Young and Talented

In his weekly recruiting column, Dudley E. Dawson writes about new UA hoops commit Aaron Ross - a Pulaski Academy freshman and one of the nation's best prospects in the 2011 class. 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.

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Anyone who has seen 15-year-old Aaron Ross on the AAU basketball circuit knows one thing – the young man clearly has Division I talent.

So while the former Springdale Southwest standout and current Pulaski Academy star may just be a ninth grader, it's not surprising that he is also suddenly a University of Arkansas commitment.

Ross, a 6-7, 205-pound guard/small forward that's rated as one of the top 10 players nationally in the Class of 2011 - is tremendously gifted and versatile and pledged to be a Razorback on Sunday night.

"I asked him if he wanted to go through the recruiting process and he said no," notes Carlos Conley, Ross' brother and legal guardian. "He said ‘I have always wanted to be a Razorback' and feels like if he goes ahead and commits now than he just can focus on his academics and his basketball."

Ross, who has starred for the AAU Arkansas Wings for several years and even played some 17-and-under last season as a 14-year old, made the pledge after an unofficial visit to see Arkansas' 78-73 win over Vanderbilt.

"Basically it was just the hospitality that we were extended, the way they coaches and team treated each other, the atmosphere and the fact that he just has always wanted to be a Razorback," Conley said. "We had been in contact with (Arkansas head) Coach (John) Pelphrey and (Razorback assistant) Coach (Tom) Ostrom for awhile now and let them know he was ready."

Ross, Conley and their mother Lillian Cooper Ross were very appreciative of the early offer.

"I just want to thank the University of Arkansas for giving Aaron the opportunity to get an education and play Division I basketball.'' Conley said. "We are very excited. My mom enjoyed our unofficial visit to the University of Arkansas. We were especially impressed with Coach Pelphrey's commitment to education and discipline as well as visiting with Coach (Rob) Evans, Coach Ostrom and their other coaches."

Ross averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds at Southwest during the 2006-2007 season.

He then made the move to North Little Rock to live with his brother and averaged 6.7 points and 4.6 rebounds in 13 games for Pulaski Academy the first semester before being academically eligible for the second semester.

"I have no doubt that he would have averaged double figures in both points and rebounds if he had played the full season, but we were just working him in to what was already a very good team and he was just very respectful of the other guys and their talents," Pulaski Academy head coach Chuck Winkelman said. "The thing that is just so special about him is that versatility. He can legitimately play from the 1 to the 5 in high school, but is a clear perimeter prospect for college."

Pelphrey and Ostrom first got to see Ross play last spring in AAU action and then came to see him play in December at Pulaski Academy, which also featured a bevy of other talent including UA football signee Cruz Williams, fellow senior Anson Bartlett and junior standouts Neal Barlow and Spencer Keith.

"He had a great outing at a Nike event when he was playing 17-and-under when they came to see him the first time," Conley said. " He then had another great game when they came to see him the day before they played at Alltel Arena (on Dec. 22)."

Ross did not hit the classroom work hard enough the first semester and was unable to play the second semester.

"He has handled it real well," Winkelman said. "He is determined to use this as a turning point for himself. I have been very impressed with how he responded and he has had a great semester in the classroom."

Conley concurred with that sentiment.

"We had a long talk about things and he knows now that you have to apply yourself in the classroom even more than you do on the court," Conley said. "He has made a vast improvement this semester. We know that it takes a village to raise a child and he has some good people around him and is taking advantage of that."

Ross will play with the Arkansas Wings' 15- and 16-and-under teams this spring and summer and then will return to Pulaski Academy with an expanded role.

"He is going to be a 6-8, 6-9 guy that weighs around 235 pounds by the time he gets out of high school," Winkleman said. "You look at him and watch him play and it is just hard to believe he is just 15. He just has a great feel of the game and certainly looks the part."


…UA signee Rotnei Clarke, who now has the Oklahoma career scoring record with 3,643 points, will try to add to that mark at this weekend's state tournament.

Clarke and Verdigris (24-3) play Metro Christian at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday night and need three wins to grab the title.

…Little Rock Hall junior point guard A.J. Walton (6-0, 180) will try to lead his team to the Class 6A title against Benton Friday night at 8:45 p.m. in Hot Springs.

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