Renewed Optimism

In his weekly recruiting column, Dudley E. Dawson writes about how Arkansas' 2011 recruiting success has fans, players and coaches entering this basketball season with renewed optimism as 2010's preseason practice gets underway Friday. This story is free and sponsored by the Arkansas Toyota Dealers. Click on the Arkansas Toyota.

Arkansas basketball program opens its preseason practice today with a whole lot of fans looking forward to the start of the season.

Only problem is it's the start of the 2011-2012 season – when a highly-coveted basketball recruiting class will arrive – that most fans are pointing toward.

Such is the case when you go out and land a recruiting haul that ranks as the fourth best nationally behind Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina and just ahead of No. 5 Syracuse.

"What John Pelphrey needed to get done, he and his staff went out and got done," noted basketball analyst Dave Telep of the UA head coach. "The significance of this class can not be understated. He has put them in position to get back where Arkansas once stood in the basketball world and that's as one of the elite programs in the country."

The class consists of guard B.J. Young (6-3, 170) and Rashad Madden (6-5, 180) and forwards Aaron Ross (6-7, 225), Hunter Mickelson (6-10, 210) and DeVonta Abron (6-8, 223).

In rankings, Young is rated No. 17, Madden 30th, Mickelson 50th and Ross and Abron just outside of the top 100.

Still possibilities to be added to the mix are Memphis Melrose star Adonis Thomas (6-6, 205) – a top 10 player – and top 76 forward Antwan Space (6-8, 205).

Thomas is visiting hometown school Memphis this weekend for their Midnight Madness while Space is set to visit Maryland.

Thomas visited Arkansas on the same Sept. 24-26 weekend that Ross, Mickelson and Abron did and has also visited Tennessee, UCLA and Florida.

"If they were to somehow get him (Thomas) out of Memphis, it's not just a home run, it's a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth with two out and two strikes," Telep said. "Adonis Thomas is as gifted a player as there is in the 2011 class and that would just make those coaches and fans in Arkansas even more deliriously happy than they already are."

Thomas – along with 2012 Arkansas stud Archie Goodwin – will be part of a star-studded group on hand for Memphis' Midnight Maddness, which will feature rapper and Bluff City native Yo Gotti.

"He never shows you his cards, and every visit he seems to really enjoy," Melrose head coach Jermaine Johnson told the Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis. "It's going to be a tough one. But, you know, a lot of those schools have got to beat out this Memphis Madness, and that's a big deal here."

Space has made it clear that he wants to be Razorback, but notes that his parents wanted him to take at least one other visit and have something to compare it to his trek to Arkansas.

He came to Fayetteville on Sept. 3-5 along with Young, is visiting Maryland and will likely drop in on Florida before it is known where he will end up.

"[I liked] the whole environment (at Arkansas)," Space said. "I love Fayetteville. I love Coach Tom [Ostrom] and Coach Pelphrey. I like all the players and me and B.J. Young have already hit it off and we are real cool. Everything about Arkansas was cool."

B.J. Young

Antwan Space

Adonis Thomas

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