UA 's 2006 Recruiting Push

Arkansas head basketball coach Stan Heath and his staff have already welcomed some of the best juniors in the country to Fayetteville.<br><br> This story is sponsored by the Arkansas Toyota Dealers. It's free and so is a special offer to attend a Razorback event on the Arkansas Toyota Dealers website. Click on a banner to find out the details.<br><br>

Imagine getting the nation's best junior center, the nation's best junior small forward, arguably the nation's best junior point guard and a couple of other top prospects in the class of 2006 to visit your campus before their 11th grade season even begins.

Then imagine getting most of the nation's top 100 or so high school basketball players to do the same thing right after their junior seasons finish.

That would be quite a trick, one half that Razorback head basketball coach Stan Heath has already accomplished and the other half which he will take care of during the weekend of April 15-17 when the Best of the Best AAU tournament is held at Bud Walton Arena.

He accomplished the first order of business when the Indianapolis (Ind.) North duo of 7-0, 240-pound center Greg Oden - the nation's consensus top junior prospect - and 6-1 point guard Mike Conley - son of the former Olympic gold medal winning UA track standout of the same name - made their way to Fayetteville last weekend.

That came a week after 6-8, 200-pound Memphis Mitchell small forward Thad Young - regarded as the nation's best at his spot - joined the Bolivar (Tenn.) tandem of 6-8, 235-pound power forward Wayne Chism and 6-1 point guard Willie Kemp at the Razorbacks' Midnight Madness.

The latter trio were part of a quintet on hand at Midnight Madness that also included Sonny Weems, a 6-6, 200-pound freshman small forward from UA-Fort Smith, and 6-8, 200-pound Springdale forward Michael Sanchez, already regarded as one of the nation's top 2007 prospects.

"There is so much talent in the 2006 class and we will be looking at the wing position, the point position and maybe even another big guy to add to the mix," Heath said. "We are making sure our interest is known in several guys. You can never get started too early these days."

Oden is regarded as the likely No. 1 pick in the 2006 NBA draft unless the league institutes a proposed rule that establishes that you must be 20 to be drafted.

"I am just trying to keep humble and not to get the big head," Oden said. "I don't think I am anywhere near developed enough for the NBA so I can't see myself doing that. If I develop I will see what happens, but right now all I am thinking about is going to college. I'm just working hard and let what happens, happens. That's all I can control right now."

The younger Conley had not been in Fayetteville since his family moved away at age 11 when the elder Conley went to work for USA Track and Field.

"There is a lot of things I recognize, but also a lot of things that have gotten better," Conley said. "It's really amazing how the football stadium has changed and how it's just bigger and better around here."

Mike Conley, Sr. - who coaches the pair during the summer for the Spiece Indy Heat AAU club - made a concerted effort to get his top two players to Arkansas and the Razorbacks join Indiana, Wake Forest, Ohio State, Michigan State and Illinois as schools the pair are considering.

"Mainly I just wanted to bring Mike back – and Greg, too – and let them see the University of Arkansas and give it a chance to be on their minds," Conley, Sr. said. "I like them to be able to go out and see places. This is really the last visit they will have before their season starts. After the season's over, it's almost time for them to commit in this day and age."

It's not a stretch to say that most of the Top 100 players of the 2006 class will appear on the court next spring at Bud Walton Arena when the inaugural Best of the Best AAU tournament is held featuring 32 of the nation's top teams.

"It's going to be very exciting," Conley, Sr., noted. "Obviously we have got one of – if not the – best team in the country and everybody wants to play us and it looks like all the best teams and all the best players are all going to be here in Fayetteville. What a lot of people don't realize is this is one of the best arenas in the country and all the top players and coaches will get a chance to see the facility."

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