There have been 15 previous Rumble on the Ridge basketball tournaments in Forrest City, but executive director Bill Baxter feels like the 16th could be the best ever.
The Thanksgiving weekend event which begins today includes Razorback signee Bobby Portis (6-10, 220) as well as Arkansas target and Forrest City junior center Trey Thompson (6-9, 230).
Others set to play in the eight-team tournament are Missouri signee Johnathan Williams and Marquette signee Jujuan Johnson of Memphis Southwind, junior point guard Kahron Ross and sophomore Marquise Bryant of Jonesboro, Fayetteville stars Manuele Watkins and Tyler McCullough and Oral Roberts University signee Dederick Lee of Clarksville.
"I think back in 2003 when we had six state champions and a lot of great players was probably our best year ever," Baxter said. "But I really do feel that we can have that many in this year's tournament and an even better level of talent when it comes to the whole field. I think this is going to be the best tournament that we have ever had."
The term that was also supposed to feature Piney Woods (MS) High and its star Dwight Colby - an Ole Miss signee - but the school pulled out in late October when it's head coach was abruptly terminated.
To the rescue came Hughes, which is just down the road from Forrest City and excited to be in the tournament.
"We are really pleased that they were able to step in and fill eighth spot," Baxter said. "The thing is they are a very good team and will represent their school extremely well in our event."
The Opening round match-ups on Thanksgiving Day get underway with Fayetteville and Southwind at 3:30 p.m.
The rest of the opening date line-up includes Little Rock Hall vs. Hughes at 5, Forrest City and Gadsen (AL) at 6:30 p.m. and Jonesboro and Clarksville in the day's finale at 8 p.m.
The championship game is set for 6:30 p.m. on Saturday night.
Southwind ripped Sylvan Hills and Kentucky signee Archie Goodwin 89-60 in the 2011 championship game.
That was redemption for Southwind's 56-53 loss to Bossier City (LA) in the 2010 final.
"Southwind is the defending champion and has a great team coming back, but the competition to win it again is going to be very fierce," Baxter said. "You could make the case that everybody involved in this tournament has enough talent to get on a run in three days and win the whole deal."
Little Rock Hall and Portis – the 15th-best player nationally in the 2013 class per Scout.com - will be trying to win their third straight state title.
"Everyone knows how good Portis is," Baxter said. "He is a great basketball player and someone I know that a lot of Razorback fans are happy they are going to have playing for them. I know there will be a lot of fans that will come to see him play in this year's tournament and dream about what he can do to help the Razorbacks in the future."
Arkansas would love to add Thompson to its roster in the 2014 class and the big man is regarded as one of top juniors in the country.
"Trey is getting better all the time and has tremendous upside potential," Baxter said. "He is also a phenomenal young man, a great student and someone that's just a great guy to be around as well as being a very good basketball player.
"Forrest City also has another really good player in the Dewayne Whitfield, who is a 6-5, 6-6 kid and a really excellent player," Baxter added.
The Razorbacks are also known to be interested in both of Jonesboro's young guards in Ross and Bryant.
"Both of those young men are very, very good basketball players and people tell me that (Jonesboro head coach) Wes (Swift) is loaded and has a great basketball team," Baxter said. "They will be coming here to try and win this thing and not back down. That's for sure."
You can put Fayetteville in that same category with McCullough – who is a Missouri State signee - and Watkins, the son of Razorback assistant coach Melvin Watkins.
"That's another very good team that plans on winning the state title and has the big McCullough kid, Coach Watkins' son and a lot of other very good players."
Southwind when will certainly have a great chance to defend its title with the return of Williams - who is ranked 32nd by Scout.com – and Johnson, who is ranked just one spot lower.
"Williams is a 6-9, 6-10 player who is regarded as one of the best in the country and show that here during last year's tournament," Baxter said. "Jujuan Johnson really had his coming out party here last season and obviously is one of the nation's best as well."
Clarksville may well be the most entertaining team in the tournament with the trio of Lee brothers – Dederick and his 5-3 twin brothers Fredrick and Kendrick.
Those three have won two state championships in a row with the second coming with help from St. Louis transfer and fellow returning starter Devin Sims, who had 23 points in the 2012 state title game.
"That is a fun and entertaining team to watch, very exciting and will be very pleasing for our fans to see," Baxter said. "They are coming here to win this as well and you have to think they have a chance to do just that with all the firepower that they have."
Gadsen brings in 7-foot sophomore Trey Kalina, who was 6-9 in the eighth grade.
"I don't know a lot about them, but when you have a seven footer in the middle, that's a great place to start," Baxter said.
The event was officially changed to the David J. Cohn Rumble on the Ridge in 2010.
It has featured current and former NBA players such as Al Jefferson, Montae Ellis, Thaddeus Young, Tyler Hansborough, Sonny Weems, Mo Williams and Ben Hansborough.
Last year's tournament featured Razorback signee Moses Kingsley (6-10, 225), a top 50 players nationally and someone who teamed with Portis to lead the Arkansas Wings to the 17-and-under national tournament this summer.
"Sometimes it's hard to believe all the great talent we have had at this tournament over the years," Baxter said. "We have had guys come through here that have gone on the have great college careers and some that have gone on the play in the NBA and elsewhere professionally. It's so much fun to sit home and watch one of these guys on TV that was just at the Rumble on the Ridge a few years ago. Some of them have gone on to become big stars in the NBA."
O o o
2012 Rumble on the Ridge
Thursday, November 22nd (Thanksgiving)
Game 1 3:30pm - Fayetteville vs. Southwind (TN)
Game 2 5:00pm - Little Rock Hall vs. Hughes
Game 3 6:30pm - Forrest City vs. Gadsden City (AL)
Game 4 8:00pm - Jonesboro vs. Clarksville
Friday, November 23rd
3:30pm - Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser
5:00pm - Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner
6:30pm - Game 3 Loser vs. Game 4 Loser
8:00pm - Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner
Saturday, November 24th
2:00pm - 7th Place Game
3:30pm - 5th Place Game
5:00pm - Consolation Game
6:30pm - Championship Game
Portis, Thompson Headline Rumble
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