By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — Often thought of as a well-kept secret in basketball recruiting circles, the state of Arkansas may have finally arrived on the national stage offering a multitude of top-shelf high-major prospects and potential future NBA players based on how the 2021 spring and summer grassroots season played out.
Certainly there was no shortage of Hog commits and Hog recruiting targets among those who stood out as there are four in-state prospects ranked in the national Top 20 and a couple more ranked in the Top 50.
In recognition of those who excelled on the court against competition from all over the country while raising their recruiting profiles, here is our Hogville.net 2021 All Arkansas Grassroots Player of the Year and first, second, and third teams …
Player of the Year
* 2022 Nick Smith, Jr. (6-5 combo guard, North Little Rock, 17U Brad Beal Elite, national No. 18 / 5-star prospect according to 247Sports.com) was spectacular in July — which is the biggest exposure month for high school prospects — as he strung together multiple brilliant performances in the Nike EYBL sessions and prestigious Peach Jam event, capped off by a 31-point effort in the Peach Jam championship game. A priority Arkansas recruit with an official visit set with the Hogs on Sept. 10-12, Smith picked up a Kentucky offer at the end of Peach Jam to go along with the dozens of other high-major offers he already held. He also recently took part in the SLAM Summer Classic in New York along with other elite prospects. Smith’s combination of alpha-scorer mentality with the skill to back it up, plus court awareness and facilitating ability that make him a dangerous combo guard, and length has elevated him to being arguably the top combo guard in the nation.
“If you put the work in the results are going to show, and it did,” Smith said. “Had a lot of fun playing AAU basketball and it has been nothing but a blessing. But getting a chance to compete, and compete with my teammates, was one one of the best experiences of my life, and hopefully God can bless me with more opportunities like I had.”
First team (alphabetical order)
* 2023 Layden Blocker (6-2 point guard, Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas by way of Little Rock, Brad Beal Elite 16U, national No. 33 / 4-star prospect according to Rivals.com) was productive on the Nike E16 circuit throughout the spring and summer, and coming off his early June unofficial visit to Arkansas he excelled at the prestigious Pangos All American Camp in Las Vegas, earning himself a spot in the event’s Top 30 all star game. Blocker is a capable volume scorer, a fearless slasher, a facilitator, and he’s a plus-rebounder relative to his size.
* 2024 K. Annor Boateng (6-5 wing, Little Rock Central, 15U Arkansas Hawks) … one of the top 15U performers on the Adidas 3SSB circuit throughout the spring and summer, Boateng was one of only a handful of freshman nationwide to take part in the prestigious Pangos All American Camp in Las Vegas in June. Already holding an Arkansas offer, Boateng has added offers from Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Memphis, and Auburn. His combo of size on the wing, strength, and plus-athleticism made him a matchup nightmare for opponents on Adidas’ top circuit.
* 2022 Hog commit Derrian Ford (6-4 combo guard, Magnolia, 17U Next Page Force, composite national No. 45 / 4-star prospect) took his official visit to Arkansas — the only OV he took — on June 1-3, and roughly six weeks later he announced his pledge to the Razorbacks. The ’20-21 Gatorade Arkansas Boys High School Player of the Year began the spring playing with 17U Houston Hoops but switched to Arkansas-based 17U Next Page Force in June, earning MVP honors while leading his team to the Real Deal in the Rock title and playing well in early July at Adidas events. He also showed well at Pangos, making the Top 60 all star game. Ford’s muscled up frame and strength allow him to bully-ball defenders, he’s a hard-working competitor, and he’s been a winner at every stop. The lefty has a chance to make an early impact at the next level as a Hog.
* 2023 Ryan Forrest (6-3 wing, Marion, 16U Woodz Elite) was one of the most productive performers among Nike E16 teams this season, and his play grabbed the attention of college recruiters. An explosive slasher and fearless above-the-rim finisher, Ryan holds offers from D1 Oral Roberts and DII East Central University with Tulsa and UCA among the other schools showing interest.
* 2022 Hog commit Joseph Pinion (6-6 wing, Morrilton, 17U Arkansas Hawks, national No. 114 / 4-star prospect according to Rivals.com) pledged to Arkansas in the fall, so he entered grassroots play in the spring with a target on his back as the top player on the Hawks team. With Adidas 3SSB opponents looking to shut him down, Pinion scored the ball well but also rebounded and facilitated at high levels. He took an unofficial visit to Arkansas in early June. Pinion’s an elite shooter from distance whose all-around game is high-major worthy, and his size and frame as he adds muscle and strength at the next level will give him a chance to be a really good player in the SEC.
* 2025 Kellen Robinson (6-0 point guard, Episcopal Collegiate, 15U Arkansas Hawks) was phenomenal playing up on the Adidas 3SSB 15U level as he teamed with Boateng to lead the Hawks to a championship in the Real Deal in the Rock followed by final four runs in the Adidas 3SSB finale and Las Vegas Big Time events. The younger brother of Razorbacks freshman guard KK Robinson, Kellen Robinson just picked up an offer from Auburn with the Hogs, USC, and Arizona State among the schools showing interest. Kellen Robinson is a talented, shifty slasher with a variety of floaters, pull-ups, and at-the-rim finishes in the paint, and his three-point shooting emerged throughout the summer.
* 2021 DJ Smith (5-10 point guard, North Little Rock, 17U Nike Pro Skills) followed up a starring role on North Little Rock’s 6A state title run in March by betting on himself as an unsigned senior and joining 17U Nike Pro Skills on the 2021 Nike EYBL spring and summer circuit, and it paid off as Smith’s talent, production, and winning impact resulted in multiple D1 offers that culminated with an August commitment / signing with the Little Rock Trojans.
* 2024 Dallas “Slim” Thomas (6-7 wing, Little Rock Parkview, 15U Brad Beal Elite, national No. 17 / 4-star prospect according to ESPN) has as high a ceiling as any prospect in the state, and his offer list that includes Arkansas, Memphis, Illinois, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and others is a testament to the promise he flashed during the spring and summer. Thomas is a smooth and gifted shooter-scorer, and his plus-length and plus-height for a wing his age make him one of the most intriguing prospects in the country. Thomas is working on setting up an unofficial visit to Arkansas.
* 2022 Kel’el Ware (7-0 center, North Little Rock, 17U All Arkansas Red, national No. 14 / 5-star prospect according to 247Sports.com) did not play on one of the major circuits, but he did battle against some high-level bigs (including other 5-stars) and more than held his own. He also was a standout at the prestigious Pangos All American Camp as well as the NBPA Top 100 camp in June and July, respectively. Ware’s length, inside-out skill offensively, and his rebounding and shot-blocking production slot him among the best players in the nation. He recently committed to Oregon.
* 2023 Bryson Warren (6-2 point guard, Link Academy in Missouri by way of Little Rock, 17U Mokan Elite, national No. 15 / 5-star prospect according to ESPN) made the best case for first runner-up to Smith for All Arkansas Grassroots Player of the Year. Playing up on the Nike EYBL circuit, Warren’s elite shooting — volume and efficiency — from all three levels in the halfcourt and his emerging pace and feel as a play-making primary handler were on full display against the best competition in the country. An impressive offer list that includes Arkansas, Kansas, and other high-major programs speaks plainly enough to his talents, and Duke has expressed interest as well. Warren took an unofficial visit to Arkansas on Aug. 1.
Second team (alphabetical order)
* 2022 Carl Daughtery, Jr. (6-3 combo guard, Maumelle, 17U Old School Wings) joined forces with Colby Garland to form one of the most dangerous backcourts in grassroots play. Daughtery’s three-point shot is a weapon, as is his ability to drive for a bucket off the bounce. He holds offers from UCA, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Oral Roberts, and Southeast Missouri with interest from several more D1 programs.
* 2022 Antwon Emsweller, Jr. (6-7 forward, Watson Chapel, 17U All Arkansas Red) is capable of throwing a double-double up on the board any given night, and he was consistently good as a physical force in the paint during the spring and summer. Emsweller has drawn D1 interest from Oral Roberts, UCA, and The Citadel.
* 2023 Jayden Forrest (6-2 point guard, Marion, 16U Woodz Elite) is a physical guard who can run a team, dig in defensively, and make plays that win games. Forrest’s leadership qualities played a large role in his team’s success over the spring and summer. Jayden holds offers from D1 Oral Roberts and DII East Central University with Tulsa and UCA among the other schools showing interest.
* 2022 Colby Garland (6-0 combo guard, Magnolia, 17U Old School Wings) certainly raised his recruiting profile as he was one of the most consistent volume scorers in the state in the spring and summer. A two time 4A state champion teaming with Ford in the backcourt at Magnolia, Garland has an offer from D2 Southern Arkansas with interest from D1’s including Belmont and Southeast Missouri. Garland is one of the best pull-up shooters around who can keep a defense honest with his effective three-point range.
* 2022 Landon Glasper (6-2 guard, Fayetteville, 17U Next Page Force) has been one of the best guards in the state for some time, and though he’s wired to score he contributes in other ways that lead to winning. Glasper holds offers from Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Arkansas Tech, the latter of which was where his older brother RJ Glasper played before transferring to Oral Roberts.
* 2022 Javion Guy-King (6-5 wing, Little Rock Mills, 17U All Arkansas Red) has battled through injuries to display the promise of a sure-fire D1 prospect as his offer list continues to grow. Guy-King’s recent offers include Radford and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, adding to a list of previous D1 offers he piled up a year ago. Guy-King’s three-point shooting, improved ball-handling and mid-range game, and strong rebounding gave opponents fits in the spring and summer.
* 2022 Christian Moore (5-10 point guard, DME Sports Academy in Florida by way of Jacksonville, 17U Old School Wings and 17U Arkansas Hawks) split time with the two in-state programs, starting out with OSW before finishing July with the Hawks playing on the Adidas 3SSB circuit. Moore was terrific offensively with both teams. He has drawn interest from Southeast Missouri, Southern Arkansas, and Arkansas Tech.
* 2022 Cam Wallace (6-6 small forward / wing, Little Rock Parkview, 17U Arkansas Hawks and 17U Next Page Force) has high-major size and athleticism, and he used his physical gifts to garner a lot of D1 recruiting attention this spring and summer. Wallace has drawn interest from Texas Tech, Tulsa, Arkansas State, UCA, The Citadel, Air Force Academy, Southeast Missouri, and others
* 2022 Corey Washington (6-6 small forward / wing, North Little Rock, 17U All Arkansas Red) opened a lot of eyes against respectable competition throughout the spring and summer playing on the Under Armour Association RISE platform. A multi-sport star, Washington is a gifted and athletic slasher who brings creativity to his rim-runs. Washington holds a D1 offer from Oral Roberts and is drawing interest from UCA among others.
* 2022 Creed Williamson (6-8 forward, Little Rock Christian Academy, 17U Arkansas Hawks) was consistently among the top three scorers and rebounders for the 17U Arkansas Hawks playing on the Adidas 3SSB circuit, and in late July he was invited and played well at the prestigious NBPA Top 100 Camp in Orlando, Fla. Williamson averaged a double-double at LRCA last season, and his combination of low-post work and physicality on the glass are why Arkansas and St. John’s have offered with Kansas and others showing interest.
Third team (alphabetical order)
* 2024 Landren Blocker (6-3 guard, Little Rock Christian Academy, 15U Arkansas Hawks) recovered from injury in the spring and had a solid July for the Hawks on the competitive Adidas 3SSB circuit. Big guard who rebounds and can finish above the rim, Landren Blockers has D1 potential written all over him.
* 2022 Damian Bohlman (6-2 guard, Acorn, 17U Arkansas Spartans Blue) is an athletic two-way player who unfortunately missed the July live periods because of a broken wrist, but prior to that he was a stud for ASB following a strong high school season during which he dropped a 50-piece in a game. Has drawn interest from D2 Ouachita Baptist.
* 2025 Terrion Burgess (6-7 guard, Forrest City, 15U Arkansas Hawks) played up and made significant contributions on one of the top 15U squads in the nation. Long & skilled with a high floor IQ, Burgess recently picked up his first D1 offer from Alabama State. High-major prospect right now. Arkansas Razorbacks coaches took note of his play during the July live periods.
* 2023 Nate Coley (5-10 guard, Little Rock Parkview, 16U Arkansas Wolves) was a key difference maker for his team this grassroots season, mainly because of the work he puts in on the defensive end of the floor. Playing with a couple of high-level wings for Scotty Thurman’s Parkview Patriots, Coley will serve as both a stopper and a facilitator in the upcoming high school season.
* 2022 Henry Cowles (6-9 forward, Morrilton, 17U Pro Skills and 17U Hoop City Basketball Club) started the spring with the Nike EYBL program before playing in July with Hoop City, and he thrived with the latter program led by former NBA assistant coach Scott Adubato. Cowles has nice face-up skill and has added a low-post game that continues to grow his stock as a D1 prospect. Offers include New Mexico State, Loyola-Chicago, and Tulsa.
* 2024 Courtney Crutchfield (6-2 guard, Pine Bluff, 15U Next Page Force) is a multi-sports athlete who’s drawing a lot of attention as a wide receiver on the football field, but he also showed out this summer playing with Arkansas-based NPF. Crutchfield is likely to choose football for his college career, but it’s worth taking notice of talent on the basketball court.
* 2024 Daniel Culberson (6-0 guard, Little Rock Central, 15U Arkansas Hawks) brought quickness and aggressiveness to the court as he made game-impacting plays at both ends of the floor for the Hawks. Culberson was a stat-sheet stuffer, an indication of his positive activity, for a team that was regarded as one the best in the country at 15U level.
* 2024 Drake Fowler (6-0 guard, Bryant, 15U Woodz Elite) was a key piece to an effective backcourt attack for WE’s 15U squad. His three-point shooting has always made him a floor-spacer to help teammates on the offensive end, but Fowler does other things on the floor to promote winning.
* 2024 Bryson Hammond (6-6 forward, Jacksonville, 15U HoopLife Basketball Academy) had a solid spring and summer and will be a force in the paint and a load in transition for the next several years for the Titans. Hammond is a no-doubt college prospect.
* 2023 Jordon Harris (6-7 forward, Pine Bluff, 16U Woodz Elite) was a strong, physical presence in the paint and a reliable producer around the basket for a Woodz team that consistently won games. Harris plays with effort at all times, allowing him to wear down opponents. He holds offers from Oral Roberts and East Central University with interest from UCA.
* 2022 Micah Hill (6-3 guard, Rogers Heritage, 17U Old School Wings) is one of the most versatile guards in the state, an athletic shooter-scorer who can attack in a variety of ways, and he helped make up a triple-threat backcourt for OSW that included Garland and Daughtery. Has a floor of being a D2 prospect with D1 a real possibility.
* 2024 Caden Miller (6-8 forward / center, Bentonville, 15U AAO Flight) has size, good handles for a big, and finishing chops as he put together a strong spring and summer run for the Northwest Arkansas-based AAO program. Miller is a sure-fire D1 prospect, and in early June the big man picked up an offer from UCA.
* 2023 Devarious Montgomery (6-4 forward, Jonesboro, 16U HooLife Basketball Academy) uses his combo of length, agility, and interior craftiness to more than hold his own around the basket, and that showed up time and again this spring and summer for the HBLA 16s. He’ll be a key as West Swift looks to lead Jonesboro to a second consecutive state title and the Hurricane’s fourth in the last six years.
* 2023 Zac Pennington (6-0 guard, Lake Hamilton, 16U Arkansas Wolves) is an all-around guard whose court savvy ranks among the best in the state, and his shooting was on display throughout the summer. Pennington holds an offer from Southern Arkansas with interest from D1s Liberty and Elon.
* 2022 Parker St. Pierre (6-0 guard, Valley View, 17U Hoop City Basketball Club) is a known sniper from deep, and as the grassroots season progressed through July the Arkansas State offer saw his role, productivity, and impact increase playing on the Adidas circuit.
* 2023 Christian Sanson (6-9 forward, Little Rock Christian Academy, 16U All Arkansas Red) uses his length to finish in the paint and his respectable touch in face-up mid-range shooting to provide a nice inside-out game for the AAR 16s. Another in-state prospect who’s going to attract attention for college basketball recruiters.
* 2024 DeShun Spence (6-4 forward, Vilonia, 15U Arkansas Hawks) is an explosive blue-collar player who does his best work in the paint and above the rim, and he’s capable of going off for a double-double every time out. Consistently was one of the 15U Hawks’ top 3 producers in the spring and summer, which is saying a lot given how deep and talent-rich that team was.
* 2024 Layne Taylor (6-0 point guard, Farmington, 15U Woodz Elite) led Wed Swift’s team in scoring and was clutch in tight-game situations. A competitor and a winner, Taylor ran the show for the Woodz 15s. He holds an offer from D2 Arkansas-Fort Smith with interest coming in from others.
* 2023 Jeremiah Washington (6-3 guard, Shiloh Christian, 16U All Arkansas Red) was consistently a top producer who impacted winning for AAR. One of the top players in Northwest Arkansas, Washington has been garnering attention from college recruiters, including Division 1 Southeastern Louisiana which inquired in July.
* 2022 Jabari West, Jr. (6-8 forward, Hot Spring, 17U Arkansas Hawks) missed some time this spring and summer, but when he was on the floor he made a difference as a rebounder, rim-protector, and finisher due to his length, bounce, and emerging face-up shooting. West holds offers from Little Rock, George Washington, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and Southeast Missouri among others.