UA signee Thomas having banner season

Dudley E. Dawson covers a variety of Arkansas basketball and football recruiting topics in his weekly Wednesday recruiting notes column for both the Hawgs Illustrated website and The Morning News.

Charles Thomas and Bobby Clark are teammates this year, but the Jackson (Miss.) Callaway standouts will be on opposite sides of the fence next year.

Thomas, a 6-8, 235-pound combo forward, will be at the University of Arkansas while the 6-4 Clark will continue his basketball career at Ole Miss. So it was with great pleasure that Thomas gigged his buddy about the Razorbacks' 86-78 win over the Rebels last Saturday in Fayetteville.

"Yeah, I got after him a little bit on that," Thomas said. "How about them Razorbacks? We are going to have a nice little rivalry going next year, but I told him we are going to win them all against him."

There was great glee around here about the Arkansas win over Ole Miss, especially since the Razorbacks had dropped their first three conference games and were in dire need of a victory for confidence's sake if nothing else.

It was not on TV for a reason - it was a matchup of the league's poorest shooting team against the league's lowest scoring one.

It turned into a free throw shooting contest, with the league's worst charity tossers inexplicably hitting 48-of-53 while Ole Miss, less than tenth of a percentage point better, shooting only 19 in between whining about how many Arkansas shot.

The Razorbacks have improved their scoring per game this season to 72.3 points per game this season heading into tonight's game at Auburn, some 12 points better than last season's paltry 60.6 per contest.

But as anybody who has watched this Razorbacks know, there could use some more help in the filling-it-up department - instead inside.

If all goes right next year, there should be a ton more offense on the floor next season with Thomas and fellow Mississippi prep standout Al Jefferson donning Razorback uniforms.

Jefferson, a 6-10, 265-pound inside force for Prentiss High, is averaging a robust 39.1 points, 16.8 rebounds and 8.3 blocks per game.

How good is he? Well, he hasn't been held below 30 points in any game this season and if he decides to skip college he would likely be a late first-round NBA draft choice.

"My plan, as it has been all along, is to go to college and be an Arkansas Razorback next season," Jefferson said recently. "I will see what it is like after the season, where people think I might go, but I don't plan to jump just for the sake of jumping.

"...If I could be a much higher draft pick with a year or two of college, why shouldn't I just wait?" Jefferson continued. "That's what (former Syracuse and current NBA player) Carmello Anthony did and he ended up in the top three."

Again, if Jefferson comes, he and Thomas could have a ball playing together as they do in AAU hoops adding to a UA team that has matched it's win total a month-and-a-half ahead of last season's pace.

But one of the big reasons Arkansas head basketball coach Stan Heath was so excited about getting Thomas - besides him being a great player alongside Jefferson - is how he is great insurance in case Big Al does make that aforementioned jump.

After Monday's 32-point effort in his team's 69-66 loss to Baton Rouge (La.) University High in the Battle of the Border in Jackson, Thomas was averaging a healthy 30.6 points per game heading into Tuesday night's game with visiting Yazoo City.

He certainly impressed a current and future foe in LSU signee and aptly named Glenn "Big Baby" Davis.

"Charles and I have known each other for years because we both went to LSU camps together," the 6-7, 330-pound Davis said "It was fun to play against him and play in this atmosphere. Charles is a great player. We'll see him in the NBA someday."

Thomas is getting it done inside and out, using his drop step in the lane, hitting the all too forgotten mid-range jumpers and also showing the ability to swish home 3-pointers.

"I think my game has gotten much better than it was this time last year and it has done so because I have worked hard at it," Thomas said. "I will keep getting after it because I want to come to Arkansas and make an impact right away."

Thomas, who averaged 16 points as a sophomore and 14 as a junior, was averaging 40 points per game until a 7-point effort and a couple in the 20s, knocked the average down.

The youngster nicknamed "Manimal" who played at Callaway his sophomore season and Lanier as a junior, had a school record 56 points in one game this season, only to see Jefferson toss in 57 a few games later.

"I think at Lanier I was just a role player and all they wanted me to do was bang low, get rebounds, use a few post moves," Thomas said. "Now that I am back at Callaway, I am able to work on my all-around game and do it all. I'm glad I made the move back and it's definitely helped my game."

Does Thomas think Jefferson - who had a national record 26 blocks in a single game earlier this season - will be joining him in Fayetteville next season?

"I don't know for sure although he has talked about how great it would be to play together again," Thomas said. "But I'm sure he will make the decision that is best for him. I know he talks about how he doesn't think he is ready, but I think he is. But I hope he comes and plays with us. Doing that will only help him - and us - out."

Thomas certainly believes he made the right decision for himself after at first figuring he was headed to Oklahoma and then Florida State.

"I think Coach Heath and the other coaches really have things going the right way and just need a few more players to take it up to the next level," Thomas said. "I'm looking forward to making sure that happens."

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Thomas and Jefferson are just part of a five-player haul - four already signed and another committed - that Heath and his staff plan on adding to next year's roster.

There's also 7-0, 252-pound Steven Hill of Branson, Mo., and 6-10, 235-pound Darian Townes, a former Georgetown signee, now at Hargrave Military School in Chatham, Va.

Dontell Jefferson, a 6-6, 185-pound point guard from Atlanta Metropolitan College who committed to Arkansas back in December, will be the fifth signee when he inks with the Razorbacks in the spring signing period.

It's six if you count expected UA football signee Marcus Monk (6-7, 210) - who will join the basketball team after the gridiron season ends - and maybe seven if Little Rock Parkview's Marc Winston (6-7, 235) does the same.

Heath said each time he leaves a gym where one of the five is playing, he feels better about next season.

"Every guy that I have seen that we have signed, when I went to see them play I left the gym smiling even bigger than when I got there," Heath said. "All of them are going to be big assets for us. They still have some development to go, but that is what they are coming here for is to get better and help us win."

The second-year UA coach knows that his program, which will have 10 players that he has signed on next year's roster, is going in the right direction.

"I'm excited about this class," Heath said. "It really helps answers some areas we have identified as concerns for us now, but I don't think will be concerns for us in the future."

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Basketball Recruiting tidbits:

...Hill struggled offensively in the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions this past weekend in Springfield, Mo., but did end up making the all-tournament team.

That was due to a Sunday afternoon peformance in which swatted away 12 shots to break former NBA star Alonzo Mourning's record for the event. Hill's best all-around performance this seas was an 19-point, 17-rebound, 10-block effort in an upset win over Branson back in December.

He was averaging 16 points, 11 rebounds and 7 blocks per game at last report.

...Townes, like Hill a player whose defense is outstanding and offense developing, has had a high of 12 rejections this season and is currently averaging 11 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocks per contest.

...Dontell Jefferson, who struggled with Arkansas coaches looking on in his team's Saturday night loss to Georgia Perimeter, averaged 15.8 points, 8.6 assists, 6.8 rebounds and 3.0 steals in his team's first semester of action.

...Monk and his East Poinsett Country team grabbed an amazing 30-0 lead on Memphis Booker T. Washington in what turned into a 77-51 win Monday at the Battle of the Border at Alltel Arena.

Monk, who hit a half-court 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to make it 53-16, had 19 points in the win for the Warriors (18-1), who are unbeaten against Arkansas teams this season.

...Winston had a team-high 18 in the same event as his team downed Memphis East 58-34.

... Monk and Winston have both made Student Sports magazine Football/Basketball All-American teams.

Monk was named first team while Winston made the second team - both teams consisting of just five players.

It is an honor Student Sports names for the top dual sport athletes in the country.

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Football Recruiting tidbits:

...Arkansas is thought to be officially hosting 13 prospects (some of them walk on candidates) this weekend.

That list, which could still change, include's Little Rock Central's Fred Bledsoe and Fred Fairchild, Little Rock Parkview's Marc Winston and Jamaal Anderson.

It also includes the Fayetteville High duo of Cedric Logan and Woody Wilson, Texarkana (Texas) High running back Korey Sutton and Dallas Washington, a standout from Atlanta, Texas, both of who have already committed to the Razorbacks.

"I've gotten a lot of attention because of my name, but I am not really sure why my mom named me that" notes Dallas Washington. "I think she just liked the way it sounded. I'm a Cowboys fan by the way."

The walk on candidates expected in this weekend include West Memphis running back Kyle Payne and Conway's Colin Sears and Sam McFaddin.

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