Hoosier Hysteria

In his weekly recruiting column for Hawgs Illustrated and The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas, Dudley E. Dawson chats again with potential University of Arkansas point guard signee Armon Bassett about his Sectional MVP perfomance, his recruitment and what NBA player after which he fashions his game.

Certainly a couple of the things that could have pushed the University of Arkansas' basketball program forward more this season would have been the presence of a true point guard and better outside shooting.

While the Razorbacks have already signed 6-2, 180-pound guard Sean McCurdy of New Jersey and 6-9, 235-pound power forward Cyrus McGowan of Mississippi, a possible third signee might add both of those aforementioned elements.

As reported on Hawgs Illustrated two weeks ago, the Razorbacks are in the mix for 6-2, 170-pound point guard Armon Bassett of Terre Haute (Ind.) South, who is averaging 22 points and nearly 7 assists this season and leading his team further along into Hoosier Hysteria.

UA assistant Ronny Thompson took in Bassett's game back on Feb. 25 and Razorback head coach Stan Heath was in Terre Haute last Wednesday to see him in action.

"I am very, very interested in Arkansas and I am definitely going to take a visit down there," Bassett said. "I know they play in the SEC and that's big-time basketball right there. I also know that supporting the school is the biggest thing in the state of Arkansas and I know there would be a lot of fans behind me if I came there."

Bassett, regarded as one of the four best guards in Indiana, is being recruited by Arkansas, Xavier, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, Auburn and Texas Tech.

"I have been talking a lot with Coach Thompson a lot and have had a chance to visit with Coach Heath lately," Bassett said. "They are telling me they need to shore up their point guard spot and get a shooter and think I can be a guy to help that. They feel like with (Ronnie) and (Darian) Townes and the others they are just right there on the edge of getting it done."

Bassett, just off an MVP performance in sectional play last week, will lead his Braves (20-5) against Evansville Harrison (16-7) in the opening round of Class 4A Regionals Saturday morning at noon. at Seymour High School.

Jennings County (16-6) and Bloomington South (21-2) will start things off at 10 a.m. with the two winners meeting Saturday night at 8 p.m. for the regional championship and the right to advance to the semi-state tournament.

The four regional winners will then play next week for the right to advance to the state tournament, featuring the best teams from all classes in Indiana.

"Basically we have win two on Saturday and two more in the semi-state to get to play in the big tournament," Bassett said. "I like the way we are playing now and feel good about our chances to advance on."

Bassett's MVP award in sectional play came after scoring 26 and 27 points - and knocking down 9 3-pointers - in his team's first two and then becoming more of a playmaker and scoring 12 points and 5 assists as Terre Haute South topped Northview 56-38 in the championship game.

"I did a lot of scoring the first two games, but had two guys following me everywhere I went on Saturday night," Bassett said. "That was fine with me because it just left one of my teammates open all the time and we got a lot of open shots."

Terre Haute South head coach Mike Saylor, who played at Indiana State when current Arkansas assistant Rob Flaska was a graduate assistant there, can't say enough about his star.

"He is just a great offensive talent and a true point guard," Saylor said. "He can score in so many ways, but also loves to penetrate and distribute the ball. He's leading us in scoring and assists and is second in rebounding. And he does everything inside the context of team play. He is also a great leader."

Bassett compares his game to that of Orlando Magic guard Steve Francis.

"I think its like that in that we can both handle the ball, both shoot it from deep and both like to get to the rim," Bassett said. "I'm a two foot jumper like he is and I've got some hops."

Bassett, whose e-mail address has to do with dishing out assists, still has some worked to do academically.

"I think at the end of this trimester I will have a high enough grade point average that I won't have to raise my test score anymore," Bassett said. "But I plan on taking them both just to take care of all the angles."

If he does come up short, Bassett has already decided he will land at Hargrave, but hopes that trip doesn't have to be made.

"I would really like to just take care of my business and be on the court at a college next season," Bassett said. "But right now my sole purpose in trying to lead my team to the top."

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McGowan will be back on the court on Thursday when he leads Meridian (27-8) against Biloxi (26-3) state tournament semifinals.

The Wildcats bashed Olive Branch (75-58) and Jackson Murrah (72-52) in their North State tournament to advance.

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