The future got a look at the present in the building of the past on Saturday.
Arkansas 2014 point guard commit and North Little Rock star Anton Beard (6-1, 180) became the first of the Razorbacks' three current 2014 pledges to take his official visit this fall.
Beard and Bentonville sophomore Malik Monk (6-4, 170) both got to watch a Saturday workout featuring head coach Mike Anderson's current Razorbacks – a workout that actually happened inside of legendary Barnhill Arena because of water damage to the floor at Bud Walton Arena.
"I am seeing a lot of players doing exactly what he recruited me for – getting the ball and running it up court, playing defense, full-court man pressure and less turnovers," Beard said. "I can't wait to play for him next year."
Arkansas officially begins practice next Saturday and should be back in Bud Walton Arena by that time.
Beard, a one-time Missouri commit who chose Arkansas over LSU, Tennessee and UMass in the end, joins Forrest City big man Trey Thompson (6-9, 250) and Arlington, Texas, Martin swingman Nick Babb (6-5, 180) as 2014 pledges to the Razorbacks.
"I think Nick Babb is a great player," Beard said. "He is going to bring a lot to the team. He is a big guard that can play D, knock down open shots and do what needs to be done.
"Trey is a legit big man," Beard said. "He can post up, score buckets, get rebounds and run. I think he is going to be a great player for us."
Beard is ranked as the nation's 24th-best point guard and a top 100 player nationally by Scout.com and will be trying to help North Little Rock head coach Johnny Rice win his second straight Class 7A state title.
"I can't believe I am lucky enough to be able to coach a player of his caliber," Rice said. "Arkansas and all of the other schools that were recruiting him see just what a do – a kid with a lot of natural talent, great instincts and a desire to do anything he can to win a basketball game. It's a great deal when you best player is also your hardest worker. He is going to be a great leader for the younger kids this season."
He is honored by his ranking as one of the nation's best, but wants to keep earning it.
"It's a real honor to be considered one of the best point guards in the country," Beard said. "...I am working really hard to live up the belief that people have in me and working hard to be the best point guard I can be for my high school team and then at Arkansas."
He comes to North Little Rock after playing the off-guard at Little Rock Parkview the last three seasons while current Mississippi State point guard I.J. Ready played the point for the Patriots.
Beard spent the spring and summer playing strictly point guard for the Team Penny AAU squad, which was coached by former college stars and NBA players Todd Day (Arkansas) and Penny Hardaway (Memphis).
"The overall summer was a big transition for me while just playing strictly point guard position," Beard said. "I was just so use to doing everything for the team and not just focusing on being the point guard. But it made me so much better. I got to work on my point guard skills with one of the best in Penny Hardaway and one of the best scorers in Todd Day. It was a great experience."
Beard, who has always lived in North Little Rock, is being joined on the Charging Wildcats roster this season with an all-star cast.
That group includes North Little Rock's lone returning starter – nationally-rated junior standout KeVaughn Allen (6-3, 180) – along with four transfers in Beard, sophomore Adrian Moore (6-4, 172) and juniors Sam Dunkum (6-10, 195) and K.J. Hill (6-1, 180), who is currently starring for the football team.
Moore came from Conway, Dunkum from Little Rock Christian and Hill from Bryant.
"We have a lot of talent at North Little Rock with everybody transferring in and we all did it for a reason – we want to win a state championship," Beard said. "Adrian Moore, Sam Dunkum, KeVaughn Allen. We are really working on our chemistry now and adjusting to each other and our roles because we were all the leading scorers for our school. We are all working on playing as one and when K.J comes back, it is really going to be crazy."
Beard is smart enough to know that it's not going to be just the so-called stars that will help North Little Rock land a second straight Class 7A state title.
"Role players are the key to how far a team can go," Beard said. "It is not always about the skill players. It is so big to have the people who can rebound and do the big man things like Sam, who is going to have a big role for us along with some guys inside...We need all boards to be ours and we can get out on the break."
Beard will lead North Little Rock into the Rumble on the Ridge, Jammin' for Jackets and Battle of the Border tournaments in state and a one-day tournament in Milwaukee as well.
"I'm really excited about our schedule," Beard said. "We didn't just come together to play, we came together to win."
Fear The Beard
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