New big man appears on UA hoops radar

Abdul Herrera, a 6-11, 247-pound center and Miami prep standout, has interest in Arkansas due in large part to his cousin and former Razorback player Dionisio Gomez.

Because of the recommendation of his cousin, Panamanian native and Miami prep basketball star Abdul Herrera is now anxious to check out the University of Arkansas.

Herrera, a 6-11, 247-pound center who has played at South Miami High the past two seasons, is the cousin of former Razorback player Dionisio Gomez, who was a senior in current UA head coach Stan Heath's first season back in 2002-2003.

"Arkansas has told me how interested they are in me and Dionisio called earlier this week pumping them up and telling me what a good school it is and how good it was for him," Herrera said. "It sounds good and I an definitely interested in checking into it more. I'm going to do that."

Herrera, a consensus top 100 player nationally and regarded as one of the top five or six 2005 center prospects, is coming off a junior season in which he averaged 19.1 points, 16 rebounds and 6 blocks per game.

That followed up a sophomore year in which he put up averages of 19.4 points and 15.9 rebounds and a freshman one where he averaged 18 points and 5 blocks.

He led his team to the Class 6A state title game, but was hurt in the final and missed the final three quarters as South Miami (21-9) lost to Memphis signee Darius Washington and his Edgewater squad 72-51.

"I think the way I rebound is my biggest strength," Herrera said. "I can really rebound. But I also pride myself on my defense and I can score. My best move on offense is a jump hook. The biggest thing is I like to win and so I do whatever it takes to do that."

He can do those things well enough that schools such as Arkansas, UConn, Georgetown, Xavier, Florida State, Miami , Florida, Ohio State, Texas Tech and Rice are lighting up his phone lately.

"It's been crazy in the last week or so," Herrera said. "All these coaches have been calling and its just been overwhelming. The phone just rings and rings and rings. There are so many teams calling that I can't even name them all."

Herrera is playing AAU ball this summer for the Tallahassee Wildcats, a squad made up of promising junior and seniors-to-be from Florida. That includes 6-9, 220-pound Ryan Reid, another player in which the Razorbacks have shown interest.

"It's been a lot of fun and an opportunity to play basketball against some great competition," Herrera said. "There are a lot of great players on the team and I just really like the coach. He is one of those guys that will let you play through a couple of mistakes and not just pull you out and that allows you to be relaxed and play your best."

The Wildcats have already played in tournaments this spring and summer in Houston, Washington D.C., North Carolina and Miami with future events scheduled for Atlanta and Las Vegas.

Herrera will also attend the adidas Superstar camp in Atlanta on July 7-10, which is now one of the three prestigious individual summer camps along with the Nike All-America Camp in Indianapolis and the Reebok ABCD camp in Teaneck, N.J.

"I'm looking forward to the camp in Atlanta and the rest of the summer circuit," Herrera said. "It's all about getting better every day."

Just as Gomez came to Fayetteville Christian for the opportunity, Herrera came to Miami the summer before his ninth grade season.

"It's pretty interesting how it happened," Herrera said. "I had never played basketball before the ninth grade, but I came upon a tryout that one of the Miami high school coaches was having in Panama. There were about 50 people there. I ended up being the only one invited to come to Miami even though I had never played basketball before."

But what Herrera left out is he was the tallest one there, a 6-8 kid who had just finished the eighth grade.

"To this day, I like playing basketball, but I don't watch much college or NBA basketball," Herrera said. "But I am glad I dropped by that tryout. I am going to have a chance to go to college because of that and I am thankful."

Herrera missed some time last season because of confusion over his eligibility, but was reinstated and finished the season. He will be able to play through the first semester of his senior year because school starts in Panama six months before the USA.

Herrera, who lives with his dad in Miami, is being recruited by Arkansas assistant Orande Taliaferro.

"He seems like a cool guy," Herrera said. "That and Dionisio's talk with me has me very interested in Arkansas."

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