Springdale Har-Ber shooting guard Nate Rakestraw got to fulfill a life-long dream on Wednesday afternoon when he signed his letter-of-intent with the University of Arkansas basketball program.
In the process he gave Razorback fans something to look forward to seeing in the future.
That would Rakestraw (6-5, 212) swishing 3-pointers through the net and bringing an all-around game that was honed over the summer was averaging 27 points per game for the Arkansas Hawks.
"This is a day that I have looked forward to since I was a little kid and always hoped would come," Rakestraw said. "Now that it has finally happened after a lot of hard work, I just couldn't be any happier. I am a Razorback through and through."
Arkansas head coach Stan Heath was certainly pleased to land Rakestraw, who transferred from Siloam Springs after his sophomore season to play for newly-opened Har-Ber High.
"Nate is a Razorback and we're excited about having him join our program," Heath says. "He's a good all-around player, but in my mind, he's a shooting specialist."
Rakestraw reminds a lot of basketball followers as a player similar to former Ole Miss standout and Arkansas native Keith Carter, who starred for the Rebels after being overlooked during his time at Perryville.
"I really wanted someone with his ability," Heath says. "He's a little under the radar screen, but he had a very impressive summer and he played really well in that league with pros in Little Rock. That really helped him."
Rakestraw was the only Razorback signee on Wednesday as the week-long early signing period opened but 6-8 small forward Jeff Brooks of Louisville (KY) Doss has said he will choose between Arkansas and Penn State later this week.
He averaged 18 points per game for Har-Ber last season as the Wildcats went 15-14 in the first year of the program with former Fort Smith Soutside coach Eric Burnett at the helm.
He has averaged 21 points as a sophomore at Siloam Springs.
"Nate is such a great kid and I have really enjoyed coaching him," Burnett said. "He is quite and doesn't say much and just let all of his actions show for him."
He clearly was a better player on the AAU circuit this summer than he was a high school one last season.
"I went down to Little Rock a lot and worked with my AAU coach Bill Ingram and we would work on my attacking the basket, my pull-backs, pump fakes and taking people off the dribble," Rakestraw said. " Each tournament I seem to improve a little bit more."
Burnett said he has seen the improvement in practice this season.
"I think he has so much confidence now and is a totally different player from last year," Burnett said. "He could always really shoot the ball, but now he can put the ball on the floor and do a lot of other things. He is a lot better."
Arkansas offered Har-Ber forward Michael Sanchez a scholarship back before he played his first high school game for Springdale and he was on hand supporting Rakestraw Wednesday by wearing a T-shirt that Go Hogs Go.
"I am so happy for him," Sanchez said. "He is my best friend and I am glad he is going to get a chance to play for Arkansas because that has been his dream."
Sanchez is coming off two separate surgical procedures on a knee that prevented him from playing to his potential last season and from taking the court at all this summer.
He said Wednesday that he will be able to join his teammates for practice on Monday and will miss his team's first game on Nov. 21 at Little Rock McClelland, but should be able to play in a tournament in Perioa, Ill., over Thanksgiving.
He will then decide in January or so whether he will be a 2007 prospect or a 2008 one and head to a prep school next season for development.
"It depends on how I play as to whether I will come out this season or be a 2008 guy," Sanchez said.
With that pair, two other starters back and a point guard who played a lot, Rakestraw thinks Har-Ber has a chance to be great this season.
"Team-wise our goal is to win a state championship and we expect nothing less that that to be honest," Rakestraw said.
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