Arkansas Hits Hoops Recruiting Road

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson and assistants Melvin Watkins, T.J. Cleveland and Matt Zimmerman have all been on the recruiting trail this week as the Sept. 9-Nov. 9 recruiting period opens while at the same time putting their current players through 6 a.m. workouts.

The Arkansas football season may have just started, but September is also a big time for the future of the Razorback basketball program.

That’s why Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson and assistants Melvin Watkins, T.J, Cleveland and Matt Zimmerman all hit the road when the Sept. 9-Nov. 9 recruiting period rolled around.

The Razorback staff has been to see - or will be seeing - Arkansas 2015 commit Jimmy Whitt, Ottumwa, Iowa, Indiana Hills junior college center Malik Dime and 2016 in-state prospects such as Bentonville’s Malik Monk, Van Buren’s Mitchell Smith, Fayetteville’s Payton Willis as well as Indiana prep star DeRon Davis and many others.

Monk had Anderson, North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Florida’s Billy Donovan among the coaches that came through early in the week to see him.

“This a big, big time for us because not only can you see the seniors that you are after, but also NCAA rules now allow us to talk to juniors on their campus and really begin to develop those relationships with the younger kids,” Zimmerman said.

The Razorbacks - who will have a 1,000 APR score next spring after graduating six student-athletes last spring - got a pledge in early August from Whitt (6-4, 170) – the Columbia, Mo. Hickman star and top 50 player nationally. Anderson and Watkins were quick to make his home visit as soon as possible.

Whitt set up his official visit for Oct. 10-12, just a few weeks after Dime (6-10, 220) makes an official trek to Fayetteville on Sept. 19-21.

“It would be great to sign two kids in the early period,” Zimmerman said. “We don’t have a lot of wiggle room with just two seniors, but we also have to keep recruiting because you just never know what is going to happen and you have to be prepared for just about anything.”

Dime will have visited Iowa State and Kansas by the time he arrives at Arkansas with trips to Washington and Rutgers scheduled after coming to Fayetteville.

“In addition to seeing as many high school guys as we can, we are also really hitting the junior colleges and seeing what all is out there,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman offered up the example of Arkansas 2014 point guard signee Jabril Durham of Seminole, Okla. Junior College.

“Here’s a kid that we think really has a chance to make us a better basketball team this season and really this is the time that we found out about him last season,” Zimmerman said. “Here’s a kid that was at a different school (NAIA Lubbock Christian) then comes to a new school and really just takes off and becomes a player that we really wanted to get into our program when the spring rolled around.

“It really worked out for us, but it is because we did the hard work,” Zimmerman said. “This a big time for some kids that might have been overlooked, got bigger, got stronger, made a move with their shooting or just dedicated themselves to the game more."

Arkansas has 130 days that it can get out recruiting during the year.

“If we could we would be out every day, but since you can’t we want to make sure we are out all the days that we can be and we do it in a smart fashion,” Zimmerman said.

Arkansas coaches are doing this while still having 6 a.m. workouts with the current Razorback players.

“Recruiting is a really big deal right now, but the most important thing we can do is take care of those 14 young men that are on campus right now,” Zimmerman said. “We are lucky in that we have a school plane that Coach Anderson can get on, get out and see kids, get back home and be up to work our kids out again at 6 a.m. the next day.

“That’s really big,” Zimmerman added. “We have been at some schools where that has not been the case. It makes it a lot easier for Coach Anderson and for us all.”

Zimmerman noted that the current morning workouts – along with the time the Razorbacks are allowed to have individual workouts – have certainly been beneficial for the team.

He pointed out that is especially the case for 6-10, 260-pound freshman center Trey Thompson of Forrest City.

“I tell you what, Trey is a kid that we thought we might get a little out of him this year, but now we are thinking that he is going to help us out a lot because of what we are seeing and how he has really worked hard to get in shape and redefine his body,” Zimmerman said.

“He is in their mixing it up with Bobby (Portis) and Moses (Kingsley),” Zimmerman added. “He also came to us a little heavy, but now he has lost some weight and also gained some – the right kind – and put it on as muscle. He has been really doing some great things.”

The other three new Razorbacks are guards – Durham, Anton Beard and Nick Babb.

“Nick is a good 6-4, maybe 6-5 now and is just as big as Ky (Rashard Madden),” Zimmerman said. “He really has some length to him and Coach Anderson loves him because he can play some many positions and guard so many positions.

“We really like the versatility of all of those three guards,” Zimmerman added. “They are going to be able to play the point and also play alongside each other. It’s exciting when you think about them being with the kids that we have coming back.

“Bobby, Moses, Ky – just a lot of those guys are hungry and ready to have a great year and get us to where we need to be,” Zimmerman continued.

The Razorbacks will also add in 6-7, 220-pound power forward Keaton Miles, who redshirted last season after transferring from West Virginia.

“He is a older kid, a rugged kid that also really is a very good leader and is going to be a plus guy for us this season,” Zimmerman said.

“All these guys that we have here really have us excited about the future of the Razorbacks and we are out here just trying to make sure we add some more guys to just keep us headed in the right direction,” Zimmerman added. “We are adding quality kids and quality players and doing things the right way.”

Arkansas assistant coach Matt Zimmerman with Arkansas' six 2014 spring graduates, something that will lead to a 1,000 APR ranking next spring.

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