Miami Tropics Loaded with Shooters

Hawgs Illustrated recruiting editor Dudley E. Dawson covered the Kingwood Classic in Houston over the weekend. He liked what he saw of the shooters on the Miami Trophics AAU club.

HOUSTON - The most often heard thing in the Miami Tropics' four games here on Saturday was a coach or player yelling "shooter" when the ball was headed toward either juniors Denis Clemente or David Huertas or sophomore Josue Soto.

That's because those three young men, all Puerto Rico natives now living in Miami that are being recruited by the University of Arkansas, can flat out shoot the rock and put on quite a display throughout the day before 250 college coaches on hand for the 10th annual Kingwood Classic AAU tournament.

"We've got three guards that can play the 1 and the 2 and we are able to just swap them out and that's a big plus for a coach," noted Miami Tropics head coach Art Alverez, whose team would go 2-2 on the day. "At this level you win with guards and we've got some great ones.

Clemente, a 6-0 guard who played for Miami Calusa Prep, announced his arrival early on in the day by pouring in 14 points in his first six minutes of his team's 69-66 win over the Atlanta Celtics Black in pool play on Saturday morning.

With Arkansas head coach Stan Heath and assistant Orande Taliaferro looking on as they did all day, Clemente knocked down a trio of 3-pointers during that time and his team built up a 43-12 lead at one point before Brandon Rush led the Celtics on a furious comeback.

They were able to do that because the Tropics were missing 7-2 center Jason Bennett and its starting power forward as well.

"We got up 30 because we were creating some mismatches and just really knocking some shots down," Alverez said. "It's tough on our opponents when you've got to guard Denis, David and Josue Soto. I was disappointed we let them back in the game, but we came up big in the end and got the win. That was a great because we did it without our four and our five."

Clemente, would go on to add 40 more points in the other three games, including 20 in his team's 82-76 loss to the Houston Hoops that knocked the Tropics out of the event just minutes after midnight on Saturday.

Speaking through a translator, Clemente said he was just trying to play to his strengths on a day when his team would start play just before noon and end it after midnight.

"The thing I do best is shoot the ball and create shots for my teammates," said Clemente, who ended up with 17 points and 7 assists in that opening game. "I need to put on weight and get stronger."

Clemente, whose English is improving steadily, plans to visit Arkansas later this summer.

"I really like Arkansas," Clemente said. "I like Coach Heath and the assistant coach (Orande Taliaferro). I am looking forward to visiting there and I am very interested in Arkansas."

Heath and Taliaferro got in on Clemente early when they went to see him play in Miami in February and offered him a scholarship.

Schools like Florida, Georgia Tech, Miami have since tried to leap into the chase for Clemente's signature.

"I must have been stopped by 10 to 12 coaches from one end of the court to the other," Alverez said. "It's crazy. Everybody is now trying to jump on with Denis, but like I have said all along Arkansas was on him early and so everybody else is chasing them."

Huertas, a 6-5 shooting guard from Jacksonville's Arlington County Day who played in Fayetteville last December in the Holiday Hoops, poured in 70 points in the four games with a high of 19 in a win over Texas Fort Worth.

He is certainly drawing lots of attention from college coaches and said Saturday he is mainly interested in Arkansas, Kansas, Arizona, Miami and Georgia Tech.

"They are all great schools, but I don't know which one right now that I like the most," Huertas said. "It will be hard for me to make a decision because they are all great schools with great basketball programs. I am going to take my visits this summer. I am going to take a visit to Arkansas."

Huertas is a fluid player who is an exceptional athlete.

"I think I shoot 3-pointers, penetrate and score and shoot the best," Huertas said. "I need to work a little bit on my ballhandling."

Soto had a high of 21 points in his team's third game of the day.

"He is the youngest of those three, but is so deadly with his shot and his ability to create," Alverez said. "It's just tough to pick your weapon to stop. I am very fortunate to be coaching these guys and Arkansas is very smart for getting involved with all of them."

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