FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Hawks didn't play Sunday in the Real Deal on the Hill. They lost by seven points Saturday night to the Illinois Warriors, the eventual runner-up, in the round of 16.
But their tournament didn't end because of Fayetteville High's Fred Gulley. Far from it, actually. Without the 6-foot-2 point guard, the Hawks wouldn't have kept that contest close.
Gulley scored 22 points and committed just one turnover as he nearly rallied the Hawks back, proving further to his coach that he can direct any Division I school.
"I put him up there with any point guard in this tournament," said Bill Ingram, the Hawks' coach. "Fred has matured a lot since last year. He's taken care of his body. He's quicker. He's leaner. And he's a natural leader."
With consistent play throughout this weekend's Real Deal, Gulley didn't do anything to make Ingram's beliefs seem invalid. He scored in double figures in all of the Hawks' five games. He didn't commit more than two turnovers in any games. And he constantly set up his teammates with open looks.
Just a few months ago, a performance like this may have been hard to predict. Gulley missed the first part of the high school basketball season with a groin injury.
But he recovered to lead Fayetteville to the Class 7A semifinals, where he scored 20 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists in a loss to Little Rock Catholic.
He still feels a bit sluggish right now, though.
"I'm full strength right now, but I'm a little out of shape," Gulley said. "It's tough to go from high school basketball to AAU. The speed is 100 percent different."
True enough, but Gulley appeared fine handling the increased pace.
Gulley said his experience in AAU competition throughout the years has helped. He also credited his cousin, former Arkansas and current Utah Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer, with providing some valuable counsel.
"He texts me after every game, asking who won and what the new update is on all of the schools that are recruiting me," Gulley said. "He gives me a lot of advice, and he's coming back this summer to work with me. We have a great connection."
The list of schools recruiting Gulley grows by the day. Arkansas and Missouri are at the top, but a handful of others have offered scholarships. It isn't just Gulley's basketball skills that are impressing coaches, either.
"I'm just as competitive in school as I am on the court," Gulley said.
And Ingram couldn't name a better leader he has coached in recent memory.
"He's been with us in our organization for a long time," Ingram said. "Fred's just such a great character guy. He sets a great example for others. He takes care of his grades. He's always respectful. And he plays hard every day."
Gulley said Friday night that he plans to narrow his list after soon and then have a college choice made by early July.
"I think I will make a decision by late June or early July," Gulley said. "I want to get ready for my high school season and have that all behind me and focus on trying to win a championship next year."
Position: Point guard
AAU Team: Arkansas Hawks
High School: Fayetteville High
Notables: Named the Arkansas Boys Basketball Gatorade Player of the Year after posting averages of 16.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.4 steals as a junior at Fayetteville High. ... Mentioned Arkansas, Missouri, Xavier, Virginia, Georgia Tech and Baylor as his top college choices. ... Averaged 11.7 points and 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game as a sophomore at Fayetteville High.
For full results, go to RealDealOnTheHill.com.
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