LAS VEGAS - On a day when the temperature reached 109 in Las Vegas, University of Arkansas basketball coaches put plenty of miles on their rental car Thursday as three AAU basketball tournaments got underway with over 700 teams using over 40 gymnasiums here in the desert.
But at least three of the Razorbacks' big men targets were in one place as 6-11, 247-pound Abdul Herrera of Miami, 6-10, 240-pound Kenneth Cooper of Louisiana and 6-10, 240-pound Sam Warren all played at Shadow Ridge High School in the adidas Super 64 event.
Herrera, a native of Panama who is a cousin of former UA player Dionisio Gomez, probably had the best day of the trio as he poured in 13 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and blocked four shots in only about 16 minutes as his Tallahassee Wildcats drilled Alaska Pump and Run 88-64.
"Abdul is a true low post player," Tallahassee head coach John Adkins said. "You saw today that he has great post moves, can score with either hand and isn't one of this big guys who wants to be a guard. He wants to be a center. When he plays hard , it's hard for anybody to do anything with him."
Herrera, who averaged 18.3 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocked shots last season for South Miami Senior, scored off a variety of post moves, including a sweet jump hook that he used for a couple of baskets.
"I'm getting better all the time, but there is still a lot of things I need to continue to work on," Herrera said. "The big thing is our team won and that's the most important thing."
Herrera is interested in Arkansas, Ohio State, Georgetown, Xavier, UConn, St. John's, Florida State and Miami just to name a few of those that have been calling him lately.
"That's not a complete list, just some off the top of my head," Herrera said. "Really I am just trying to get this summer over and then start thinking about my recruiting more. We've got this tournament here in Vegas and another one and then I'll start looking around."
Many people thought Herrera was Georgetown's for the taking early on.
"When I was growing up, I heard about Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning in my country and so I became a Georgetown fan and thought that might be where I wanted to go when I got to the (United) States," Herrera said. "But now that I have been here a while that's not the case. I don't know where I am going to go. I am learning a lot about all these schools. I am still considering but it is just one of the schools."
Arkansas has been getting the push from Gomez, who has called his cousin at least twice lately to laud the school and the city of Fayetteville, and Herrera is also developing a rapport with UA assistant Orande Taliaferro.
"Dionisio just called and keeps talking about what a great school it is, how nice the people are, what a great city it's in and how the fans love their school and their teams," Herrera said. "He makes it sound great and I am going to take a visit out there and see for myself."
Herrera caught a raucous Bud Walton Arena crowd on television while Gomez was playing, but it was very brief.
"I only got to see him play for about two minutes and then the game was over," Herrera said. "I heard he was pretty good by the time he left there. I get to play against him some back in Panama."
Herrera led his high school team to a runner-up finish in the state tournament, but it came after missing several games as Florida officials tried to get documents to verify his eligibility.
Panama starts school earlier than the United States and there were some who thought he should have been out of time.
"I thank God they got the documents that they needed and ruled on my side," Herrera said. "I got back just in time to help get us all the way to the state title game before we lost to (Memphis signee) Darius Washington's (Edgewater) team. I hope to go back to the tournament and win it all this season."
Right now Herrea is eligible only until December of the upcoming season, but he has hopes to play much more.
"I will play until December and then we will file an appeal because of all the games I missed last year," Herrera said. "My coach thinks I will win and get those games back and be able to finish the year."
Herrera and the Wildcats are coming off a performance in Atlanta where they won the adidas Showtime national championship.
"We are playing really well right now," Herrera said. "Our only goal is to win. That's it."
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Cooper and Warren went head-to-head on Thursday afternoon with Cooper's New Orleans Jazz squad wiping out Colorado Pump and Run.
Cooper had 10 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks while playing a little less than half the game in the rout.
He is considering Arkansas, LSU, Texas Tech, Baylor, Mississippi State and Louisiana Tech.
"I am looking for a good weight program and great academics," Cooper said. "I'll certainly take into ac count if they feed the post, how involved the coach is with his players."
Cooper weighed over 280 at this time last year, but says he recently tipped the scales at 240.
"I just started lifting weights and started running and the weight started dropping off,," Cooper said. "I only really started playing basketball last year and I've gotten real serious about it."
Cooper averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks per game last season for Richwood High in Monroe, La.
"We finished 30-9 and got to the semifinals of the state," Cooper said.
He certainly is surrounded by great talent on the Jazz with guys like Tasmin Mitchell, Terry Martin and 2006 prospect D.J. Augustin, another Arkansas target.
"It's great because they can't double team me," Cooper said.
Warren played less than five minutes because of picking up three early fouls and then not returning as his team rested him when the game turned into a rout.
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Another UA 2006 target who had a good day at the adidas event was 6-5 wing J.D. Christi, who had 17 points to lead his Kansas City Pump-and-Run 16s team to a 78-63 win over a team dubbed Academics First.
"The jumper wasn't falling so I just attacked the basket," Christi said.
Christi's grandparents- Bob and Faymarie Johnson - live in Springdale and his mom - the former Diane Johnson - is a UA grad, former Razorback cheerleader and homecoming queen at the school.
"She was there back when Eddie Sutton was coaching and (Sidney) Moncrief and (Marvin) Delph and (Ron) Brewer were playing," Christi said.
Christi has certainly grown up a Razorback fan and attended a couple of games last season in Fayetteville.
"I just really like it when I am down there," Christi said. "I grew up going to games down there all the time and we still go. I also went to basketball camp a few years ago and it's just one of my favorites."
Christi, who recently attended the adidas Superstar Camp, plays both off guard and small forward for Shawnee Miss (Kan.) East and is coming off a sophomore year where he averaged 20 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
He played high school ball as a freshman as well while pouring in 13 points per game and is interested currently in Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.
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...The Memphis Pump and Run team decided to fly in on Thursday instead of Wednesday, did not make their game time and were dismissed from the tournament. The Houston Superstars Elite were awarded a forfeit and the Memphis team was replaced by the Arizona Rage.
...Arkansas had head coach Stan Heath and assistants Rob Flaska and Ronny Thompson were in Las Vegas on Thursday.
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