Washington, Welsh Sign With UA

FAYETTEVILLE -- All Michael Washington ever wanted was to be a Razorback.

He's taken a circuitous rout to get there.

On Wednesday, the 6-foot-10 power forward from Mendenhall (Miss.) Genesis One Prep, moved one step closer to making it a reality, signing a letter of intent on the first day of the early signing period.

Washington signed at the Boys and Girls Club in McGehee, his hometown.

"This is what I've always wanted to do," Washington said. "I can't wait to play for the Razorbacks."

Joining Washington in signing with the Razorbacks was Stefan Welsh (6-3, 180), a shooting guard from Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy.

"I want all the fans to know this year we're ready, ready, ready," Welsh said. "They can expect a lot from us the next few years."

The pair are expected to be joined later in the week by Sonny Weems (6-6, 200), a swingman from Arkansas-Fort Smith who prepped at West Memphis High. Smith will sign at 3 p.m. Friday at UAFS.

Arkansas coach Stan Heath did not address the signees Wednesday, but is expected to discuss Washington and Welsh today. He can not comment on Weems until his letter of intent has been filed with the school.

Washington, who has bounced from school to school the last few years, is looking forward to having one school to call home for a long period of time.

"It has been hard a little moving from school to school," he said. "I'm just doing what I have to do to get better and look forward to playing for Arkansas."

Most recently, Washington moved from Cleveland (Texas) Heritage Christian to Genesis to be closer to his family in McGehee.

Playing and living at Hargrave has prepared Welsh for playing Division I basketball, he said.

"It got me away from a lot of distractions," Welsh said. "And I'm playing with all good players --11 Division I players. Playing with all these good players and traveling and playing junior college will help me at Arkansas.

Welsh said he's also working hard to try to convince Hargrave teammate Tyler Smith (6-6, 210) to join him in Fayetteville. Smith has said he would wait until the late signing period to make his college choice.

"He's going to be coming down for a visit sometime this season and I'm going to join him," Welsh said. "I'm just going to make it more comfortable to him and let him know about all the great things around Arkansas basketball."

Welsh signed as part of a ceremony where several Hargrave players made their commitments official.

Now that his signing is out of the way, Welsh is concentrating on his season at Hargrave and getting qualified academically. He is awaiting scores of his latest ACT and is preparing to take the SAT again. Welsh is confident, though, that he will have no trouble qualifying soon.

"That's the reason I came to Hargrave," he said. "They get players qualified."

Welsh said he'll spend this year concentrating on building up his strength, hoping to challenge for playing time immediately once he gets to Fayetteville.

The first time he suits up for the Razorbacks will be difficult, Washington said.

"I'll probably be nervous," he said. "But by the time the game starts, I'll be ready."

Lady'Backs Sign Four

The Arkansas Lady Razorbacks picked up four basketball signees on the first day of the early signing period. And according to coach Susie Gardner, the group is just what her team needed to help take the program to another level.

"It's a good group," Gardner said. "It's got combo guards, athletes, one in-state with Kendra Roberts. And I think it's a start."

Roberts -- a 5-foot-8 guard from Fort Smith -- played her first two seasons of high school ball at Southside High before transferring to crosstown Northside this year. As a junior, Roberts averaged 10 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals per game.

"The more I watched Kendra, the more I liked her," Gardner said. "More than anything with her, more than scoring or anything like that was just the way she played with such a passion."

Gardner also landed 6-2 guard Charity Ford, of Arlington, Texas, 6-2 guard/forward Tanisha Smith of Kansas City, Mo., and 6-3 forward Ashley Wilson of Byhalia, Miss.

Ford is ranked as the No. 13 overall prospect in the state of Texas by texashoops.com., while both Smith and Wilson look to help Arkansas improve on its lack of size in the low post.

"We're hopefully going to sign a few more late, possibly from junior colleges," Gardner said. "Certainly size is what we're going to be looking for."

VERNON TARVER OF THE MORNING NEWS CONTRIBUTED TO THIS STORY.

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