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Don't be surprised if the University of Arkansas' next basketball recruiting class has a little Puerto Rican flavor to it.
That's because the Razorbacks appear to be in great shape with Denis Clemente of Miami Calusa Prep, a 6-1, 170-pound junior point guard who led the state of Florida in scoring last season with 34.2 points while also amazingly dishing out 11.7 assists per game.
Having a hand in nearly 60 points per game was enough for Clemente, a native of Puerto Rico whose first name is pronounced Denny, to earn Player of the Year honors in Class 1A in Florida.
"He is obviously a tremendous scorer when you take into account how many points he averaged this year and how he went over 40 in 11 games," Miami Tropics AAU coach Art Alverez said. "But as crazy as it sounds, he is a pass first, shoot second type of guy. But if you leave him, or don't guard him close enough, it's over for you. He also just understands the game so well."
Clemente, who was recently invited to this summer's Nike All-American and who has already been offered a scholarship by Arkansas head coach Stan Heath according to Alverez, will play for the Tropics this spring and summer.
That AAU schedule starts this weekend with the Boo Williams Invitational in Richmond, Va., and the Tropics will then play in the huge Kingwood Classic, an April 23-25 major event in Houston where college coaches can be on hand.
"To their credit, Arkansas got in on him early," Alverez said. "Coach Heath came down here and saw him and just fell in love with his game and Denis just loves Coach Heath and Arkansas as well. He's going to shoot to the top of the charts this summer and people are going to be wondering why they didn't get on him early like Arkansas did."
Other schools are now trying to play catch-up with Clemente, who moved to Miami from Puerto Rico a year ago and then promptly broke the Dade County scoring record with a 50-point game back in December.
"Since word got out that he led the state in scoring and people found out his stats, I've gotten calls from Florida, Florida State, Miami, Kansas, Kansas State, Arizona and many others," Alverez said. "There are a lot of others now in on him, but Arkansas is in great shape with him. They showed him the love first and have worked it hard and I like to reward that with my players."
The Razorbacks will have to fend off a lot of competitors.
"There are a lot of people wanting to come in here next week for an open gym type thing," Alverez said. "He is about explode nationally. But he knows who was on him early and that's a big plus for Arkansas - a big plus."
Not only does Clemente bring pure shooting and passing ability to the point guard spot, but tremendous quickness. Alverez has timed him with a basketball from one baseline to the other in an unheard of 3.3 seconds.
"He's a great penetrator and uses that quickness to its fullest extent," said Alverez. "He's just a phenomenal player that everyone will be talking about at the end of the summer. Arkansas beat everybody to the punch on him."
Alverez said Clemente's recruitment could be over with and a decision made by the end of the summer.
"As soon as he gets down with Nike and our other tournaments, then we will get some visits out of the way and make a decision early," Alverez said. "I can't stress enough how Arkansas is in great shape, great shape. I've talked with Coach Heath and they are very serious about him and he is about them."
Alverez' hope is that Clemente can put on "10 to 15 pounds of muscle" in the next year or so.
"I think that would be a big help for him if he is going to play in the SEC night in and night out," Alverez said. "He's got absolutely everything else going for him."