The Next Big Thing in Arkansas

In his weekly recruiting column for Hawgs Illustrated and The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas, Dudley E. Dawson writes about Junction City junior basketball player James Anderson (6-6, 190) and how he is likely the next big thing in Arkansas. This story is sponsored by the Arkansas Toyota Dealers. It's free and so is a special offer to attend a Razorback event on the Arkansas Toyota Dealers website.

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The Next Big Thing in the State of Arkansas.

I was pretty sure of who that guy would be before I went a stone's throw from the Louisiana border this past weekend, but now I am certain of it.

That's what Junction City junior basketball star James Anderson (6-6, 190) is going to be in part because of his skill level and in part because his legend will continue to grow before many people actually have a chance to see him.

They'll hear about the dunk this past weekend where he left from the free throw line and dunk on a pair of Eudora players, the effortless 3-pointers, the defense, how he looks as comfortable at the point as the 2 and how his keeps the same demeanor throughout.

He'll take Mitch Mustain's place or that of Damian Williams, however you look at it, as the most talked about high school athlete in this state and joins Har-Ber's Michael Sanchez and Nate Rakestraw as the best junior basketball prospects in the state.

"James is a fantastic high school player and is going to be a fantastic college player," notes Arkansas Wings coach Ron Crawford, who coaches Anderson during the summer.

"He is one of the top 25 players in America - no doubt about it.," Crawford added. " The only reason he is not there now is because he broke his foot during the spring after hitting 7 3-pointers in a row in and didn't get seen."

Crawford and I agree on this - Anderson is a bonafide big-timer and he will race up the rankings this summer when he plays in the Real Deal on the Hill, other AAU tournaments and attends the Nike All-America Tournament.

The 16-year-old is the most "complete" player I have seen in Arkansas in a long, long time and yes that includes Corliss Williamson, Joe Johnson and Ronnie Brewer.

While he may or may not have as good a college or NBA careers as they have/will, he is solid in all facets of the game.

Anderson has outstanding athleticism, can shoot the 3, has a mid-range game, hits nearly 90 percent of his free throws, dribbles it equally well with both hands, creates his own shot, can take it to the rack, is an excellent passer and gets after it defensively.

While not very talkative, he's also as humble as they come.

"I'm okay," Anderson said. "I've got a lot to work on, but God has blessed me with a a little talent and I have just tried to work hard."

After watching him do all of that in two games in the Dual State Tournament this weekend, I'm sold.

He is averaging 32 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals per game and his game - while wearing No. 23 - is quite simply Jordanesque, regardless of the fact that he is playing Class AA basketball.

That's why coaches from Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss and Baylor are just a few of the schools who have gone to Lower Arkansas already to see him play or practice.

The Razorbacks (who offered back last summer), Cowboys, Rebels and Bears have already showed him the love.

"I like Arkansas," said Anderson, who admits to liking Duke. "It's been real special for them to come all the way down here to see me. They are definitely a team I am interested in."

It would be easy to say the most impressive thing he did this weekend was that aforementioned dunk, but I was just as impressed with how he handled adversity in his Saturday afternoon semifinal game with Eudora.

Anderson missed his first four shots, was being pushed around by a vocal Eudora team and watching as his guards were getting stripped blind as Junction City fell down 10-2.

But Junction City head coach Joe Paul Hammett moved Anderson to point guard and he controlled the rest of the game in a brilliant display of versatility with 32 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

"He just does whatever we need him to do," Hammett said. "He is such a gifted player and things come so easily to him. But he is all about the team and I think is even a little uncomfortable with the attention he is starting to get. But he is very deserved and I am pleased I am the one getting to coach him."

Warren downed Junction City 54-52 in the finals of the 75th annual Dual State, despite 29 points from Anderson.

The Dragons are now 17-5 with losses only to schools in higher classifications or from Louisiana.

"I think we have a great shot to win the state title," Hammett said. "James gives us that. He is special."

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