Arkansas will get an official visit this weekend from a young man who made the decision to take a chance instead of playing it safe and playing his college basketball at home.
Arlington, Texas, Martin standout Nick Babb (6-5, 190) is the only out-of-stater of the three Razorback commits in the 2014 class, and will be on hand for the team's Friday night exhibition opener with Missouri Southern.
He could have stayed in his area and played for SMU and Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, who just turned 75.
But the fact that Arkansas' Mike Anderson is trying to do the same thing with the Razorback program that Brown is with the Mustangs intrigued Babb and has him headed to Fayetteville to play his college basketball.
"I just liked the man and coach that Coach Anderson is and the vision that he has for the future in getting the Arkansas program back to the level it once was," Babb said. "I know the program has not been that great lately and that they are rebuilding, but I see us getting the right pieces in recruiting and Coach Anderson bringing greatness back to Arkansas."
Babb, who averaged 15 points and 9 rebounds last season for a 29-7 team, committed to Arkansas on August 10 over co-finalist SMU and nine other offers.
He did so with a simple tweet that said RAZORBACKS!
"I'm not a guy that brings a lot of attention to myself and I just made my decision and decided to let people know instead of have some big ceremony," Babb said.
He had visited Arkansas unofficially in June and fell in love with the coaches and their plans for the future – which includes a new practice facility which has been dubbed "The Lab."
That's certainly a plus in the development of players in this day and age.
"It was a huge, huge factor in my decision," Babb said. "I know they don't have one yet, but I have seen the plans for it and Coach Anderson says it should be up and running by the summer of 2014.
"It's a huge deal in terms of developing as a player because you can get in there 24/7 and work on your game," Babb added. "It has all the amenities and I think is going to be a big deal in helping Arkansas get back to the top."
Arlington Martin head coach Jeff Plemons said it was Anderson's recruitment, the past tradition and the promise of the future success that made Babb want to go ahead and pledge to the Razorbacks.
"Arkansas has had a history of great teams and great coaches in the past that kids have enjoyed playing for and Coach Anderson certainly fills that same role," Plemons said. "He did a great job recruiting Nick and Nick can't say enough good things about him and the rest of the staff.
"Arkansas is not only getting a fantastic player, but a fantastic person," Plemons added. "He is going to be a big hit with his coaches, his teammates and the fans."
Babb feels like his biggest strength is how much he values defense, something he learned from his older brother Chris – a former Iowa State star who was the last cut of the Boston Celtics before the regular season started.
"I think my biggest strength is my defense, how I think it is important and how I put my heart into it," Babb said. "I learned that from my older brother who I think was one of the best defensive players in college basketball last season.
"I can also score, but it is not something that I look to do first," Babb added. "I look to create and feel like I am a very good passer. That's not to say I can't go get points if needed. I know how to score and can, but just like to make everyone around me better."
Plemons agrees and says that is both offensively and defensively.
"Arkansas is getting a defender that at 6-5 can guard every spot on floor and can play a variety of positions on offense," Plemons said. "He played the 2 and 3 for us last season and will be playing the 1 and the 2 this season for us.
"He has the best vision out there on the court of anyone that I have ever had," Plemons added. "He is just a great passer that keeps his head up and makes the right play all the time.
"He is also a demon on the boards as evidenced by the fact that he averaged almost nine rebounds per game," Plemons continued. "He is very aggressive and really just gets with it out there on the floor."
Babb played AAU ball this summer with Texas Select and Plemons believes that the AAU competition allowed Babb's game to develop.
"We play a very competitive schedule here, but playing AAU ball in the summer has certainly helped Nick develop," Plemons said. "It's just a higher level of competition that challenges you in every aspect of the game.
"I also think that the travel associated with summer basketball these days helps kids with the transition to what college basketball is like," Plemons added. "It helps them in many different ways."
It also helps that Babb comes from a basketball family.
"His older brother Chris is a guy that has been through what it takes to succeed in college and has been working him out and teaching him all the tricks you need to succeed on the next level like he has done," Plemons said.
Both Babbs are excited about Chris' shot with the Celtics, who are rebuilding their roster, and could call him up from the D-League during the season.
"I know he will leave everything out there on the floor and that is something that I have learned from him," Babb said,
"Something else that he has made clear to me is that you have to be strong to play the college game and that I should get as strong as I can now," Babb added. "He knows the type of players I am going to see in the SEC when you play teams like Kentucky and others."
Babb is not afraid of hard work either on or off the court as he works at his dad's Babb Brothers BBQ & Blues restaurant in West Dallas.
"I don't shy away from putting in the time and know if you don't get better every day than you are falling behind because your opponent is working to get better," Babb said. "Working hard is not something I am afraid to do and I think that is another reason that Arkansas likes me."
Babb knows that he will have a chance to make an impact next season with Arkansas losing four seniors.
"Coach Anderson has told me that there is a chance for me to make an immediate impact because he is losing some senior guards and time is going to be there for those who are ready and work hard," Babb said. "That will just push me to get better every day."
Arlington Martin is expected to have another strong team with several returnees back from a highly successful team.
"I really think that we have a chance to be better because we have a lot of talent coming back and some that has moved in," Babb said. "I think we can really do some great things."
Plemons is feeling pretty good about the upcoming season as well.
"We have nine kids coming back from a team that went 29-7 and lost in the regional semifinals last season," Plemons said. "Nick is our best player obviously, but we do have some other players that are very good."
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