The Young Warrior
FORT SMITH - Because he doesn't have the scholarship offers yet that some of his fellow in-state 2011 prospects do, Little Rock Hall small forward David Rivers is sometimes overlooked in the discussion of best prep basketball player in Arkansas.
But you can find some observers who believe that Rivers (6-6, 180) is arguably the best of bunch.
Even among a class that includes Jonesboro Westside's Hunter Mickelson (6-10, 190), East Poinsett County's Ky Madden (6-5, 180) and UA commit Aaron Ross (6-8, 225) of Little Rock Parkview.
"Whoever is supposed to be better, I really haven't seen it yet," Little Rock Hall head coach John Coleman said. "He takes a backseat to no one."
Mickelson, Madden and Ross – all top 65 players nationally by Scout.com – all got early offers from Arkansas, which brought them much early publicity.
Those three join Rivers, Springdale guard Shelton Baird and Dumas hoops-gridiron star Darion Griswold (6-5, 240) to form arguably the state's most talented single class since the early 1980s.
Does Rivers feel overshadowed?
"I don't look at it that way," Rivers said. "Those are my teammates. I just keep playing hard and keep my head in, my head up and keep going." Arkansas, Baylor, Ole Miss and Wichita State and Iowa State are among the teams recruiting Rivers – albeit none have seen fit yet to put an offer on the table.
Rivers had 18 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals Monday while leading Hall to a 80-53 win over Clarksville in the opening round of the Fort Smith Coke Classic Tournament.
He followed that up with a game-high 15 on Tuesday as Hall downed Fort Smith Southside 49-41 at the Stubblefield Center to move into the 6:30 p.m. finals tonight against Pulaski Academy.
"David is a tremendous young man," Coleman said. "He is a yes sir, no sir guy and does well academically. He is very focused and it is important for him to not only be a good basketball player, but a good student. He is a well-rounded individual, we are happy to have him at Hall and any college would be lucky to have him."
The wins this week move Hall to 11-1 on the season, but also eliminated a chance for the Warriors to see former teammate and current Baylor freshman point guard A.J. Walton play against Arkansas tonight at 8 p.m. in North Little Rock.
Walton, who is averaging 4.6 points and 3 assists as a reserve, was the star of a team that won the 2008 Class 6A state title and returned there for the 2009 championship game before falling to Jacksonville on a last-second shot.
"I have talked to him (Walton) and he says it is way different from high school ball," Rivers said. "He said he misses it. He is not the superstar anymore. He says everybody is like equal and you have got to work hard every day in practice."
That last-second loss drove Rivers and his teammates during the off-season.
"We have been there and of course we want to go back," Rivers said. "We lost on that type of game and it has made us work extra harder."
Rivers feels like he has added to his game during this past AAU spring and summer.
"I think I got quicker and a little better handling the basketball and with my pull-up shot," Rivers said.
Hall is trying to win its second tournament title already this season after grabbing the Joe Johnson Jammin' for Jackets crown in early December.
The Warriors downed Parvkiew – their conference rival - and Ross in the semifinals 54-52.
Ross had 19 points, but missed a hurried 3-pointer at the buzzer and left Rivers – who had 11 points – and his team with the victory.
"We really got after it on defense early and came out with a big lead before halftime," Rivers said. "We stayed at it and kind of lost it towards the end, but we came through."
It was just the first of what will be at least three battles between the two teams this season.
"It's going to be tough and it is always tough in 6A," Rivers said. "Our biggest games will probably be against Parkview. (Hall's win) is probably going to make it tougher on us, but it gets us more comfortable in that we have got that game out of the way."
o o o
Ross had 12 of his game-high 18 points to lead Parkview past Memphis Trezevant 46-41 Tuesday night in the Heaven's Best Tournament in Little Rock.
Ross hit 2 3-pointers right after halftime to spark his team to the win and put the Patriots (10-1) into a Wednesday night semifinal against Little Rock McClellan (11-1).
Memphis Craigmont and Mansfield (Texas) High play in the other semifinal.
o o o
Both Mickelson and Madden have a chance to grab tournament titles tonight at the NEA Tournament in Jonesboro.
Madden's top-seeded EPC squad faces second-seeded Manila in the 1A-2A-3A championship game at 7:30 p.m.
Mickelson's top-seeded Westside club battles second-seeded Jonesboro for the Class 4A-5A-6A title at 9 p.m.
Senior Brock Johnston had 25 points while Mickelson added 24 points, 14 rebounds and 7 blocks in his team's 72-64 win over Valley View on Monday with Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey looking on.
Pelphrey did his radio show in Fayetteville and then flew to Jonesboro in time to see the end of Madden's 25-point, 11-rebound effort in Monday night's 70-41 win over Rivercrest.
UA assistant coach Tom Ostrom was on hand throughout both games.
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