Even though the calls from other college coaches still continue to come, Little Rock Parkview's Aaron Ross hasn't changed his mind since the ninth grade.
That's when the 6-8, 225-pound junior forward, whose team will face rival Little Rock Central on Tuesday, committed to the University of Arkansas basketball program.
"I really love the coaching staff, like the guys they have in the program now and just think we are set to really be good," Ross said. "Plus I have just always wanted to be a Razorback and that has never changed."
Carlos Conley, Ross' brother and assistant AAU coach with the Arkansas Wings, echoed that sentiment.
"He's gotten attention from Kentucky, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Wake Forest, Maryland and Kansas from schools like that and they would be all over him if he had not just put an end to it back when he did," Conley said. "I told him that if he wanted to go through the recruiting process, that's what he should do. But he just said I want to end it now because Arkansas is where I want to go, especially with the coaches they have up there now.
"So that's what he did, he went ahead and committed and has never looked back," Conley added. "He is very happy and that has allowed him to just work on getting better every day and not have to worry about recruiting."
Ross, who averaged 17.6 points and 10 rebounds for Parkview last season and had 16 and 11 in his first game this season, says that is a blessing.
"I just have them call my brother or my high school coach (Al Flanigan) or my AAU coach Tim (Loring)," Ross said. "Like I said I am going to definitely be a Razorback so there is no need for me to deal with that."
That's just fine with Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey, who knows Ross is part of a loaded 2011 class in the state that could possibly bolstered the program like The Triplets did back in the 1970s for Eddie Sutton.
In addition to Ross there's also 6-5 East Poinsett County guard Ky Madden, 6-10 Jonesboro Westside forward Hunter Mickelson, 6-5 Dumas basketball and football standout Darion Griswold and 6-6 David Rivers of Little Rock Hall just to name a few.
The Razorbacks also offered Madden and Mickelson - who will both be playing in the Rumble on the Ridge in Forrest City on Thursday, Friday and Saturday - back in the ninth grade and all three are ranked in the top 65 nationally.
"That is a lot of talent in our class and I am trying to talk to all of them into joining us up there in Fayetteville," Ross said. "It could really be something."
He played with all the aforementioned players this summer on the Wings' AAU 16-and-under team.
The group has been known as the Baby Wings for a couple of years although Pelphrey wants to rename the Baby Razorbacks and bring them to Fayetteville to play their college basketball.
"We have really played great together over the past few years and it would really be something to have us all up their together playing for our state and our school. That would be a lot of fun."
Ross also moved up to play with the Wings' 17-and-under team at the end of the summer.
"I know it will sound strange, but I thought he played even better against the older kids than he did down with the younger ones," Conley said. "I think he became even more focused and got in there and got after it even more."
While Ross wasn't sure about that, he did know one thing.
"Those older boys are certainly stronger," Ross said. "That allowed me to get use to their strength and let me know that I still have a ways to go and I need to get even stronger to be ready to play right away in the SEC."
Ross should be a versatile weapon when he does arrive in Fayetteville seeing as he has the 225-pound body, but also the skills of guard.
"I think that is the best thing about him," Conley said. "He is a match-up nightmare. If he's down low on the post, he's got great moves down there and is strong enough to get it to the basket against anybody.
"But he can also step out, handle the ball and shoot it," Conley said. "That does create a lot of mismatches that he has been able to take advantage of. That's something we are continuing to work on every day is making him even more of a match-up problem – getting where he works on both his inside and perimeter games with equal time. We want him to continue to get quicker and make it even harder to guard him no matter where he is on the floor."
That is especially something that Conley feels is necessary for Ross to play in the SEC.
"I think the SEC is one of the best conferences in the country and especially has the best athletes – big, strong and quick guys that will eat you up athletically if you aren't ready to compete," Conley said. "That is what we have been working on each day. The whole goal is to add something or get better at something every day."
Parkivew is off to a 1-0 start with a win over Springdale Har-Ber and will follow up its matchup with Central by playing in a Thanksgiving tournament in Fort Worth (Texas) Coca Cola Classic.
The Central-Parkview match-ups have always been classics with the Patriots taking two of the three last season behind then-sophomore Ross.
"They seem to always be bigger than us, but we are usually quicker," Ross said. "That's what allowed us to win a couple of times last season and we also played really good defense. It's always fun and people get excited to play each other. It's a real good rivalry."
The tournament Thursday and Friday in Fort Worth features Fort Worth Dunbar, Dallas Seagoville, Cedar Hill, Fort Worth Eastern Hills, Arlington Lamar, Mansfield Legacy and Fort Worth Trimble Tech.
"That should be some really good competition, but that is one thing that Aaron has not ever had to worry about," Conley said. "He has had the opportunity to play all over the world against great players and I think that has really helped him develop as a player."
Ross does have to spend most of his high school time in the post, but does get to play a little on the perimeter – where he spends a lot of time in AAU basketball.
"When you are the biggest kid on your high school team, you certainly are going to find yourself down on the post," Conley said. "But Coach Flanigan has some guys this season that with the right line-up Aaron would get to play outside some more and that would be a benefit to the team and that's the most important thing."
Ross thinks that his team has a shot this season.
"I think we can do really well and make it through to the state and maybe even win it," Ross said. "That is the goal."
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