hands and an innate ability to score inside the paint. Smith said he's letting his high school coach, Tony Fozard, handle all of his recruiting. Smith did say he's not looking to going back to the Michigan area for college.

The most intriguing prospect for the Hurricanes though was 6-foot-10 big man Xavier Crawford from Minnesota via Mt. Zion Academy. The long and slender center is a very strong defender with a nose for the ball inside the paint. He's still about 20 to 30 pounds from where he needs to be but the raw potential is there to be a legit high-major guy. Crawford rattled off a list of Duke, Michigan, Bradley and Providence.

Other notes from around the gym

Virginia Tech signed Cheick Diakite, a 6-foot-9, 226-pound power forward from Bridgton (Maine) Academy, earlier in the week and the Hokies have themselves a strong bodied, rebounding machine. He'll boost the frontline for Seth Greenburg and company right away.

Calvin O'Neal, an unsigned senior guard from Philly Lutheran scored 21 points and looked good on every score. He said he's high on Middle Tennessee State, Iona, Marquette, UTEP, New Mexico State and UT-Chattanooga.

Eshaunte Jones, a class of 2007 point guard for Blessed IJN, showed why his head coach Eric Vaughn raves about the 6-foot-4 point guard. Jones has good court vision for a kid his size. His handle is respectable and the rising junior knows how to use it to his advantage. Jones said he's high on Illinois, UCLA, Purdue and Kansas.

Right now, I like…

Georgia, Miami, Virginia Tech, UCLA, Texas and LSU says prep school bound Horace Dixon, a 6-foot-8 forward from Mauldin (S.C.).

Ole Miss, Memphis, Colorado, Clemson and Mississippi State was the list given by Joseph Watkins, a 6-foot-7 forward from Hamilton HS in Memphis. He's here with the Arkansas Angels. According to the class of 2006 prospect all have offered.

Watkins's high school and AAU teammate Jeremy Williams said UAB, Colorado, Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, Memphis and Colorado are amongst his favorites.

Andre Thornton, a great student, said he has offers from Stanford, UAB, Georgetown, Colorado and Auburn. But the 6-foot-7 power forward from Memphis Mitchell HS said he's high on Illinois the most.

Richard Semrau said he's trimmed his top four schools down to Wake Forest, Illinois, Florida and North Carolina. The 6-foot-9, 210-pound forward from Rocky River High School in Rocky River, Ohio said he's improving his shot and it showed at times against the blow out win against the Arkansas Angels.

Ryan Sims, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound from Fort Wayne (Ind.) Snider, yielded a list that included Illinois, Dayton and "a lot of the MAC schools". Sims said he's taken five or six unofficial visits to Michigan State.

Floodgates open on Saturday

College coaches weren't inside the various gyms on the first night of the Real Deal on the Hill but they are certainly in town. The tiny XNA airport was littered with assistants and various staffs were seen around town on the lively Dickson Street and in the lobbies of the numerous hotels around town. It will be interesting to see what coaches line up for the first game of action tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. CST.

Stay logged on to Rivals.com as Jerry Meyer and Justin Young bring you live updates from the loaded event.


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