Flat-Out Winner

In his weekly recruiting column, Dudley E. Dawson chats up Arkansas point guard signee Courtney Fortson (5-11, 175), who has led his team to a 33-1 record. This story is sponsored by the Arkansas Toyota Dealers. It's free and so is a special offer to attend a Razorback event. Click on the Arkansas Toyota banner for details.

University of Arkansas signee Courtney Fortson and The Patterson School were in pursuit of perfection.

But just like Memphis in the collegiate ranks, Patterson's quest ended this weekend after winning their first 31 games this season.

Patterson lost by one point on Friday night in the Johnson City (TN) Classic, something the No. 1 prep school team in the country rebounded from by pummeling a squad by 50 points on Sunday.

"I can't believe we lost by one point and obviously it was very disappointing, but you try to learn from your mistakes" Fortson said. "Everybody was wondering how we were going to respond. I'd say we made a pretty big statement by winning by 50."

Patterson now stands 33-1 on the season after a win Monday night with the Black History Classic in Raleigh, N.C. Friday and Saturday and thenthe National Prep School Elite Eight in the Bronx, N.Y., on March 4-6.

"The reason we have been so good this season is that we play great as a team, we have about 10 guys all with great skill level and we have dicated the tempo all year," Fortson said.

Fortson (5-11, 175), who is averaging 25 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds per game, seems all set to take over at point guard for the Razorbacks next season.

"Courtney Fortson has just been a tremendous winner," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "…I had a chance to see him play against Brandon Jennings and somebody else (on staff) saw him against Tyreke Evans – two of the top point guards in the country…Courtney competed very well in terms of a individual basis on points and assists, but more importantly his team won both games. That is exciting as a coach.

"You try to keep some of this stuff in perspective because you have never had a chance to coach these guys one day yet," Pelphrey said. "But from a toughness, from a winning standpoint, from a guy who committed to playing well with the other four players on the floor – I think we all understand how important that is. He has the ability to make other guys better."

A report by Kentucky writer Mark Maggard surfaced last week alledging that Fortson was in jeopardy of not making it academically and that it had to do with core courses.

Fortson heatedly denied Maggard's assessment.

"I don't even know what that man is talking about or why somebody in Kentucky is even talking about me," Fortson said. "I made the honor roll last semester and am going to make it again."

Fortson, who was diagnosed with a learning disability earlier, says he is on course to be fine academically.

His last hurdle is to take an untimed standardized test over the course of three days.

"Courtney is going to be fine," said Pelphrey, noting that he would be going nuts looking for another point guard if he thought Fortson was a risk.

Fortson has had a chance to watch his future team three times this season on television – all wins.

"I saw them beat Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn," Fortson said. "I think they have had a good year, but obviously they should not have lost to Appalachian State."

He did not get a chance to see the Razorbacks' 63-58 loss to Kentucky this past weekend.

"We were on our way back and then practiced," Fortson said. "I think they are going to be fine and then next year when we all come in, we are going to be very, very good."

Fortson joins a current 2008 Arkansas recruiting class that includes Oklahoma guard Rotnei Clarke (6-1, 180), New Orleans (La.) Holy Cross forward Brandon Moore (6-9, 215), Coffeyville Community College small forward Daniel Payne (6-7, 210) and Andre Clark (6-10, 205), who enrolled at semester and is practicing with the Razorbacks.

"I've played against Andre Clark and Brandon Moore so I know how good they can be," Fortson said. "I also know that Rotnei is a terrific shooter and that Payne is really, really good as well.

"My job will be to come in there and make all those guys around me – that already have great skills – even better," Fortson said. "That's exactly what I plan to do."

Arkansas apparently is also still in the mix for Fortson's former high school and current Patterson teammate Varez Ward (6-2, 180).

"It still is a possibility that we could play together in college at Arkansas," Fortson said. "I know they are still looking at him and he is still looking at them."

O o o


…Rotnei Clarke is poised to break the Oklahoma career scoring record this Friday night at 8 p.m. in Skiatook in a 3A area final when he leads Verdigris (23-3) against Adair (24-2) in a matchup of the top two 3A teams.

He needs just 34 points to have the record to himself after 56 points and 49 points in his last two games.

This is the third straight year the teams have met in the area final with Clarke having 57 points last season in a win.

…Arkansas is apparently now in the mix for former West Memphis star Jason Henry (6-7, 190), who is now at Cincinnati Harmony Christian prep school.

Henry is extremely close with former West Memphis and current Razorback star Sonny Weems.

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