Real Deal 2

Arkansas Hawks standout Michael Sanchez is just one of over 1,000 basketball prospect that will be on hand in Fayetteville April 14-16, 2006 for the second annual Real Deal on the Hill AAU Tournament - which might even get a visit from Michael Jordan.

Don't be surprised if you see Michael Jordan walking around in Bud Walton Arena or on the streets and golf courses in Fayetteville and Springdale next April.

That wouldn't be shocking at all since Jeffrey and Marcus Jordan, his two 6-foot-4 sons that play for the Illinois Rising Stars, will be just two of over a thousand youth basketball players on hand April 14-16 for the second annual Tyson's Real Deal on The Hill AAU Basketball Tournament.

The Arkansas Hawks event, dubbed the best AAU Tournament of the spring by one recruiting service and set to be played in 37 different arenas and gyms in Northwest Arkansas, is unique in that it has teams sponsored by Reebok, Nike and Adidas all getting together to play in one spot.

"This is something we are really excited about, having the number one rated amateur basketball tournament in the country," Real Deal and Hawks Bill Ingram said Thursday morning at a press conference held at Fayetteville's Town Center. "To have it here in Northwest Arkansas is a great opportunity for the entire state."

The tournament will double in size and feature 144 teams in four age divisions - 17-and-under, 16-and-under, 15-and-under and 12-and-under - will be loaded with the country's best talent.

The Real Deal , expected to pour over three million dollars into the Northwest Arkansas economy, will have the No. 1 player in the country in the 2007 class in 6-5 O.J. Mayo of the DC Greyhounds as well as his teammate Bill Walker and DC Assault's Michael Beasley.

"This year we are expecting 9 of the top 12 players in the country in the 2006 recruiting class, 93 of the top 100 and 16 of the top 20 players in the 2008 class," Ingram said.

They'll also be the Arkansas Hawks duo of forward 6-9, 220-pound Michael Sanchez - who has an offer from Arkansas - and 6-5 shooter Nate Rakestraw, who is now being looked at by the Razorbacks.

Not to mention the top player in the 2009 class in ninth-grader Renardo Sidney from Jackson, Miss.

"Every top coach in the country was here last year and will be again," Ingram said. "I got a couple of pictures that I keep for myself of me and Roy Williams, me and Jim Calhoun and me and Lute Olson. That's pretty impressive. A lot of college towns would love to have an event like this to show off their city. Roy Williams was just amazed at Bud Walton. He told me it was the finest facility in the country, even nicer than the Dean Dome."

There is not a shortage of teams hoping to get into the tournament, as evidence by the waiting list for the 17-and-under division.

"We've got 56 17-year-old teams in and I've got 23 on the waiting list that wants to get in and willing to send their registration fee right now," Ingram said. "But I am telling them right now there is no reason to do that. We are full and no one's going to pull out."

Ingram said there is a simple reason so many teams want into the event.

"The key to that is we have good teams," Ingram said. "We are not going for just anybody to play. We want good quality teams where most of them have kids who have the chance to play in college."

The tournament will feature a Fanfare on Friday night, the retiring of the jerseys of former Arkansas Hawks Ronnie Brewer and Jonathon  Modica on Saturday and an Easter Sunrise service on Sunday morning before play starts.

The players in the 12-year-old division will be in for a special treat.

"We will start playing at noon on Friday and every 12-year-old's first game will be in Bud Walton Arena," Ingram said. "That's going to be a special deal for all of them."

While Ingram and former Hawks organizer Michael Conley hatched the idea to have the tournament in Fayetteville and show off the University of Arkansas, they were stunned when they began talking to coaches.

"When I started talking to coaches and teams about coming to Arkansas, 98 percent had never been to Arkansas period," Ingram said. "...If the adults had no idea, you can imagine were simply lost when it comes to the University of Arkansas. But they came and said they had no idea how nice Arkansas was, how great the facilities were and what all we had to offer."

Ingram, a proud University of Arkansas grad, says he has an ulterior motive than just having great teams on hand.

"It's my school and I want to show off what we have here," Ingram said. "We're getting a free chance for all these great players to come here for free and take a look at the great things Arkansas has. It's going to really help us down the line."

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