The Right Fit
As so often happens, the Arkansas football program could help out the basketball one this weekend.
Memphis prep hoops standout Jarnell Stokes (6-9, 245) – one of the Razorbacks' prime recruiting targets – is taking his official visit to Fayetteville this weekend.
He'll be on campus as the Arkansas football team opens its season Saturday night against Missouri State with a festive atmosphere expected on campus.
Razorback assistant coach Melvin Watkins knows that type of atmosphere in four home games this season is something that new head coach Mike Anderson can use to show off the overall athletic scene.
"Anytime you can bring kids on campus when there is a buzz around campus and you see the faithful come out and everybody is in a cheerful mood, it is always a positive thing," Watkins said. "Kids get a sense of excitement when that happens."
Players like Stokes and Sylvan Hills' Archie Goodwin (6-5, 180) – both ranked as top 20 players nationally – are certainly the type of players that would help the Razorbacks' generate excitement on the court.
Until those two standouts make a decision, it will just generate excitement on sports call in shows, twitter and among the fan base of the schools that are chasing those two.
"It really is exciting, humbling and a blessing to have so many people interested in where you are going to play your college basketball," Stokes said. "It makes you know that fans from all over appreciate the player I have become through hard work."
Stokes has a final five list of Memphis, Arkansas, UConn, Tennessee and Florida.
Goodwin announced via twitter this weekend that he would be taking visits to Kansas (Sept. 23-25), UConn (Sept. 30-2), Arkansas (Oct. 7-9 when the football team plays Auburn), Kentucky (Oct. 14-16), and Memphis (Oct. 21-23).
"Everybody is just trying to figure out the best place," Stokes said. "We all want to play for great coaches and with other great players."
While those are the two biggest names Arkansas is apparently involved with right now, it certainly is not the only ones.
In fact, the Razorbacks have hosted a trio of unofficial visitors in the past few weeks.
Those players who dropped into Fayetteville were former UAB player and current Independence (KA) Community College center Anthony Criswell (6-9, 240), Birmingham (AL) Minor small forward Jacorey Williams (6-8, 190) and Houston big man Prince Ibeh (6-11, 210).
Criswell is tentatively scheduled to visit Arkansas officially on Sept. 16-18 while Williams is currently slated for his official visit to Fayetteville on Oct. 14-16 – the first weekend of practice.
Not surprisingly those three young men are blessed with size – something that the current Razorback roster is lacking.
"We now that we have to go out and bring some kids in with size," Watkins said. "But the thing I will tell you that makes us a little different when you talk about size is it is how big one plays, not necessarily how tall he is in basketball shoes.
"Let's make sure that people understand this about us," Watkins said. "A 6-7 can be a big guy for us if he plays big just like a 6-11 guy can be a small guy if he can't get up and down the floor.
"We get questions all the time – ‘are you going to recruit some 7-footers?'" Watkins said. "The answer would be probably yes, but it has to be the right kind of 7-footer who plays the way we want to play."
Anderson and his staff are now preparing to start the home visitation period – which begins Sept. 9 and runs through Oct. 5.
The first stop will be to see Goodwin.
"The first thing we hope we can do is establish a line of communication," Watkins said of the home visits. "We are who we are when we sit here in your home and we are going to be the same next year, the year after and 10 years from now. So you basically are talking about trying to establish that trust of knowing what you are going to get and what to expect.
"Then, of course, we are all family people so that environment and atmosphere that you are going to get here on campus is we hope that will be considered extended family," Watkins added. "You know that if you can trust us with your son. If you send us a young boy, we are going to send you back a young man. That encompasses a lot of things and believe me it is a lot more than just basketball.
"We always tell kids that if basketball is the only thing we can do for you, then we have probably failed you as a coach," Watkins said. "We have a chance to touch these young men's lives in a positive way and that they can be productive in corporate America, as basketball players or just a good dad."