"Real Deal" A Big Deal On The Hill

While the University of Arkansas' football team may be cutting back the length of its Red-White game this weekend, the basketball action just up the road will certainly be the Real Deal.

Four of the nation's top five traveling AAU teams and a horde of the nation's best high school basketball players - including a lot being recruited by the Razorbacks - will be in Fayetteville this weekend for the inaugural Arkansas Hawks' Real Deal on the Hill.

The event - with 17-and-under and 16-and-under divisions - is the brainchild of former UA track star and Olympic gold medalist Mike Conley and Arkansas Hawks coach and Real Deal executive director Bill Ingram.

Unlike most AAU Tournaments - which split up the field between the various big-name shoe sponsors - the Real Deal on the Hill brings nearly 80 teams wearing Nike, Adidas and Reebok apparel.

"That makes this the premier event, the best tournament out there because all of the teams regardless of who shoes they are wearing will be in one place," Conley said. "The players will get a chance to go up against the absolute best competition and the coaches will be there to see that and make judgments on what is best for their particular program as the kids go head-to-head."

Razorback head basketball coach Stan Heath will reap the benefits of having the nation's best players getting a free look at Bud Walton Arena and the UA campus.

"It's a wonderful idea and we couldn't be happier about this happening on our campus, Heath said. "You got the best players in the country getting to play in your building, see your campus and what your program is all about."

But he certainly won't be the only major college coach in the stands as you can expect to see Texas Tech's Bobby Knight, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina's Roy Williams, Arizona's Lute Olsen, Kentucky's Tubby Smith and Kansas Bill Self just to name a few of the more recognizable faces.

"It's going to be not only big for the kids, but for the coaches and players as well," Conley said. "It's just come together beautiful."

Action in the 17-and-under division will begin Friday night at 8 p.m. and continue through Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. with games being played on three courts at Bud Walton Arena, three at the UA's HPER Building, two more at Fayetteville High and on one court at Ramay Junior High and another at Woodland Junior High.

The 16-and-under division will be going on at the same time with all action at the All-Star Sports Arena in Springdale.

Admission for fans is $10 for an all-day pass or $15 for a weekend pass - each which will allow you admission into any of the playing venues.

Previously only Texas and Las Vegas could hold this type of event, but Conley said the Arkansas Activities Association allowed it to happen.

"I can't say enough about the Arkansas Activities Association, which is allowing this to happen," Conley said. "I think there are only three other states where it is allowed - Texas, Las Vegas (Nevada) and D.C. - where this is even possible. They are doing a great thing to allow the kids in Arkansas to face some of the best talent around and raise their games."

Some of the more recognizable names to Razorback fans that will be playing are Spiece Indy Heats' pair of 7-0 center Greg Oden and 6-1 point guard Michael Conley, Arkansas Wings' 6-10 forward Michael Washington and the Mid-State Ballerz pair of 6-2 point guard Willie Kemp and 6-9, 235-pound power forward Wayne Chism.

There's also 6-8 sophomore Michael Sanchez of Springdale, Memphis Pump and Run standouts in 6-8 Thaddeus Mitchell and 6-9, 235-pound Pierre Niles, 6-3 shooting guard Ramar Smith of The Family and Atlanta Celtics Gold stars Jodie Meeks and Anjuan Wilderness.

Sanchez is coming off a pair of 30-point games in a Memphis tournament this past weekend.

"It's going to be great to play in Bud Walton Arena against some of the best competition there is," Sanchez said. "I'm really looking forward to it."

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