In his weekly recruiting column for Hawgs Illustrated, Dudley E. Dawson chats with Columbia, Mo., Hickman guard Jimmy Whitt - a prime target of the Razorbacks and someone the Arkansas staff is watching this weekend at the Under Armour Association Finals in Suwanee, Ga., this weekend. This story is free and courtesy of the NWA Chevy Dealers. Click the banner to learn more.
SUWANEE, Ga. - As one of Arkansas prime recruiting targets for the 2015 class, Columbia (Mo.) Hickman combo guard Jimmy Whitt knows that he can look up at any time and find a Razorback coach in the stands when he is playing.
Arkansas assistant T.J. Cleveland was front and center Wednesday and Thursday to watch Whitt (6-3, 170) lead his KC Run GMC squad in the Under Armour Association Finals just outside of Atlanta.
“They are still in great shape,” Whitt said of the Razorbacks. “I have a great relationship with them, they have a high interest in me and I certainly have a high interest in Arkansas. I think going into the process that will be a big factor for me. I can tell you it will be one of the schools that is really there for me.”
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson and the current Razorback staff have been recruiting Whitt since he was in the ninth grade and he was at the helm of the Missouri program.
He is also great friends with former teammate and current Arkansas sophomore Manuale Watkins, the son of Razorback assistant Melvin Watkins.
“I love the guys and I have known them for so long,” Whitt said. “Manny and those guys want me down there and I know I would be a great fit for Coach Anderson's system. I love to get up and down the court like they do.”
Arkansas joins SMU, Memphis, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Wichita State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Tulsa, Minnesota, Wake Forest, San Francisco, Northern Iowa and Colorado in already offering Whitt.
North Carolina, Kansas, Indiana, Arizona and Ohio State are all showing increased interest lately in a player that is regarded as a 5-star prospect and the 50th-best player nationally by Scout.com.
“At this point, I don't really have any leaders,” Whitt said. “I look at myself as open because there have been some new schools coming in and I just want to see where it goes.”
KC Run GMC head coach L.J. Goolsby, whose team is 10-3 so far on the UAA circuit, talked Thursday afternoon about why Whitt is such a coveted prospect.
“I think he is multidimensional as a guard,” Goolsby said. “I think he naturally likes to score, but he is a point guard as well and can get his teammates involved. He is just one of those guys that you love having because you can utilize him so many ways.”
Whitt averaged 22.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and a whopping 4.4 steals per game last season while leading Hickman (27-3) to the Class 5A championship game before falling to Christian Brothers College High School despite his team-high 29 points.
“He is so athletic and it is hard for guys to keep him in front of them,” Goolsby said. “He handles the ball well. We are trying to get him to score more because we need it right now and hopefully as we move forward in the bracket he will try to take a little bit more ownership. We are playing him at the point and he is getting guys involved, but he needs to get himself involved as well.”
KC Run GMC routed Team Charlotte on Wednesday night, but lost 50-47 Thursday afternoon to Stackhouse Elite – a team coached by former North Carolina and NBA star Jerry Stackhouse and featuring his son Jai.
Both games were in the Showcase part of the event with bracket play beginning late Thursday.
“Guys didn't eat breakfast this morning and I told them that is exactly what it looked like,” Goolsby said. “We came out awfully flat and you can't do that to yourself or you just dig a hole.”
White, who had 27 points in the opener and 15 in the second game, echoed those sentiments.
“I just think we came out a little flat and they got on us quick,” Whitt said. “We came out the second half and they got on that run – a 10-0 run I think – and we just never fully recovered. We came back at the end and got it within one and had our chances in the ballgame, but against great teams like these you just can not come out flat.”
Whitt will be narrowing his list down at the end of this month and then will begin to set up his official visits.
“After July is over, I am going to sit down with my parents and discuss each school and each possibility,” Whitt said. “It's going to be the best fit for me to go in and automatically be able to contribute to a team.”
Photos courtesy of Kelly Kline
Jimmy Whitt brings the ball up Wednesday at the Under Armour Association Finals
Arkansas assistant basketball coach T.J. Cleveland is among the coaches on hand watching the UAA event.