A Thanksgiving Rumble

Forrest City sophomore Deveyon McKinney is just one of the talented players that will be on hand for the three-day Rumble on the Ridge that begins Thanksgiving Day.

On a recent night this summer, Rumble on the Ridge basketball tournament co-organizer Bill Baxter was watching the sports.

Minnesota Timberwolves center and former University of Arkansas signee Al Jefferson had just signed a 5-year, $65 million contract a few months before.

The TV report was mentioning Golden State had just inked Monta Ellis to a 6-year, $66 million deal.

And before that Mo Williams got himself a 6-year, $51 million deal with Milwaukee and has since been traded to Cleveland.

Not bad for three guys who were once headliners for a tournament that is readying to serve up its 12th annual event beginning Thanksgiving Day in Forrest City.

"I got to thinking that all three of those guys played in our tournament, were stars in it and have went on to great success," Baxter said. "That really brought a smile to my face. We have had some great players and teams come through the Rumble."

Others have included North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough, the preseason college player of the year; current Denver Nugget and former Razorback star Sonny Weems; former Memphis prep star and current Philadelphia 76er Thaddeus Young, current LSU star Tasmin Mitchell, Tennessee's Wayne Chism, Memphis' Willie Kemp and current Razorback Marcus Britt.

Last year's winner Duncanville has a pair of 2008 seniors - Shawn Williams (Texas) and Roger Franklin (Oklahoma State) – who have already signed Division I schools.

Other standouts last year include Rashanti Harris (Georgia State), Oklahoma City's Xavier Henry (Memphis), Memphis White Station junior point guard Joe Jackson and Mississippi State signee Romeo Osby.

"You can turn on the TV most any night and see a player that played in our tournaments and has gone on to do well in college or in the NBA," Baxter said. "It really makes you proud."

Indeed the Rumble will once again feature some standout teams and talented players for its 12th edition and the Arkansas coaching staff and many others will be on hand looking over the prospects.

"Travis Creed that ran the King Cotton in Pine Bluff told me their tournament lasted 12 years and I know the one in Northwest Arkansas is no longer going on," Baxter said. "I feel very fortunate that we have been going strong and have such a great group again this year."

Action will get underway on Thursday when Selma (Ala.) takes on Knoxville (TN) Austin-East at 3:30 p.m.

That game will be followed by Green County Tech battling Sulphur (LA) with Forrest City taking on Starkville (Miss.) Noxubee at 6:30 and Jonesboro battling Baton Rouge (LA) Christian Academy at 8 p.m.

"There may not be any Al Jeffersons or Tyler Hansbroughs this year, but there are a lot of great players that could take the step that a lot of these other guys did," Baxter said. "What's interesting to me is to see some of the guys that were here and just scored a few points go on to be stars in college like Josh White, who played for Christian Life Academy and now is a star at North Texas."

The top senior on hand is likely somebody Razorback fans will see playing against them in the coming years.

That would be Noxubee's Shaunessy Smith, a 6-6 combo guard that has committed to Mississippi State after averaging 25 points per game last season.

"I think a lot of people see him as the number one player in Mississippi," Baxter said. "He is very good and so is that team."

Christian Life Academy might be the favorite with a quartet of talented juniors in 6-3 guard Langston Galloway, 6-8 forward Kaleb Knight, 6-5 forward Patrick Robinson and 6-1 guard Avery Prince.

Galloway, who averaged over 20 points last season, already has an offer from LSU and interest from many other schools.

"Christian Life has won the last three state championships and has Langston Galloway, who just might be the top player in Louisiana right now regardless of the class," Baxter said. "He can really do a lot of things well and he has a lot of talent around him. They are going to be a team that really has a chance to win this thing."

Selma has four talented guys to showcase including 6-8 senior forward Wendell Lewis, 6-6 senior forward Jamie King and 5-10 guard Jakobe Shannon.

"Their big kid Wendell Lewis is a tremendous player, probably the number two player in the state of Alabama," Baxter said. "He can get a lot of thingd done inside and is also a very good shooter. They have all their guys back and a really good team."

Sulphur has a 6-8 junior star in guard LeBato, who averaged 12.5 points and 5.7 rebounds as a sophomore.

He is being looked at by several SEC schools.

"Shooting the ball is my strength," LeBaton told Scout.com. "I can take you inside or outside. I can also bring it up the court and dish it. My size gives me an advantage because when a bigger guy gets on me he will back off and give me the outside shot. Then when a smaller guard is on me I can post him up. I've been working on my post moves to give me that good inside-outside game."

He is coach by his father Chip, who also has 6-3 junior guard Chip Armelin getting some D-1 looks.

"He can shoot the ball real well and he's going to be able to score from the outside," Coach LeBato said. "He's really smart and knows how to play the game. He understands the defensive end and everything. I think when he gets a little stronger he will be able to do more stuff inside because he's mostly an outside guy right now. If he can get that inside-outside combination then that is going to make his game better."

Austin-East features a pair of twins in 6-5 Chase Jones and 6-2 Chance Jones.

"They have seven of their top 8 back and four starters back and will be very strong," Baxter said.

The Northeast Arkansas contingent is also very strong this season.

Heading up that list is the host Forrest City squad, which has 6-6 senior forward Gavin Glanton, 5-10 senior guard Jesse Mitchell and 6-2 sophomore guard Deveyon McKinney.

McKinney was at Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey's elite camp in August.

"Those seniors are very good and Deveyon just might be the best sophomore in the state," Baxter said. "I think they have a strong team this season."

Green County Tech is led by head coach Scott Bowlin, a pretty good player back in his day, and 6-5 senior forward Wes Langston.

"They were state champions two years ago and runner-up last year," Baxter said. "Scott Bowlin had really done a good job with that program. They have four starters back and are really going to be salty."

Jonesboro rounds out the teams with a pair of standouts in 6-5 Jonah Calamese and 6-0 guard Luke Nutt, son of former Arkansas State head coach Dickey Nutt.

"Jonesboro is always, always very good and this year is no different with the Calmese kid and the Nutt kid," Baxter said.

While the event had just one Arkansas team last season, a decision was made to have three this season.

"One thing is that they are all very good teams and will think will add a lot of the tournament," Baxter said. "It also helps the atmosphere because those three teams will bring a lot of fans and make it even more exciting."

The tournament has been such a success because of the vast number of volunteers who put in the time and the effort.

"We probably have about 100 volunteers and it really is a strong community effort," Baxter said. "We have people who come back to Forrest City for Thanksgiving instead of Christmas just so they can help out with this event. We have folks who schedule their vacations around it just because they are so proud of what it has meant to the community and to the people here."

Deveyon McKinney

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