Storm Warning

Monroe (La.) Richwood junior forward Storm Warren (6-9, 215), playing inspired ball due in part to the passing of a teammate to cancer, is among the headliners on Day 1 of the Holiday Hoops basketball tournament Thursday at Bud Walton Arena

It wasn't the Perfect Storm Thursday afternoon at Bud Walton Arena, but it was pretty close.

Monroe (La.) Richwood junior forward Storm Warren and teammate Tommy Boatner both tossed in 23 points and Warren also grabbed 10 rebounds in just 20 minutes of playing time to lead the Rams over Springdale 101-76 in the opening round of the Holiday Hoops Tournament.

Warren (6-9, 215), a 2008 prospect the University of Arkansas would love to sign, was 10-of-14 from the field, 3-of-4 from the free throw line and had 3 blocks for good measure – which was clearly enough to impress Springdale head coach Charlie Smith.

"He can come to Springdale and live anytime he wants," Smith said. "He is outstanding young ballplayer and he is going to do nothing, but get better and better."

The win lifted Richwood (7-1) into a 6:30 p.m. semifinal game tonight against Texas power Duncanville (8-0) with Junction City (2-0) taking on Springdale Har-Ber (4-2) in the other winner's bracket semifinal at 8 p.m.

Junction City star and Oklahoma State signee James Anderson set a tournament record with 43 points to lead the Dragons over Fayetteville 66-64 while Duncanville topped Forrest City 65-62 and Springdale Har-Ber topped Columbus (Miss.) New Hope 80-68.

Forrest City (4-2) and Springdale High will play at 3:30 p.m. and Fayetteville battles New Hope at 5 p.m. in the losers' bracket Friday afternoon.

Warren was one of the standouts at this summer's Reebok ABCD Camp in Teaneck, N.J., but has clearly changed from just being an inside player.

"I'm in better condition, shooting the ball better, able to put it on the floor and create more options, I can play inside and out now and also I am a great defender," Warren said. "I am also working on my defending outside from the one to the five so I can just prepare myself for the next level."

Warren and his teammates are playing this season with a heavy heart after the death of senior-to-be Rod Thomas this summer.

Thomas took a charge on the court last February in a collision that after first was thought to be either a bruised lung or a broken rib.

But after checking on him a couple of months later, doctors found that he had lung cancer, bad enough that he left him with just a few months to live.

"He found out in May it was cancer and he passed in June," noted Richwood assistant coach Michael Hunter, Sr. "He was a great kid academic-wise and athletically. He would have got to play on the next level.

"We have a picture of him that we hang his jersey on, we hang it in our locker room and we touch it and the guys touch it and have a special little deal they do before they come out," Hunter added. "That's our inspiration – number 23."

Warren said that his team is dealing with the loss the best they can and that's playing for their fallen comrade.

"It was pretty hard," Warren said. "We know he wouldn't want us to set back and reminisce on his memory, he would want us to carry them on out for him. That's what we do. When we step on the court, we play hard and go as hard as we can for him and also for us to succeed."

Hunter said his team, which is playing in the first of four straight tournaments this month, has bonded together as a true team."

"We are just proud of these guys," Hunter said. "They do what we ask them to do and you don't come across these kids too often that are willing to do what is best for the team.

Warren, who has played in the Real Deal on the Hill in Fayetteville the last two seasons, says Arkansas is one of the teams he is very interested in right now.

"This is a great and I like the organization," Warren said. "I came up here early yesterday to see the team practice. They have a pretty good team and next year when I am an up—and-coming senior I am looking forward to taking a visit here."

"Warren says the schools he has the most interest in right now are Arkansas Clemson, Kentucky, Texas, USC, Alabama, Arkansas, LSU and Indiana.

He knows that Arkansas will losing seven seniors after the 2007-2008 season.

"When I narrow down my decision, that will be one of the factors," Warren said. "I would be able to get a lot of experience as a freshman coming in and certainly by my sophomore and junior years I would be a big contributor to the team."

O o o

Springdale Har-Ber 80, New Hope 68

University of Arkansas signee Nate Rakestraw had 22 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals in the win for Har-Ber while P.J. Shannon added 17 points with 5 3-pointers and Michael Sanchez chipped in 17 points points and 9 rebounds.

Rashanti Harris, a 6-10, 240-pound junior center that Arkansas is recruiting, led the way for New Hope with 16 points and 6 rebounds while Dale Hughes added 14 and Victor Payne 10.

O o o

Junction City 66, Fayetteville 64

James Anderson scored 28 of his tournament-record 43 points in the second half to bring the Dragons back from a 40-28 halftime deficit.

Shumeccio Lark added 11 points for Junction City, who had only two normal starters available due to football.

Sophomore guard Fred Gulley led Fayetteville (0-2) with 25 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals while Jeff Wittke – the son of former UA quarterbacks coach Roy Wittke – added 16 points for the Purple Bulldogs.

O o o

Duncanville 65, Forrest City 62

Shawn Williams, a 6-6 sophomore forward, had 21 points and 6 rebounds and 6-8 Texas Tech signee D'Walyn Roberts added 13 points and 7 rebounds unbeaten Duncanville.

Kelson Stewart led the way for Forrest City with 24 points while 6-6 sophomore forward Gavin Glanton added 12, ASU signee Stefon Weaver 10 points and 9 rebounds and Marcus Britt 10 points and 8 assists.

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