A lot of hard work and a little bit of luck this summer could go a long way in landing the University of Arkansas basketball program one of the best shooters in the 2006 class.
That would be 6-3, 180-pound combo guard Stefan Welsh, a former Newport News (Va.) Woodside prep star who will play at Hargrave Military Academy this summer and who will head there for the beginning of classes Aug. 22 after taking an unofficial visit to Fayetteville likely on Aug. 18-20.
Welsh' counselor at the Nike All-American Camp this summer was none other than current Razorback star Ronnie Brewer and one of his teammates was UA commit Michael Washington (6-10, 230), the former McGehee star who now plays at Cleveland (Texas) Heritage Christian Academy.
"The number one thing I like about Arkansas is the relationship I have built up with (UA assistant) Coach (Ronny) Thompson," Welsh said. "He is a great guy and has been there through the whole recruiting process for me, even before I blew up this summer.
"But it also helped that Ronnie Brewer was my counselor at Nike and Michael Washington - who was on my team and is going to play there - told me all about what a great place Arkansas is and how I need to go there," Welsh continued. "They can't say enough about how great a place it is and I am anxious to see myself."
Welsh, who averaged a whopping 25 points per game at the AAU Super Showcase in Orlando in late July, said Sunday night that he has Arkansas at the top of a list that also includes Tennessee, Virginia, Boston College, Providence and Rutgers.
He had offers from Arkansas, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Xavier before his standout July and has since added them from Tennessee, Georgia, Notre Dame, Boston College,Tulane and Providence.
There seems to be very little doubt that Arkansas - who has taken full advantage of NCAA rules that allow you to text message a recruit - is the leader is in the clubhouse.
"I am going to take my unofficial visit out there and then come back and talk it over with my parents," Welsh said. "If everything is like I am being told, then I could just go ahead and commit. I would then come back for an official visit for a big football or basketball game."
College coaches can begin home visits with prospects beginning on Sept. 9, while Arkansas is likely to bring some prospects beginning on the football weekends of Sept. 3 and Sept. 10.
Going into the summer Welsh, who averaged 22 points last season and 18 as a sophomore, was thought of more as an shooting guard before he hit the court for his AAU season with the Boo Williams Summer League team.
"I think the best thing I did at Nike was prove I can play point and play it well," Welsh said. "I have been labeled as a streaky shooter before, but I think after that people saw how I could also distribute the ball to my teammates and how my shot is now more pure than streaky."
Welsh had six 3-pointers and 25 points in one game at Nike, led his team to the title at the Nike Peach Jam and then averaged 25 per game at the Super Showcase in Orlando, with one 37-point game.
"I think I just kept that momentum going at the (Nike) Peach Jam and down in Orlando," Welsh said. "I think coaches like those at Arkansas saw I can handle it all now."
Arkansas has followed him at every juncture this summer with UA head coach Stan Heath and Thompson constants spectators when he plays - and sending him the most text messages.
Heath, in fact, managed to watch all six of Welsh's game at Nike despite the fact that he was bouncing in between the Nike, Adidas and Reebok Camps going on at the same time.
"They have done a great job recruiting me and made me really feel wanted," Welsh said. "They have talked to me about how they can really use me and I could play a big role for them. They also think Ronnie Brewer may be headed out after this year and need the scoring punch that I can bring."
The Razorbacks will add freshman point guard Sean McCurdy to the mix this season and then drop in Mississippi State transfer Gary Irvin for the 200-6-2007 campaign.
They would love to add Bolivar (Tenn.) point guard Willie Kemp as well, stocking up a perimeter game that has already lost Olu Famutimi and will lose seniors Eric Ferguson and Jonathon "Pookie" Modica and perhaps Brewer after this season.
"They are talking about what a strong group we can have and how we could play together," Welsh said. "I'm excited about the possibilities."
Welsh - who will be a senior this season - will be joined at Hargrave by high school teammate Vernon Macklin as well as former Tennessee signee Tyler Smith, another player Arkansas is involved with right now.
He and Macklin, whose leader appears to Georgetown, have played together since they were 14.
"We first thought we would play in college together as well, but it looks like we are going to head different places and that's okay," Welsh said. "At least we can get in one more year at Hargrave together."
Woodside has lost in the state finals the last two seasons, but the pair will be playing for Coach Kevin Keatts at Hargrave this season.
"I went down to visit Hargrave and just really liked it and Coach Keatts and everybody I have talked to has nothing but great things to say about it," Welsh said. "I really think that level of play will help me to develop my game even more and be ready for college level right away."
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