BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Little Rock Central is off to a fast start this season and hope to continue at this week’s Hoop Hall South basketball tournament at Bentonville High School.
The Tigers (9-2) open play Thursday night against Moravian Prep (7-1) in a 7 p.m. clash in the three-day event that features 12 boys teams and a trio of girls teams.
“We have played really well for the most part and I think we have got much better since the start,” Central head coach Brian Ross said. “We have got nine or ten guys contributing on a regular basis, everybody is playing good defense and sharing the ball and as long as we keep doing that, I think we’ll keep playing pretty well.”
Central’s only losses came on back-to-back nights at Tennessee power Bartlett (84-74 in double overtime) on Nov. 21 and Little Rock Parkview (63-61) on Nov. 22.
“We didn’t play that bad at Bartlett lost in double overtime and got back home at 3 a.m. and didn’t play our best the next night,” Ross said. “But the guys have rebounded well and we are back on a five-game winning streak.”
The event also includes Arkansas schools Bentonville, Bentonville West, Fayetteville and Little Rock Christian, Illinos’ Whitney Young, Texas’ Legacy, Arizona’s Compass Press and Nevada’s Coranado.
It also features three girls squads playing with Bentonville, Bentonville West and Arizona’s Perry, which opens the event Thursday at 5:30 against the host quad.
Little Rock Central is led by Top 25 national junior prospect Annor Boateng (6-5,200), who us an Arkansas recruiting priority that also has offers from Auburn, LSU, Missouri and others.
“Obviously Annor is our five star and everybody knows about him,” Ross said. “He is averaging an efficient 17 points a game and really doesn’t shoot much for a guy that get the accolades that he does. What I like is he is shooting 35 percent on 3-pointers this year, which is major improvement.
“He just fills up the stat sheet every night – blocks, steals, deflections, rebounds. He is just doing it all and also turning it over a lot less than he did last year.”
The Tigers are also getting solid play from senior Gavin Snyder.
“Gavin Snyder is a senior, a guard who is our second leading scorer right now and he just got named tournament MVP of the Charles Ripley Classic,” Ross said. “He has been lights out from three, but is also kind of the leader of our defense. He picks up from 94 feet, he leads our team in steals and just has a Bulldog mentality.
“We also got a lot of guys around them shooting the ball well also.”
Little Rock Central faces Moravian Prep on Thursday and then national power Chicago Simeon (7-0) Friday at 4 p.m
“We got some really good opponents and have been doing some homework on them the last few days,” Ross said. “Moravian Prep is a really good school out of North Carolina. It should be a really fun game as they like to get up and down, which we do, too.
“What is different is that the first game we watched, they put up 53 3-pointers in the game. They are going to put it up from deep and it looks like everybody is a quality 3-point shooter. So that is going to be a challenge for us, but I think there is some advantages that we have on them and we are going to try and take advantage of those, too.”
Simeon is ranked No. 1in Illinois and No. 17 nationally by Maxpreps.
“ Chicago Simeon, they are one of the top 20 teams in the country and I don’t think they have a weak link. They are going to be really, really good and we are going to have to really bring it.”
Ross purposely schedule a tough non-conference schedule for the Tigers.
“Our next seven games are all against out-of-state opponents,” Ross said. “Then you come back home and get North Little Rock as your first conference opponent. So there is no rest and no off games. We have tried to schedule as tough as possible so we can get some good experiences. We have already and I am sure we will continue to do so.
“We just need to keep improving every game. What the record is doesn’t really matter that much, it matters that you are your best in January and February for conference play.”
Little Rock Central is hoping to repeat its Class 6A championship run in 2020.
“That’s the goal,” Ross said. “We try not talk about it daily, but we know that we have enough talent in the room that if we do get better every day we are going to have a chance at something like that.”
Thursday, December 15, 2022
5:30 PM Girls - Perry (AZ) vs. Bentonville
7:00 PM Boys - Little Rock Central vs. Moravian Prep (NC)
8:30 PM Boys - Fayettville vs. Whitney Young (IL)
Friday, December 16, 2022
4:00 PM Boys - Little Rock Central vs. Simeon Career Academy (IL)
5:30 PM Boys - Harvard Westlake (CA) vs. Whitney Young (IL)
7:00 PM Boys - Moravian Prep (NC) vs. Coronado HS (NV)
8:30 PM Boys - Bentonville vs. Bentonville West
Saturday, December 17, 2022
12:00 PM Boys - Little Rock Christian vs. Whitney Young (IL)
1:30 PM Girls - Bentonville HS vs. Bentonville West
3:00 PM Boys - Simeon Career Academy (IL) vs. Moravian Prep (NC)
4:30 PM Boys - Bentonville West vs. Harvard Westlake HS (CA)
6:00 PM Boys - Legacy (TX) vs. Compass Prep (AZ)
7:30 PM Boys - Bentonville vs. Coronado HS (NV)