Plenty Of Sports On Tap For NW Arkansas Fans

While one is hopeful there will be a feast on my table on Thanksgiving Day, I am certain there will be a sports buffet this weekend -- and the next couple of weeks -- that is certainly going to be some fine dining for sports fans in this state.

You've got a little college football on Friday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. with LSU coming back to the place "The Miracle on Markham" happened two years ago.

No doubt many of those same fans will then book on over to Quigley Stadium to watch the No. 2 Tigers (11-1) host No. 1 Springdale (12-0) in a 7:30 p.m. matchup that doubles as a Class AAAAA semifinal and the high game of the year in Arkansas.

There are some who will no doubt go back and forth to Forrest City, where the Rumble on the Ridge runs Thursday through Saturday night with some of the best individual talent in the country on hand.

That will all lead up to the 10th annual Holiday Hoops basketball tournament at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville Dec. 9-11, a little pre-Christmas present for hoop fans that will feature several Division I signees and some of the nation's best underclassmen.

Perhaps foremost among the underclassman that will draw Razorback fans' attention will be 6-8 Springdale sophomore Michael Sanchez -- who has already been offered a scholarship by Arkansas before his first high school game.

"I think we are going to have a great season and I can't wait to get out there on the court at Bud Walton for the tournament," Sanchez said. "It's going to be real nice to play a real game there and I hear it's going to be some great competition."

There's also the Jacksonville (Fla.) Arlington Country Day trio of 7-3 junior Jason Bennett -- who has Arkansas, Florida and Florida State in his top three -- 6-1 junior point guard Josue Soto and 6-7 sophomore small forward A.J. Stewart, who already has caught the Razorbacks' attention.

"I do think there are going to be a lot of people come out from around the state to get a look at Michael Sanchez, who is generating a lot of interest even before he has started his high school career," Holiday Hoops spokesman Reece Parham said. "He's just one of the many young players in this year's tournament that college coaches seem very excited about coming to see."

The event will open play at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 9 with Camden Fairview and UA football recruit Rod Coleman taking on Arlington Country Day, the No. 8 team nationally in the USA Today preseason prep poll.

ACD also features 6-4 off guard David Huertas (Florida), 6-5, 210-pound power forward Sammie Hernandez (George Mason) while 6-5 wing Brian Hoff plans to attend an Ivy League school.

That game will be followed by a 5 p.m. matchup between Springdale and Memphis Hamilton, who boasts top junior forwards Joe Watkins (6-7, 205) and Jeremy Williams (6-6, 195).

Rogers will battle Booker T. Washington at 6:30 followed by Fayetteville tangling with Spring Woods (Texas) Carroll at 8 p.m. in the nightcap.

Games will be at the same time on Friday, but be moved up to a noon start on Saturday with the championship game slated for 4:30 p.m.

Arlington Country Day will be trying to win a tournament it made the championship game in last season before falling to Midwest City (Okla.).

"The facility was great, the people were great and there was good competition and some of our kids got to see snow for the very first time so it was a wonderful trip," ACD head coach Rex Morgan said. "The only thing that we didn't feel good about was not bringing back the title with us. That's definitely our goal."

Dudley Dawson is a staff writer for Hawgs Illustrated, a Stephens publications. His column appears every Tuesday. Email: Dedsports@aol.com.

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