ROGERS – Those who showed up at the Class 7A state tournament Thursday afternoon to see an explosive scorer instead got to see a terrific passer and a complete effort.
West Memphis' Jalen Jackson had just 10 points, but also dished 5 assists, had 4 steals and 4 rebounds as the Blue Devils routed Springdale 60-47 in an opening round contest.
"I think we had been holding in some energy since we lost our last two games against Jacksonville and (Little Rock) Parkview," Jackson said. "For us to get in an environment where the reffing was good – we just took care of business."
Jackson (6-5, 190) and Sylvan Hills' Archie Goodwin – his Arkansas Wings' AAU teammate - are the only two 2012 in-state prospects with Arkansas offers so far.
Jackson is another in a long line of talented players that Larry Bray has coached at West Memphis – a list that includes Keith Lee, Michael Cage, Sonny Weems and Jason Henry to mention a few.
"Jalen is up there (with those guys)," Bray said. "He is very talented. There are a lot of things that he needs to work on and ball-handling is the main one and just staying focused. That is what I am on him the most about and just keep working on his fundamentals."
Goodwin poured in 38 points later Thursday night to lead Sylvan Hills over Harrison 75-73 and into the semifinals at the Class 5A tournament in Alma.
Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey was at Goodwin's game along with current Razorbacks Marshawn Powell and Nick Mason and former Razorback Stefan Welsh.
Arkansas' trio of 2011 in-state signees - Aaron Ross, Hunter Mickelson and Rashad Madden - will all be in action on Friday at the Class 7A (Marion), Class 4A (Heber Springs) and Class 2A (Buffalo Island Central) state tournaments.
The postseason is strange situation for the Blue Devils, who played the regular season in the ultra-tough Class 6A East conference due to travel constraints, but then play in the Class 7A state tournament.
West Memphis jumped out to a 16-8 first quarter lead and had a 33-16 edge at halftime in a game the third-seeded Bulldogs were clearly overmatched by the lower-seeded Blue Devils.
The victors finished sixth in their conference because of injuries that derailed a promising 11-0 start.
"The 6A-East is tougher and the big men are more physical," Jackson said. "The guards are about the same."
Jackson got an offer from Arkansas last summer.
"Arkansas has stepped up a lot from the season before," Jackson said. "The year before, they were not as good as they are now. They are getting better and better. I think when Ross and Hunter get here, they will be even better."
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