All About the Ws

Now that letters-of-intents have arrived for Stefan Welsh and Michael Washington, University of Arkansas head coach Stan Heath sizes up those two additions and waits for Sonny Weems' to arrive on Friday afternoon.

The 2005 University of Arkansas basketball recruiting class had a lot of McFlavor to it.

The 2006 class is all about the Ws so far in combo guard Stefan Welsh (6-3, 180) of Hargrave Military Academy and Arkansas native Michael Washington (6-10, 230) of Genesis One Christian Academy on Thursday.

He will also get to talk about another W - University of Arkansas-Fort Smith guard Sonny Weems - as a member of this class when Weems, the nation's top junior college player, inks his letter of intent Friday afternoon at 3 p.m.

"When I look at our team and how it is put together, our front line is in great shape with all those guys being sophomores and just one freshman in Cyrus McGowan," Heath said. "That's a front line that can be as good as anybody in the country over the next few years.

"The major, major need for us were the perimeter losing Jonathon Modica, Eric Ferguson and Dontell Jefferson, it was very important that we were able to track some guys that can help us right away," Heath said. "That's what so exciting about this class."

Heath - who signed Sean McCurdy, Cyrus McGowan and Ryan McBride last season - noted that he will likely not stop with just three signees in this current class.

He didn't eliminate the possibility of somebody else coming on board - even in the early signing period - to join the aforementioned trio as well as Mississippi State transfer point guard Gary Ervin and McBride (slated to arrive in December) as newcomers next season.

Sources indicate that both Ramar Smith (6-3, 180), a Michigan prep shooting guard who earlier committed to UConn but is no longer involved with the Huskies and Tyler Smith (6-6, 210), Welsh's teammate at Hargrave, remain options.

"We have one more scholarship and if the right player is available, we will definitely try to add one more player," Heath said. "If we don't feel like somebody is going to help our team right away, we will just hold onto it."

Washington, who signed in was the first of the three to give the Razorbacks a commitment when he pledged to be a Razorback early in the summer.

"Michael has tremendous upside," Heath said. "He could be the prototype power forward."

He is a native of McGehee who averaged 25 points, 14 rebounds and 8 block shots at Cleveland (Texas) Heritage Christian last season before making the move to Genesis One in Mendenhall, Miss., this season.

"He has good size and length and cou;d continue to add to his 230-pound frame," Heath said. "He has very good face-up skills, is a good athlete and is very aggressive. As he continues to hone his skills he could be a very special player in our conference."

Welsh is just the type of player Heath was looking for on the perimeter.

"In addition to being a talented scorer, he's a good defender and playmaker," Heath said. "The big adjustment for Stefan will be adding strength and tailoring his skills to playing both guard spots, but we expect him to contribute and make an impact."

Welsh committed to Arkansas in August before even seeing the campus, but after being recruited hard by the UA coaches as well as current Razorback Ronnie Brewer and Washington at this past summer's Nike Camp.

"I had a vision of what it would be like from talking to Ronnie and Michael at the Nike Camp, but it was even better than I expected when I took my official visit," Welsh said. "I'm in love with the place and the program and I am going to be proud to be a part of getting us (Arkansas) back to the level we once were."

Welsh had 14 points and 9 assists in his team's 109-90 win over Eldon Academy on Tuesday.

"We really didn't need me to try and score that much in that game because our inside guys had a major size advantage of about four inches on all of the guys guarding them so we just kept going to them and letting them get easy scores," Welsh said. "We played really well together."

He poured in 25 points during Hargrave's annual scrimmage with Oak Hill back in mid-October with the two team's splitting a pair of 20-minute sessions.

"That was great for both of the teams because it showed us what areas we were strong in and which ones we really need to work on," Welsh said. "As far as my individual play, I was able to both create my shot and my teammates were setting good screens as well and I was feeling it."

Heath also likes Welsh because of his winning background, from Newport News (Va.) Woodside.

"He comes from a winning program," Heath said. "He won two state championships as a sophomore and junior in high school and now attends one of the top prep schools in the country. He's a very talented scorer."


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