For only the second time in two seasons, El Dorado sophomore center Daniel Gafford and sophomore point guard Czar Perry experienced defeat on a basketball court.
If Gafford (6-10, 201) and Perry (6-1, 170) continue to develop, those are likely to be just a couple of the few times that happens over the next few years.
Junction City senior standout and Arkansas 2015 football commit Jamario Bell had 18 points and 9 rebounds to lead the Dragons over the Wildcats 80-74 Saturday night semifinal in the Camden Fairview Holiday Classic.
Perry had a game-high 27 points and Gafford held his own against Bell with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks for El Dorado (9-2), who had a perfect junior high season in 2013-2014.
“It was a state tournament atmosphere,” El Dorado head coach Gary Simmons said. “My hat’s off to Junction City, great athletes and they are great competitors. They gave us as good a look, to help us get ready for conference, as anybody we’ve played.”
Gafford, who attended Arkansas’ Elite Camp on July 31, is fairly new to the game of basketball.
“The thing that about Gafford is that he was in the band in the eighth grade and we pulled him out band,” Simmons said. “This is the first year he has ever been with us in the preseason.
“…We had never had him for an off-season and we are real excited about him,” Simmons said. “He is just learning the game. He didn’t play at the Boys Club or nothing until the eighth grade so we are real excited about him.”
Gafford has had several big games this season, including a 24-point, 16-rebound, 6-block performance in a 73-63 win over Magnolia and an 18-point, 13-rebound and 8-block effort before fouling out in a 57-53 loss to Minden, La.
“He will do a drop step and score and he’ll attack the basket,” Simmons said. “He is going to be real special.”
Gafford got Arkansas’ attention when he showed up at the aforementioned camp.
“It was a pretty good experience,” Gafford said. “I got to do stuff that I didn’t get to do back at home.
“They said I looked pretty good on offense and defense and all that stuff and I just needed to keep working,” Gafford added. “They said I needed to keep my grades up because of you do good in school, you will do good in life.”
Gafford and 7-2 Arkansas Baptist freshman Connor Vanover were teammates this summer on the Arkansas Wings’ AAU 15-and-under team.
They got a chance to play against each other on Dec. 20 when El Dorado downed Arkansas Baptist 66-59 in the Holiday Hoops Invitational in North Little Rock.
Vanover had 24 points and 13 rebounds, Perry 17 and Gafford 16 points and 12 boards in that game with Arkansas assistant Melvin Watkins looking on.
“It was fun going against him,” Vanover said. “We are usually on the same team and I think both of us really played hard and enjoyed the challenge.”
Gafford, who is averaging around 18 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks per game, echoed that sentiment.
“He’s one big guy and I enjoyed it,” Gafford said. “Much better to play with than against.”
Simmons noted that it was different for Gafford to have one 7-2 guy to get by and then have his 6-11 brother Brandon Vanover to contend with as well.
“I think he put a lot of pressure on himself,” Simmons said. “As far as one-on-one, I think Gafford is as good as anybody, but its tough when you get past one 7-footer and there is another one there. That was something he has never seen.”
Perry had 20 in the third quarter before he and an Arkansas Baptist player were both ejected after a charging call turned into a scuffle.
“Czar spends hours in the gym,” Simmons said. “If there is a pick-up game somewhere, he is in it. In the morning, he calls me and asks ‘what time are you going to be up there?’ He’ll come up here at 5 or 5:30 in the morning and get in a shooting workout.”
El Dorado Has Pair Of Super Sophomores
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