Eight years ago, Bill Ingram had a dream for a big AAU tournament in Arkansas.
Eight years later, that idea has turned the Real Deal in the Rock to one of the best events in the country.
“This has taken off like I could never imagine,” Ingram said. “We started (in Fayetteville) with 72 teams, got off to a great start and with some luck and some hard work, it has become one of the best – if not the best – tournaments out there.”
Indeed some 420 teams and over 6,000 players will compete in 44 gyms this weekend in Little Rock before college basketball’s top coaches such as Arkansas’ Mike Anderson and Kentucky’s John Calipari.
The Real Deal in the Rock – which features divisions for ages 12-17 – gets underway Friday night at 6:20 and lasts through Sunday afternoon’s championship games.
It’s a given that someone playing in Little Rock this weekend will be playing in the NBA in the years to come.
After all, former college and current NBA stars Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins, Michael Conley, Jimmer Fredette, Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe, Derrick Favors, Iman Shumpert, Evan Turner, Norris Cole, Kemba Walker and Avery Bradley are among the 70 current NBA players that have all played in the Arkansas event during the past eight years.
“It’s amazing to not only see all those guys in the NBA, but actually see some playing in the NFL as well,” Ingram said. “We just have some great athletes here and we always have some future Razorbacks, too.”
Clarksville junior point guard Dederick Lee – one of Arkansas’ two 2013 commits – will be playing this weekend for the Nolan Richardson Mustangs.
Forrest City sophomore center Trey Thompson (6-9, 230) has a Razorback offer and a bright future.
He plays for the Arkansas Hawks, who are coached by Ingram.
“He’s ranked No. 22 in the country (in the class of 2014) by ESPN and is just really coming into his own,” Ingram said. “He is very talented on the court and academically sound off of it so you won’t have to worry about that.
“We don’t get a lot of big kids in Arkansas like this and so the Razorbacks are all over him,” Ingram said. “He’s so young and has so much potential.”
Thompson is joined on the Hawks’ roster by a pair of point guards in Little Rock Parkview junior I.J. Ready – a recent de-commit from Nebraska – and Jonesboro sophomore Kahron Ross.
Another young prospect is North Little Rock freshman shooting guard Kavaughn Allen, a 2015 prospect who will be playing for the Arkansas Soldierz.
Like Thompson, Allen is projected as a top 25 player nationally.
Some 2013 prospects playing at the Real Deal that the Razorbacks are known to be interested are:
• Markel Crawford, Memphis Magic
• Keith Frazier, DJH5
• Malik Price-Martin, Team Breakdown
• Robert Hubbs, M33M
• Treshawn Bolden, MBA Elite
In addition to Anderson and Calipari, other top coaches scheduled to be on hand include Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Kansas’ Bill Self, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, Florida’s Billy Donovan, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, new South Carolina head coach Frank Martin and a plethora of others.
“All the coaches have let us know they are going to be here because there is so much talent and also because we treat them so well,” Ingram said. “We think we have the best tournament in the country.”