Ohio prep basketball star Jalen Hudson got his first chance to check out the University of Arkansas this past weekend and came away impressed.
Hudson, a 6-5, 180-pound combo guard from Akron's St. Mary-St. Vincent, visited along with his dad Jerry – a former fraternity brother of Razorback assistant coach Melvin Watkins.
"I really like Arkansas," noted Hudson, a Virginia native who transferred before last season to the St. Vincent-St. Mary's where current NBA star LeBron James played his high school basketball. "I like the coaches. I think it is a real nice program and I would fit pretty well here."
Hudson, who has 27 offers, chose Arkansas as his first official visit after taking three unofficial visits to Virginia, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
"I went to UVA, Virginia Tech and West Virginia in a three-day span because I was on my back to Ohio from Virginia and I just thought I would stop and see those schools," Hudson said. "I haven't set up any official visits other than this one yet. It is still kind of early so we will see what happens."
Hudson, whose notes his favorite color is red, has been very guarded talking about his recruiting process.
"I haven't narrowed it down a whole bunch," Hudson said. "There are still some new schools that have been calling. There are some schools that are definitely already off the list, but I haven't had a chance to talk to them about that."
Mr. Hudson said his son is very respectful of the teams recruiting him.
"We want to make sure we show the other schools the respect that they deserve," Mr. Hudson said. "They have been gracious enough to recognize his talent, reaching out to offer him scholarships. So before we know exactly what we want to do, we don't want to say or do anything that would offend them."
He notes that Jalen has handled the pressure of recruiting in a good manner.
"He has done quite well," Mr. Hudson said. "The one thing that I wanted him to do is to remain humble because quite often it is easy for somebody 17 years old to misinterpret this offers. He could potentially feel like he has arrived, but he hasn't.
"What these schools see in him is talent and that he has the ability to improve and get better," Mr. Hudson added. "He is handling it quite well. The process is new so he doesn't quite know all the things that he would need to understand, which is why I am able to go with him and ask about the academic side and make sur that is just as important to the University as his athletics is."
The visit gave the elder Hudson and Watkins - fraternity brothers at North Carolina Charlotte – a chance to catch up after almost 30 years.
"It was really great," Mr. Hudson said. "We went to the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and were there during its heyday. We went to the NIT in 77, the NCAA in 1978. Not only did we go to school together, but we were fraternity brothers.
"We went through a pledge process, which was eight weeks long," Hudson added. "I probably would not have not gotten to know him so well if not for that, but we got to be very good friends and he is a man I have always respected.
"I have seen him excel as a coach and it was really good to catch up with him because it has probably been a good 30-something years," Mr. Hudson continued. "He is a man that I respect and if my son would decide to come here, that would be a real comfort for me knowing what he stands for. It would almost be like me being here."
The younger Hudson has gotten to be around James some and listens intently when he talks.
"He is just a great person all the way around," Jalen Hudson said. "I have had a chance to sit down with him and he is just so humble. He just teaches you so much with a five-minute conversation. It's crazy."
Dru Joyce, who coached James, is still the head coach of the Fighting Irish.
"Just like LeBron, Coach Dru is a great person," Jalen Hudson said. "He is a man of Christian faith. Every practice, we pray before and you just get a feeling of family. Even after we break and before we go home we say 'Irish Family.' We are just reminded every day of the family that we are. He is a great person and a great role model."
St. Vincent-St. Mary lost in the Division II state championship game last season.
"I am probably going to look at that a couple of times before games to get motivation," Hudson said. "That even hurts today – to even talk about it or think about it. Everybody that loses is going to say that team wasn't as good as us, but we could really see that and that's what makes it hurt even more. I think they only had one Division I player signed to play at the next level and we had at least three."
The Fighting Irish will begin their quest to put that behind it when the season opens on Dec. 3.
"The goal is always the same – win the state title," Hudson added. "That's always going to be the goal from day one and is always going to be the only goal."
He has plans to ink a national letter-of-intent during the early signing period.
Arkansas is hoping to add Hudson to a 2014 recruiting class that includes current pledges in North Little Rock point guard Anton Beard, (6-1, 180) Forrest City center Trey Thompson (6-9, 250) and Arlington (Texas) Martin small forward Nick Babb (6-4, 180).
"He wants to try and get this out of the way as early as possible, potentially before his season starts," Mr. Hudson said. "That way he can concentrate on his goal of getting to the national championship tournament and the state championship."
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