Charles Smith has seen all the big names during his trips to the annual Holiday Hoops basketball tournament at Bud Walton Arena.
Smith, coach of the Springdale Bulldogs, has seen players such as Alonzo Lane, Chris Duhon and Darius Rice on the campus of the University of Arkansas.
In fact, when Springdale finished second in the tournament in 1998, Smith's Bulldogs lost in the finals to Little Rock Central -- led by former Razorback and current Phoenix Sun Joe Johnson.
"There's been some great players come through, that's for sure," Smith said.
When this year's Bulldogs open pay tonight against Memphis Hamilton at 5 p.m., however, it won't be only players on the opposing team who will have the interest of college recruiters and scouts.
Fresh off of a stellar summer of camp basketball, Bulldog Michael Sanchez (6-foot-8, 190 pounds) was offered a scholarship by Arkansas before the season began. That's before the sophomore had even played a varsity game.
Sanchez has received plenty of attention from many of the nation's top college basketball programs this fall, and he's likely to draw casual fans to the 10th annual tournament this week.
"There's been a lot of college coaches calling about him and our schedule," Smith said. "I told them all if they wanted to see him to come to Holiday Hoops."
Sanchez has helped Springdale to a 2-1 start this season. He's played well early, highlighted by his 26-point, 15-rebound game against Springfield (Mo.) Glendale last week.
Springdale lost that game to Glendale, however, much in part to turnovers. The Bulldogs have struggled to hold on to the ball early, committing 50 turnovers in their first three games.
"We've got to find a way to take care of the ball," Smith said.
Possession will be at a premium tonight when the Bulldogs face Hamilton, a team which returns its two leading scorers from last season in juniors Jeremy Williams (6-8) and Jay Watkins (6-9).
Smith expects Hamilton to try and take advantage of the Bulldogs early turnover problems with a pressing defense, and he's hopeful Springdale will be able to find easy scoring opportunities for both Sanchez and senior J.T. Eichenberger (6-4, 180).
Whatever happens in the tournament, Smith knows his players will enjoy the games at Walton Arena, as well as dressing in the Razorbacks locker room.
"It's a big thing for all of the kids," Smith said. "Even our seniors who have done this before enjoy it. Hopefully we can go down there and make something happen."
o o o
The opening round on Thursday begins with Jacksonville (Fla.) Arlington Country Day taking on Camdem Fairview at 3:30 p.m.
Other games include Rogers will battle Tulsa Booker T. Washington at 6:30 p.m. and Fayetteville takes on Southlake Carroll at 8 p.m.
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