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ON THE COURT WITH TRANDON L. MOY -Editor in Chief Fast Break Letterman Magazine primarily focuses on “Academics, Sports, and Character.” The magazine has a commitment to be a platform for high school athletes and provide a marketplace that will be beneficial for the magazine, the school’s athletic program, and the student-athlete. In addition to sports, we will host a number of events designed to promote goodwill, education, employment, and community beautification. I am proud to release our inaugural NWA high school basketball issue. Northwest Arkansas has a wealth of talent this year on the court. In this issue we catch up with Malik Monk, one of the top high school basketball prospects in the nation. The Eckwood Family continues to produce talent and is part of what makes this state great. Kierra Lang and Chris Owens round out the Fantastic Four and are poised to make some noise at Springdale High. I sincerely appreciate the support and look forward to many more years to come. Without God, family, friends, and community support none of this would be possible. See everyone in March for the Inaugural NWA High School Basketball Senior Showcase. Let’s make history! Words of Wisdom: 1 Corinthians 16:13 (Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong). Trandon L. Moy Founder/CEO
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STARTING LINEUP Editor in Chief:
Jon Buckner Co-Editor:
Jerrie W. Moy Antonio L. Moy Photographers:
James Lovell Jon Buckner
Brandy J. Flynn Eric W. Bolin Evin Demirel Tommy Tabler Special Thanks:
Justin Evans Andre Gant CJ McLain Byron Jenkins Marcus Monk Nick Mason Pat Jenkins Bradley Linam Ched Carpenter Tina Moy Angelique & Jerry Ward Wanda & William Carr
On The Cover:
Malik Monk, Chris Owens, Tereke Eckwood, Kierra Lang Photo Credit: James Lovell
he 4A-1 conference was one of the most exciting in the class last year. Gravette was among the best then and will likely be there again this year. But firstyear coach Greg White will have to replace a pair of the better players in school history for the Lions to make another run to Regionals, and hopefully, State. The offense ran last year as far as since-graduated Jordan Piercen and 6-foot-8 Otto Troutner could take it. The Lions likely won’t put up as many points this year, but they’ll be far more balanced in White’s system. That system will start with another 6-8 player in Austin White (no relation to coach). Team him with 6-foot-5 Cole Turner and Gravette will be bigger than almost everyone they play in-conference. Turner is a true stretch-four in the Dirk Nowitzki mold as he’s just as comfortable - if not more comfortable - on the perimeter. Point guard Kyle Fox will run the show and Tanner Pike provides length and a defensive presence on the outside. Gravette should be solid from the word go as most of its players didn’t play football. The added experience in that regard could boost the Lions back into another deep run. 4
armington isn’t scared of a jump to 5A. They have no reason to be. Sure, the travel is a bit tougher than from when the Cardinals were in 4A-1. Trips to Vilonia and Greenbrier are lengthier than to Prairie Grove and Lincoln. But with a roster loaded with talent and perhaps the best player in 5A West, Farmington should be well-equipped for the move up. The Cardinals dominated 4A-1 the last several years, having won five of the last six conference titles. Coach Beau Thompson isn’t expecting to move right into 5A and keep it up, but his team just might do it anyway. Sophomore Matthew Thomas is a big reason why. He played up from junior high last year and looked more than settled, averaging 20 points per game. Skylar Barnes, Jeremy Mueller and Mac Spears will carry the mantle of leadership and hustle and they make Thomas’ life easier, Thompson said. Another sophomore, Matthew Wilson, scored another 20 per game in junior high, too, so the Cards won’t be short of scoring. If they can adjust to increased athleticism, size and depth, watch out.
f you think Bentonville basketball starts and ends with Malik Monk, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Yes, Monk is an allworld talent. Yes, he’s one of the top 10 junior basketball players in the country. Yes, if he is the heartbeat of the team. But, no, he isn’t all coach Jason McMahan has. Senior swingman Daniel Head has been a key contributor and fairly regular starter the last two seasons. He’s more than a role player and is comfortable driving to the basket and hitting the open jumper. Ben Smith, at 6-foot-9, provides the interior punch. He signed with NAIA power John Brown University earlier this year and is more than just a big body. And junior forward Tyler Robinson, who McMahan says is probably the team’s second-best player, returns after starting his 10th grade year, as well. Then, of course, there’s Monk. He’s arguably the biggest recruit in Arkansas in 20 years and for good reason. Any team with him on it has to be considered dangerous. That’s exactly what Bentonville will be this year.
t’s a rare a team can lose its top two scorers and still be considered likely to finish among the elite in the state. That’s what’s happening at Northside. Coach Eric Burnett’s team will be without All-State performer Joe Dye and No. 2 Jace Richardson, but the deepest class to come through Northside in years are now seniors and the school’s two feeder junior highs have won the last three regional championships. The Grizzlies are likely the deepest team in 7A West, though they seemingly lack a star. As it’s been the last few years, Northside will again be a guardheavy team. Tyler Triplett, Tevin Brewer, Keyshawn Dorsey and Shakari Jones will see plenty of minutes on the perimeter and the team’s tallest player, 6-5 Stephon Barron, plays like a stretch four. Athleticism will be the team’s strongest part and if they can improve their outside shooting - something Burnett thought would be a strength the last two seasons, but has been only fair - Northside could make it back to the 7A semifinals, as it did last year.
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oaches across 4A-1 are calling Pea Ridge one of the favorites for the conference title. Blackhawks head man Randy Loyd is hesitant to go that far, but he feels good about his bunch, anyway. He has good reason. Pea Ridge returns three starters and five of its top eight from a team that tied for fourth in the conference last year. Combine that with a group of sophomores that went 22-2 last year and Loydâ€™s optimism is well-placed. Zach Davis and Blake Sheppard are undoubtedly the best backcourt duo in the league. Davis, who averaged 13 points per game last year, may be the best overall shooter and Sheppard provides force and intelligence on both ends. Six-foot-four center Tristan Trundle has size only a handful of teams can match on the inside, too. The Blackhawks fell in the quarterfinals of the district tournament last season. More is expected, and more is likely, this year.
he Bulldogs are coming off their most successful season in years. Most of the season, it was thought to be North Little Rock versus whoever in the 7A State Final and the Charging Wildcats would roll. That did not happen. Springdale pushed NLR as far as anyone had before falling in the fourth quarter. And with the return of its best player, Springdale could surprise again. But it may be tough. The Bulldogs lost three starters to graduation and a starter and key reserve to transfer. Defensive stalwart Treshawn Gause and former starter Tyler Tutt will get a lionshare of the minutes in the backcourt and are plenty tested. Plus, with Chris Owens, arguably the best player in 7A West, Springdale has shouldnâ€™t fall far, if at all. The West is as balanced as its been in years - five teams could capture first place and Owens and Bulldogs remain among them.
f it feels like a new era on the west side of Springdale it’s because it is. Locals haven’t been this upbeat about a Wildcats basketball season since 2007. That, if you remember, is the year Har-Ber made the state championship in just its second year of athletics. It’s what happens with one of the most talent-laden rosters around. Few teams in western Arkansas have a backcourt as good as the one the Wildcats will run out most nights. Springdale transfer Tereke Eckwood is a silky ball-handler and deft passer. Mason Cline is a pure 3-pointer shooter. And Siloam Springs transfer Avery Benson will do a bit of it all. A pair of other new faces at forward will give Har-Ber a starting lineup the envy of most. The biggest question the Wildcats will face is chemistry. Can the new faces and playing styles adjust to one another? And if so, how long will it take? The 7A West is top-heavy and Har-Ber is all but guaranteed a playoff spot. But no team is a bigger question as to where exactly in the top six it will finish.
hen it comes to a combination of athleticsm and toughness, few can outmatch the Lady Bulldogs. A year after surprising almost everyone with a quarterfinals run the state tournament, Springdale won’t have the ‘out-of-nowhere’ factor this year. It shouldn’t matter. Coach Heather Hunsucker’s team is loaded. Desiree Mack and Ryann Goodsell are the best post combination in 7A West, and will make inroads to being one of the best in the state by the time the year is through. They do the dirty work for Kierra Lang, who is no slouch on the inside. Lang is one of Arkansas’ most dynamic players, with an ability to hit shots from all spots on the floor and who is just as comfortable driving the lane as she is with the jumper. With depth including Chasidee Owens and sophomore sisters Peanut and Precious Brown not many will boast the well-rounded traits the Lady Bulldogs carry. Springdale looked tentative in last year’s state tournament defeat to West Memphis. It shouldn’t happen again in 2015.
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Alma was something of a surprise two years ago as a state finalist in 5A, then last year as a qualifier for the state tournament again. Coach Sten Flenor gets the most of his Airedales.
As Payton Willis goes, so goes Fayetteville. That isn’t to say the junior swingman is the only important or talented piece on the team. Far from it. But he is the straw that stirs the drink. Only perhaps North Little Rock can match the Purple Dogs in the athleticism department. Football stars C.J. O’Grady (an Arkansas commit) and Drake Wymer (a transfer from Springdale) give Fayetteville a pair of post players no one else in the West can match in a combination of strength, speed and size.
So don’t be shocked if for a third year in a row Alma turns some heads. The jump to 6A is large, literally and figuratively. On paper, the Airedales don’t have the size to match a lot of their compeitition. But they do have the talent. All-State shooting guard Austin Lee makes the team go and will shine in the jump even more. Big man Jake Folkerts is a double-double waiting to happen and gives Alma the strength to battle on the blocks and Braylon Parker has plenty of experience running the show. Ignore the team’s early-season results as nine players are making the move from football postseason. By the time late February rolls around, watch the Airedales be on full-tilt.
But Willis the keystone. He showed loads of promise as a sophomore in his first year of varsity basketball, scoring 30 points in a conference game against Van Buren. But only 11 in the return game. His talent exceeds that of most others in 7A West, but consistency will be the difference between Fayetteville fighting for a conference title or coming out with another fifth-place finish. The former is most likely.
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Harvesting the good will be the key for Rogers Heritage this season. The War Eagles had their moments last season, losing four straight conference games before winning four straight conference games. They ultimately made the school’s first-ever appearance in the state tournament where they fell by just seven points to Cabot. The War Eagles were small last year and not a ton has changed on that front. But when shots were falling, few teams could keep pace. A pair of juniors - Dane Olsen and Julian Jensen - will be the primary go-to players. Olsen is deadly from anywhere on the court and Jensen’s game is polished for a player with just a single year varsity experience. Another junior, Lexus Hobbs, came in from Stuttgart and a senior, Irvin Menendez, returns after taking off last season from basketball. Those four, along with Connor Hirsch, provide a solid, if unspectacular crew of likely starters. Coach Tom Olsen has visions of returning to the 7A postseason and as long as Heritage finds depth to complement its core, it could happen.
Charlie Cooper is ready to begin the turnaround at Southside. The long-time Rebels coach has seen his team struggle through consecutive 21-loss seasons the last two years. And with just one returning letterman off the 4-21 team last year, the rebuild begins now. The new batch of players may be something to look forward to, actually. Cooper now has a batch that truly wants to play, no matter the result. He and they realize it may be another struggling year, but they’re determined, together, to ride it out and begin to turn things around. That starts with the returner, Alex Foree. He was the best player last year and will be again this time around. He’ll have to mentor expected starting point guard Alex Terito and forward Tyshaun Ollison. Ollison, especially. The senior has worked his way through the junior varsity ranks and embodies what Cooper wants Southside to become: at 5-foot-11, he’s small for an inside player, but he’s physical and provides matchup problems. A cast of several will compete for jobs throughout the winter, too, including Austin West, Dathan Hillian, Andy McLellan and Alex Kellar.
Rogers coach Wayne Herren knows his team will have to outwork the opposition to make any gains in the tough 7A West. The Mounties didn’t win a conference game last year and among four senior returners, they have a total of two games started between them. The sledding may be tough, but Herren thinks his bunch could surprise a team or two and he really expects contention in a couple years. Rogers has nine juniors and 11 sophomores. Of course that’s already too many for a roster, but it gives Herren a batch from which he can choose. George Black and Daniel Salvador, a pair of junior forwards, are the most experienced and will be counted on to provide leadership and rebounding inside. Sophomores guard Jake Benninghoff and forward Bailey McClure could see significant time off the bat, too. And while it’s a team without much size (McClure is the biggest player a 6-foot-4), when the Mounties are hitting from the outside, they can be a threat. The youth may be something of a hindrance, but because the team knows many are picking it toward the bottom, they’re playing with a chip. It could work in the Mounties favor.
Few players developed last season at the rate of Mitchell Smith. Van Buren’s 6-foot-9 center was all arms, legs and potential when the year began. It made sense. He was just a sophomore. But he’d seen a full slate of varsity games the year before as a ninth-grader. As the season went, so did Smith. His best came actually came in a Van Buren loss when he scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as the Pointers fell in a close one in the state quarters to Northside. Team him with newcomer guards Jaylynn Dye (Northside transfer) and Jordan Barlow (Southside) transfer and Smith will get his share of feedings in the post. The key may be Jason Harms. The sharp-shooting senior swingman has been a solid contributor for two seasons and remains the best perimeter scorer and defender on the team. With more depth than last season, coach Randy Loyd thinks this is of the best teams he’s coached. We agree.
Three full-time starters back, another three part-timers back. That’s not a bad place to start for the Lady Airedales as they jump to 6A.
Few teams will be as hard-nosed as Bentonville in 7A West. That’s a calling card for teams under coach Tom Halbmaier. With three returning starters off last year’s run to the State semifinals, Bentonville is making strides to repeat or even eclipse that feat this year.
Alma has depth, experience and they like to run. That blend will make for plenty of entertainment at Dyer Arena on Tuesdays and Fridays, especially with the defending 7A (Conway) and 6A (Greenwood) titlists in the fold. The loss of Robin Stewart to graduation is a big one, but Hailey Ostrander, Lania Wright and Cierra Rainwater should compensate, no problem. The Lady Airedales lost to the eventual 5A state champion last season in the playoffs, but coach Madelyn Flenor said her team has already set their goals for this season. Go back and win one, even if it is in a new class.
It will start with seniors Jordan Martin and Peyton Taylor. They were quiet in the semifinals loss to runner-up Northside last year, but that was a far cry from their regular season. They’ll team with junior Madison Britain and sophomore point guard Lauren Hargus to give the Lady Tigers four legitimate threats offensively. And what Bentonville lacks in athleticism, it makes up for in smarts. Hargus will bring the most athleticism, but the girls know where they should be on the floor at any given moment and that’s how Bentonville wins. With a roster at full health from the start of the season, the Lady Tigers will make noise again in 2014-15.V
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Class 4A coaches across Arkansas are sleeping more soundly this season. They don’t have Farmington to haunt their dreams anymore. The always-potent Lady Cardinals are welcoming a new challenge in 5A this year. With six of its top eight players returning and another likely starter back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Farmington will likely cause plenty of sleepless nights for 5A West coaches now. All-State forward Tahlon Hopkins is the star, but that’s using a loose definition. She’s a great player on a team brimming with them. Kristi Duchanois was supposed to be go-to player last year before the torn ACL ruined her season. Maria McPherson is an all-conference forward. Tayton Hopkins is an all-conference guard. And Trish O’Connell, Taylor Smith and Tori Hamley provide depth at guard, on the wing and in the post. Hopkins may miss a good portion of the team’s non-conference schedule rehabilitating a shoulder injury, but that provides only more opportunity for the Lady Cardinals to develop elsewhere. While Farmington’s season ended in last year’s 4A final four, another run that far even in a class above wouldn’t be a surprise. At all.
Springdale Har-Ber had moments last year when it was ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the entire state. Coach Sandy Wright thinks this year’s team could be even better. The Lady Wildcats aren’t picked as high as they were last season and Wright prefers it that way. Her team finished in a three-way tie for second in 7A West last season before falling to Little Rock Central in the state tournament. The return of All-Stater Bailey Schalk could see Har-Ber go beyond. She played with a slipped disc in her back last year from December on. Teamed with guards Paige Redmond and Carly Bohannan, the Lady Wildcats are not lacking in talent and experience. It may be a lowered outside expectation could play directly into their hands.
No big-school girls team in western Arkansas brings back more than the Lady Purple Dogs. Fayetteville returns four starters from a team that deserved better than a first-round exit in last year’s 7A state tournament. But drawing the eventual state champion Conway at the Lady Cats’ home court was too much to overcome. Fayetteville is stronger, faster, and coach Vic Rimmer says more mature than last year. Watch out, 7A. Sydney Crockett is the engine. Her competitive nature provides all the go-juice for other starters Pink Jones, DaShundra Morgan and Lauren Schuldt. If there is a weakness, it’s hard to find. Coach Vic Rimmer said he wants his team to get better shooting, but when it comes to rebounding, depth, getting to the lane, Fayetteville has few problems. They’re among a handful of favorites to make the 7A final.
The Lady Bears are nothing short of a powerhouse. So strong they’ve become, so known throughout girls basketball circles in the state, a simple mention of the anagram “N.L.B.” in the winter time and folks know the reference. Northside has gone to the last four 7A State Championships and has six crowns overall since 1999. But along with those last four appearances, the Lady Bears have just one win in the pinnacle game. Coach Rickey Smith’s teams run others ragged. The Lady Bears press lesser opponents into submission and against teams with higher levels of talent - which are rare - the fullcourt man-to-man provides a treat for viewers. So good its been when Northside lost two straight games last year, Smith couldn’t even remember the last time that’d happened. Only forward Tiarra McDonald returns as a starter, but Aahliyah Jackson, a transfer from Edmond, Okla., is one of the top 60 juniors in the country, according to ESPN.com. Barring something unforeseen, Northside should, at worst, make another semifinal.
Larry Walker hopes to have his Pea Ridge girls team fully healthy by the start of conference play. If they are, they should improve upon last year’s sixth-place tie in 4A-1. Returning all-everything Michaela Cochran is a start. At 5-foot-8, Cochran is the workhorse for the Lady Blackhawks. She’ll play inside, outside, nearly everywhere and any way Walker asks. Fellow returning starter Ashley Thielemeier will run the show from the point. The biggest issue for Pea Ridge will be developing secondary scoring. The Lady Blackhawks struggled offensively last year, but healthy bodies will, at least, provide more options. In a stacked conference, Pea Ridge may not be among the favorites for the crown, but a postseason trip isn’t out of the question.
A lot of teams would be happy to make the state tournament. It’d be called a successful season. Not at Rogers. Certainly coach Preston Early was glad to make the postseason, but the team had its first losing season in years. Don’t expect it again. Early has built the Lady Mounties into a strong program. Even with the subpar regular season last year, Rogers played eventual state champion Conway as well as anyone did on the Lady Wampus Cats’ home court. With seniors Callie King, Brook Sagely and Libby Ganoung all back as starters, the Lady Mounties will be tough on the perimeter. The confidence the loss to Conway provided - Rogers led a good half of the game - provided some momentum into the offseason, too. And in Early’s technical system, confidence is key. Depth even moreso. And Rogers has plenty of that. In a conference that’s expected to be as close as 7A West is expected, Rogers may have enough of both qualities to make even further inroads.
At least shooting guard Whitney O’Dell returns. O’Dell proved to be one of the Lady Rebels most reliable scorers last year and one of the best shooters in the Central. She may be relied on more than a second- or third-option, a role she played last year, with loss of four of the team’s regular starters, including All-State selection Drew Jones (graduation) and point guard Sarita Stegall (expected to concentrate on volleyball). Southside graduated a boatload, but coach Sherry White knows how to develop talent and Southside could make the postseason again.
Certainly moving from 7A West to 7A/6A Central and picking up defending champion Conway and perennial power Greenwood is difficult. But it also allows Van Buren to test its mettle as it seeks a return to the state tournament. The Lady Pointers, too, should have a few wins on the slate going against Mount St. Mary and Russellville, as well. And although they’re young - two freshman logged significant minutes last year and another ninth-grader will be called upon this season - they’re skilled. Sophomores Halie Jennen and Lanie Snowden, with a year of varsity experience, should run most of the show, while Jamilyn Kinney will join them from the junior-high ranks. Teamed with senior Makenzie Glassco on the inside and primary scorer Kaylee Sheppard, the Lady Pointers should be potent offensively. Also look for Danae Goodwin and Taylar Sutton to see plenty of action, as well.
It may be something of a transition year for Southside’s Lady Rebels. A return to 7A West the same year that conference overtakes 7A/6A Central as the state’s toughest is bad timing. Southside won’t be a bad basketball team, far from it. But the personnel losses may weigh for a while.
First-year coach Chris Bryant doesn’t have the pitfalls that most first-year coaches run into. He already had a pretty good handle on the talent of his Van Buren girls team after having been a boys assistant at the school the last few seasons. And if there’s any team that may be helped by a conference change, its the Lady Pointers.
SPORTS RAP- ESPN 99.5FM: NICK MASON’S TOP BOYS’ TEAMS TO WATCH 1. Jonesboro
2. North Little Rock
7. Springdale Har-ber
8. El Dorado
9. Pulaski Academy
ARKANSAS ALUMNI CLASSIC: BYRON JENKINS TOP GIRLS’ TEAMS TO WATCH 1. Conway
2. Fort Smith Northside
4. North Little Rock
9. Central Arkansas Christian
10. Harding Academy
TER” GAME PLA R A U Q H N: “5T
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Jumpman by Evin Demirel
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his summer, Malik Monk was a frequent flyer to the utmost. The Bentonville High junior estimates he spent in all seven or eight days at home between trips to Sacramento, Calif.; Dallas; Virginia (twice); Winston-Salem, N.C.; Minnesota; Chicago; Lexington, Ky.; New Jersey; Colorado and Las Vegas. And then, even after his plane had landed in most of the cities, Monk still wound up spending much of his time above ground.
few other Arkansan prep players in history. He has scholarship offers from the likes of Arkansas, Kentucky, Kansas, Baylor, Memphis, Florida and North Carolina. In terms of raw athletic ability and aerial flair, he is the closest Arkansas has ever come to producing its own Michael Jordan.
Richardson, a Fayetteville resident, looks forward to the February 27 showdown - “if I can get in,” he added. “They pack them in when he plays.”
In a Bentonville-Fayetteville game last season, Monk hit a game winning three pointer from about 30 feet away and ended up on SportsCenter. Only Most of the gyms he will play in this three days before that, he’d also nailed winter will be packed. If things go as a spectacular game winning three planned, look for former Arkansas against Springdale to help Bentonville head coach Nolan Richardson to build toward to an eventual 18-5 be among the crowd at Fayetteville regular season finish and a share of Such is life for one of the world’s High when the Tigers come to town. the 7A/6A-West conference title. most explosive basketball players Richardson hasn’t yet seen Monk The acrobatic highlights are plenty. and Arkansas’ most desired recruit. play in person, but said “I’ve seen a But for every facial dunk gone viral, Monk, who in September ranked as lot of tape on him. I’ve heard a lot every pull-up 25-foot dagger plunged, a consensus national Top 10 player of comments on how good he is. there has also been a lowlight. For in his class, has sparked interest like And I know who he is, I’ve met him.” instance, Monk has just fallen short of 20
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a state title the last two springs. And, for two straight summers, he’s been cut from a USA national basketball team in his age group. Not making the team “really just drives me to work harder every day,” he says. It’s these kind of failures, not a spectacular vertical jump, which now propel him to new heights. Monk and the 2014-15 Bentonville High Tigers have clear-cut goals: Win their conference outright, then take the program’s first-ever 7A state title. Last season, they were close to the first goal, going undefeated in conference until losing their last two games to Springdale and Fayetteville. In the state playoffs, the Tigers beat Cabot before running into defending champion North Little Rock in the semifinals. North Little Rock was too quick, too talented and too deep for Bentonville to handle. Monk notched 30 points and nine rebounds, but North Little Rock’s Anton Beard and KeVaughn Allen led their team to a 77-64 win before beating Springdale for the title. Only a few weeks after that loss, Monk and h i s Arkansas Wings Elite summer team flew to Sacramento for the first session of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League - a multi-city tournament including many of the nation’s top AAU teams. In one win, he set an EYBL record by notching 59 points, hitting 10 three pointers and 19 of 23 free throw attempts. Although only a shade over 6’3”, Monk was also forced to start guarding bigger, taller players than ever before. The Wings were shorter than most foes after their 6’11” center Skal Labissiere transferred to another program in April. Monk said the highlight of his summer was the EYBL’s fifth and final session, the Peach Jam, against the
creme de la creme of the nation’s summer team scene. “I just enjoy playing against the best players from each state,” he says. “They are good and they pushed me.”
team that played in the U17 World Championship in Dubai in August. The year before, when trying out for the U16 team, Monk had been slightly injured but he was healthy this time Indeed. There, in North Augusta, around while vying against some of S.C., in front of a group of college the top players in the Class of 2015 coaches including John Calipari, and 2016. Again, though, he was cut. Monk dropped 40 points and served Monk isn’t sure why. His older up a reverse pivot-spin-and-left- brother, Marcus Monk, attended the handed-dunk in the paint - over a tryout and said Malik shot “about defender - that drew thunderous average” and “played well and played applause. “When I get a hard.” Unfortunately, there wasn’t big dunk, it causes me time for Malik to get feedback from to go a little harder,” he USA Basketball coaches after their says. decision. “It’s all very fast-moving,” Marcus says. “When they announce who’s made the cut, you have about 15 minutes to go get your stuff and get on the bus and head to the airport.” While that U.S. team did win Gold, Malik found a silver lining in staying home: he had extra time before school to unwind and rest - to do more normal 16-year-old-on-summer-break type things, whether that be sleeping in or catching up with Bentonville teammates like Tyler Robinson, Jordan Hemphill and Tyrik Dixon. On a late August afternoon, Malik said he still spoke often with Dixon, although his former backcourt mate The had just a week earlier transferred to Wings Elite Southwest Christian Academy in Little ended up Rock. He said Dixon’s transfer “just winning 11 of shocked” him, but wished him the 16 EYBL games, best. Malik’s own cousin Jerry Perry but they did not would coincidentally be Dixon’s advance past the new teammate at Southwest pool stage of Peach Christian, Malik said while Jam. Some of that eating ranch barbecue wings fell on Monk’s streaking (his favorite) at Buffalo Wild Wings shooting. In the game before his in Bentonville. 40-point outburst, for instance, he At that time, Malik was looking missed seven of eight three pointers. forward to putting on weight (the good In five Peach Jam games, he shot 40% from the field and 24% from beyond kind) during preseason training. While the arc. Monk says his goal is to he’d been around 175 pounds since improve his accuracy through better the previous winter, his goal was to add 15 pounds of muscle through the shot selection and decision making. Bentonville High’s strength program. In late July, Monk was one of 36 He was also focused on keeping his players trying out for the U17 national LETTERMANMAGAZINE.COM
studies in order before the season got underway. Malik said he had around a 2.9 GPA last season and felt confident he would keep it out of any eligibility danger zones going forward. This prep basketball season promises to be one of the most highly anticipated in state history and Bentonville will be right in the middle of it. There are, of course, rivalry games with other contenders like Fayetteville and Springdale. But a big one tips off right off the bat when national powerhouse Chaminade High (St. Louis) arrives at Bentonville High on November 29. Chaminade’s star, junior Jayson Tatum, is one of the few players in Monk’s class consistently outpacing him. Tatum, a 6’8” guard, made the national team and starred in the Gold medal game. In September, ESPN ranked him as the nation’s No. 3 junior ahead of Monk at No. 4. “He really can do everything, so it will be a good matchup,” says Monk, who has been playing against Tatum on the summer circuit since sixth grade. While much of the buzz surrounds Monk vs. Tatum (and they will guard each other at times), Bentonville head coach Jason McMahan says Chaminade is “a really good team” overall after seeing them at a team 22
a significant boost for the UA program in wins and attendance while making it a more attractive destination for even younger stars. Nolan Richardson believes Anderson signing Monk “would be great. You’ve got to try to close the fences off where you don’t let your better, your best, players in the state ever leave.”
camp in Kansas this summer. As for his own team, he saw signs they “could be special” even in pickup ball of late August. He said in order for Malik to improve from his sophomore season, he needs to sharpen his decision making and leadership: “For him not only to be great himself but to make his teammates great through his confidence.”
But, as of September, Monk was not tipping his hand in any direction when it came to a college choice. He would take more visits, gather more information and weigh options. One of those possibilities the University of Florida - will next year be the home of North Little Rock senior KeVaughn Allen.
The paths of Monk and Allen, the state’s two best players, keep intertwining. In winter, they’re foes, but during summers they find themselves on the same team, as they were during at the Nike Global Challenge tournament in August. There, Allen often visited Monk’s dorm Expect an unprecedented number room and they talked a lot about that of fans, media and college coaches last Bentonville-North Little Rock to watch Malik grow this season. game, Monk recalls. There was some Naturally, there’s intense interest good-natured trash talk about what in whether he’ll eventually play for would happen if the state’s two powers Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson. clashed again in the state tourney. For Such a decision would likely provide Malik, the answer’s easy: “We got to win. We have to. It’s a must win.”
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Beauty And Success BY BRANDY J. FLYNN
Skylar Diggins, Candice Parker, and Sanya RichardsRoss: This group of ladies has two things in common. They are top athletes and are considered to be very beautiful women. In most cases, female athletes are usually thought to have any femininity. A few decades ago society viewed women athletes as rugged and were rarely seen in heels or make-up. Some sports are catered to show a woman’s feminine side such as gymnastics, volleyball, and lingerie football, but what about the women that plays in male dominating sports such as basketball and track? Athletes such as Flo-Jo and Lisa Leslie embraced their feminism while giving their all on the track and court. Today her game. Athletes depend on their physical ability to perform at the highest level. While watching the 2012 Olympics, I took notice of the United States of America Women Track Team and noticed how well they were put together (ha ir done, make-up, etc.). I recall making jokes saying: “the USA found some pretty girls to run.” After they won more than a couple medals, I realized not only were they beautiful but also very talented. The women athletes of today are bringing beauty back to the game! Skylar Diggins, who has been labeled as the unofficial face of the Women’s National Basketball Association, is considered to be one of the sexiest athletes on the planet. With more and more female athletes displaying their feminine side in sports, many more doors are being opened. There are great examples in the sports world today. Young female athletes are empowered and believe that they can participate in any sport and remain a lady. Professional women athletes today have created a trend. They have showed that women can be competitive and play at a high level, even being compared to male athletes. Although a woman should not be judged by her looks, a great presentation can bring new fans to the game. It can also develop more role models for young girls. Instead of idolizing video vixens and reality stars to model life after, seeing women doing great things and remaining pretty can possibly save our younger generation.
Young female athletes are empowered and believe that they can participate in any sport
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ver the course of a year, reports were coming out of Lincoln, Arkansas that there was a young man that possessed a terrific jump shot, good rebounding ability, and the perfect size to draw the interest of college recruiters. Lincoln had a very impressive team last season, and with Goldman returning, they should be an interesting team to watch this season. I am going to discuss Biggie’s game and what to look forward to this coming season from him and the Lincoln Wolves.
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To look at what the future holds for Goldman we need to take a look at what he has done thus far to get to where he is at currently. Goldman is a 6’9” 190 pound small forward with deadly accuracy beyond the arc. Last
year for Lincoln, Goldman averaged 11.5 points per game, 5 rebounds per game, and 2.5 blocks per game. Biggie can quickly fill up the stat sheet during the course of the game. Goldman and his 42% shooting from long range helped lead the Lincoln Wolves to a 22-6 record last season. The Wolves were the district champions in the 4A Region 1 last year.
that faced with the task of trying to guard him. The Lincoln basketball team is focused on improving every game and, if the Wolves can do that, they will be tough to deal with in the 4A Conference during the 2014 season.
Goldman spent the offseason honing his craft and working on his game. Biggie spent a month in Little Rock over the summer competing The goals for the 2014 season have with the Arkansas Wings, AAU not changed from last season. Lincoln basketball team. Goldman got the Coach Tim Rich knows that they are chance to work on his post game breaking in some new players to go and develop more of a presence in along with Goldman. However, the the post. Goldman at 6â€™9â€? has all the Wolves expect to get the momentum tools to be a force inside but the most going as the season gets going and deadly aspect of his game is to pop make a state playoff push. Goldman, outside and hit the deep three point with his size and shooting range will jumper. be a matchup nightmare for the guys Spending time with the Arkansas 26
Wings of course opened up his recruiting and made him a much larger target for college scouts. Wisconsin, Gonzaga, DePaul, Texas Tech, and UALR have all started taking a long look at Goldman. The recruiting process for Goldman will be a fun one to watch and cover. Goldman has a great attitude and the sky is the limit for this young man and for the Lincoln Wolves. Basketball season is upon us folks, get out and enjoy it!
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Get Connected Ministries
Pastor Dexter Gibson 479.212.0672 Address: 110 Hailey Drive, Suite 110, Centerton, Arkansas 72719 Sunday Worship: 10:00 A.M. Bible Study: Wed. 6-7:00 P.M. www.getconnectedministries.org
SUPER MARIO SMALL CITY, BIG TIME PLAYER BY TRANDON MOY
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here is nothing more exciting than discovering a hidden gem in the Natural State. Decatur, Arkansas, is a small city nestled outside the rural area of Centerton with an approximate population of 1,725. Many around the state and throughout the nation for that matter have overlooked the Decatur Bulldogs, but this season will be a bit different.
senior year and I’m trying to finish my last year here with something huge, like state playoffs or even a state championship in 2A,” says Mario. During an interview with Athletic “After high school I want to play college Director/Head Basketball Coach John basketball so I’m trying to show out Unger it was easy to see why Mario is my last season.” Mario is a class act on and off the such a special young man. “Mario is the first one at practice and the last court. His teammates admire his one to leave the court. His work ethic leadership qualities as well as his is nothing like I’ve seen before in my athletic prowess. In the words of 15 years of coaching.” There are not Coach Unger, “Mario is a great kid many combo players like Super Mario and very respectful to his peers and in the state of Arkansas. “He can teachers. He’s one of those kids that score, block, play defense…he can do appreciate his God given abilities.” Mario embodies the core values of everything,” says Unger. College coaches are starting to Letterman Magazine: Academics, take notice of what this talented Sports, Character. Check out the player can bring to their program. Decatur Bulldogs this season on a Mario is currently being evaluated court near you. The Bulldogs look by Henderson State, John Brown to make a run this year and prove University, University of Arkansas at they have what it takes to be ranked Monticello, and Harding University. alongside the elite teams in 2A. on his skills as a sophomore. He is a physical player that can bang down low and has the finesse to score from the perimeter.
One of the most exciting high school basketball players in recent years calls Decatur home. Mario Urquidi, also known as Super Mario is a 6’4” 195lb Guard/Forward with a 38” vertical. If you don’t believe the hype take a look at Mario’s career stats: 14.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 2.8 blocks per game. He compiled 18 doubledoubles last year out of 24 games and has 1,111 career points, If that is not impressive enough Mario didn’t begin playing organized ball until the 7th grade and started honing in “I’m excited to play at Decatur my
ARKANSAS ATHLETIC DYNASTY the eckwood family
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he Eckwood Family is a name that is very well known to the folks that follow athletics in the state of Arkansas. Jerry Eckwood is an Arkansas Razorbacks legend and is one of the best running backs the State of Arkansas has ever produced. Stan Eckwood played at Harding University and went on to play in the NBA for the Portland Trailblazers. Many Arkansas fans remember Charles Balentine’s penchant for hitting big shots, he also a member of the Eckwood family. Theron Eckwood was a great athlete as well in what was a loaded Pine Bluff High School during the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Theron led the Pine Bluff Zebras to the overall state basketball title as the team’s point guard. Theron would continue his career at Western Oklahoma State where he would play the point guard spot there. However, Jerry, Stan, Charles and Theron are not the only talented members of the Eckwood Dynasty. The next generation of Eckwoods are proving themselves on the football field, basketball court, and in the game of life. Theron Eckwood and Tyra Eckwood have five sons that have excelled or are currently excelling in athletics and in life. In 2005, the Fayetteville Bulldogs were one of the best teams in the State of Arkansas. Bryan Eckwood started on the Purple Dog defense on what was a talented football team in 2005. Eckwood was able to crack the starting lineup as a sophomore and helped solidify a very sound defense. Bryan and the Purple Dogs wound up finishing 5th in the state in 2005 and helped Fayetteville Coach Daryl Patton lay the groundwork for some very successful seasons yet to come. Bryan
is currently a police officer in Saint Tevin Eckwood is the next Louis and is the first of a successful young Eckwood to keep an eye Eckwood next generation. on. Tevin has impressed many on Ladarius Eckwood is one of the most the football field as well as the polished wide receivers to come out of basketball court. Tevin currently Springdale in several years. Ladarius plays at Southwest Junior High in committed to University of Arkansas Springdale for the 8th and 9th grade Pine Bluff and had a very successful teams. Tevin has shined on track and career for the Golden Lions. In 2012, field events in recent months and Ladarius helped the Golden Lions to he has used that quickness from the their first SWAC Championship since track and translated it to the football 1966. Ladarius was a dangerous field and the basketball court. Tevin threat and playmaker and led UAPB will be the next Eckwood to catch the in every receiving category. Ladarius eye of scouts and recruiters. Tevin is currently working to make the has already caught the eye of folks at NFL and I have no doubt he will Southeast Missouri State and I have no doubt he will catch the eyes of accomplish this goal. others as he gets older. The next son in line is Tereke Tavari Eckwoood is that final Eckwood. Tereke is simply one of the best guards in the State of Arkansas Eckwood of the next generation. as we enter the 2014/2015 season. Tavari attends Helen Tyson Middle Tereke has been All-Conference as School in Springdale. Tavari is already well as All State over the past few gaining recognition on the basketball seasons. Last year, Tereke helped court where he is beginning to lead the Springdale Bulldogs to emerge as a solid talent. Tavari within an eyelash of upsetting the plays on the Southwest Junior High North Little Rock Charging Wildcats basketball team and he will become in the state title game. Tereke had a name people are familiar with as scholarship offers from Southeast well. I look for Tavari to continue to Missouri State as well as Prairie View improve upon his game. Folks in the A&M. Tereke was able to commit to 7-A should look out for him. Central Missouri before the season The Eckwood family is not started and he will be able to provide just a successful athletic family, the Mules with a quality ball handler although that is not in question. The and solid passer. In talking with Eckwoods are a hardworking, classy, Theron for preparation of this article, intelligent, and caring family. The he has areas like all dads do, on areas Eckwoods are a symbol of what the where he thinks his son needs to state of Arkansas is all about. Being a improve on the court. Those areas hard worker, doing your part for the are “working on the three point family or team, and being ready to jumper and continuing to work on answer the call when you are needed his defense.” Tereke will have a those are the values of the state of chance to shine with the Mules. I fully Arkansas. The Eckwoods continue expect him to do big things in his to shine and it has been an honor senior season at Springdale Har-Ber visiting with them and covering this this year and at Central Missouri next fine family over the years. They are year. part of what makes this state great!
BY TOMMY TABLER LETTERMANMAGAZINE.COM
SPRINGDALE DYNAMIC D T
he city of Springdale, Arkansas, is known for producing great football talent. However, in the past five years the basketball teams have done well and many folks are starting to take notice. Springdale High School returns two of the best players in the state of Arkansas, Chris Owens and Kierra Lang. In Kierra Lang, the Lady Bulldogs return an AllState point guard who is drawing national attention from scouts across the women’s college basketball circuit. Chris Owens will be spending some time in the paint as the Bulldogs look to make another deep playoff run. He is regarded as one of the best senior players in the state and fans will see why this season. Kierra Lang returns for the Lady Bulldogs in what will be her junior season and fans are expecting a huge performance from her this year. Lang is a team leader and quickly gets the offense into the flow of the game. She uses her speed well and does a great job of distributing the ball to 34
Chasidee Owens, Ja’Vonda Daniels, and to Peanut and Precious Brown. Coach Heather Hunsucker has numerous areas of strength for the Lady Bulldogs. Springdale has six key players returning this season who all played a large number of minutes. The Lady Bulldogs are a tall, and a very athletic team. The only area of concern for Coach Hunsucker is the team chemistry. Springdale has plenty of talent to work with in Lang, Chasidee Owens, Ja’Vonda Daniels, and the Browns. Look for Springdale to push for the 7-A West conference title and to be a force in what is one of the toughest divisions in the state. Kierra spends a great deal of time receiving coaching from her father Coach Shannon Lang. Coach Lang has coached on the AAU circuit and spends a great deal of time coaching up Kierra. Lang is very proud of Kierra but he is able to break down her game and give the areas of strength and some things she may need to work on. Lang on his daughter Kierra, “she can control a game without scoring a point and on any given night she could have a triple-double.” Kierra cares more about the success of the team and
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that is a trait that you can tell makes him proud. Coach Lang would like to see Kierra become more tenacious on the defensive side of the ball and show more of a physical presence. Coach Lang would like to see Kierra continue to develop her midrange jumper as well as refine her post game. The final thought Lang had on Kierra is a short statement but meaningful, â€œKierra can became a special player!â€? Chris Owens is one of the most versatile players in the state, whether it is on the basketball court or on the football field. Owens is an athlete that has impressed me the past few years. He will be a key element in the Springdale Bulldogs attack that is employed by Coach Brad Stamps. The Bulldogs will likely use Owens in the frontcourt as well as the backcourt. Owens has been described by many as a pure scorer. If he can slightly improve his ball handling, many teams will not know how to guard him. The schedule for the Springdale Bulldogs is one of the
most difficult in the state with Jonesboro being perhaps the toughest test. Owens will have the chance to play against some of the best talent in the state this season and should have no issues displaying his skills. Look for Chris following the season as he will be one of the players to watch in the Inaugural NWA High School Basketball Senior Showcase. Examining the Springdale duo for this article was a worthwhile development. The development of Chris and Kierra is something to be proud of and they both have a great deal of potential. I look for both Kierra and Chris to have great seasons. Good luck to all three as the season starts to heat up!
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Featuring Four of the Top Players in High School Basketball.