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Springdale standout Shelton Baird, a 6-2 guard just off a spectacular sophomore season in which he averaged 25 points, will return to the Arkansas Wings' AAU squad this summer.
He will join a loaded team that includes 6-7, 220-pound UA commit Aaron Ross of Little Rock Parkview, 6-10 Jonesboro Westside forward Hunter Mickelson, 6-4 small forward Ky Madden of EPC, Conway guard Micah Delph and 6-5 Darion Griswold of Dumas to name a few.
"I am really excited," Baird said. "I am good friends with all of them and I think we have a chance to win a national championship and maybe not even lose. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Those guys will be on display April 17-19 in Conway during the AAU Old School Super Regional.
It is an event that features teams in six age divisions and will be held at the Hendrix' Wellness and Athletic Center, Central Baptist College and a pair of other Conway gyms.
"If you are a basketball fan, just like last year, you are in for a great show," notes Arkansas Wings coach Ron Crawford.
One difference this year for both the Old School and Real Deal in the Rock tournaments – which will happen the same weekend in Little Rock – is new NCAA rules will prevent college coaches from being there.
The games will be available via the internet so coaches will be able to see them that way.
"The Super Regional format is designed to ensure the teams will face the highest level of competition in each game, while playing in a format we are hopeful will be considered for NCAA Division 1 coaches evaluation in 2010," Crawford said. "The maximum number of games a team will play over the weekend will be 5.
"This is the same rule used during the July Evaluation Period," added Crawford. "This not only gives the fans an opportunity to see great games but the scouting services will be able to evaluate players competing against the best every game."
Baird stepped away from AAU ball the past couple of season to just work on his game individually.
"I worked on all areas of the game," Baird said. "I spent 5 to 7 hours a day doing it and did it every day. Now AAU is definitely going to be a big part of my next two years."
Springdale head coach Bill Taylor knows he has one of the state's best sophomores – albeit his name is as widely known as some of the aforementioned sophomores.
"A lot of guys say they are going to work on their game, but he really did that," Taylor said. "He'll be back in the AAU pool playing this summer so his name is going to jump up the (recruiting) charts "The reason he isn't already on them is he chose to step away from AAU for one season."
Taylor was pleasantly surprised with how great a sophomore campaign his young star had.
"He really did," Taylor said. "He had a phenomenal season. The thing that sticks out is his consistency. I think his low (scoring output) this year was 17 and his high was 36.
"There was never a night when he just disappeared," Taylor added. "Every night for 29 games he was right there for us with a tremendous season on obviously a team that was a little short on offense. He is option 1, 2 and 3."
Taylor kept waiting for the off night that never came.
"I fully expected that there would be nights where he looked like a sophomore, but there never were any," Taylor said. "There was never really a night when he just scored 3 points and fouled out. He was literally there every night – 29 out of 29."
While there aren't many holes in Baird's game, he continues to work to strengthen each aspect.
"You always have to continue to work on all areas of your game," Baird said. "I am pretty confident in all areas of my game, but you can always improve."
Taylor has pinpointed one area.
"He can get by the first guy, but then he needs to be able to elevate over the second guy," Taylor said. "He just means to be a little bit more athletic getting over that second guy. He is above average off the dribble, he shoots over 90 percent from the free throw line and he shoots it really well from 3-point range."
Springdale finished the season 15-14.
Baird had 27 points in opening round win over North Little Rock and had 20 in his team's season-ending loss to Rogers last Thursday.
"We kind of struggled and we felt like we should have won more games, but fortunately we were at least able to get on a little run at the end," Baird said. "It would have been better if we could have done that all season to have a better seed in the tournament."