Arkansas signs three centers

11/12/2003 - Arkansas Razorbacks

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Stan Heath has found his big men,
three of them to be exact.

Arkansas' second-year basketball coach pulled in another
stalwart class Wednesday, with Al Jefferson from Mississippi, one
of the nation's top recruits, leading the way.

"I guess in some ways you could look at (Jefferson) as the
jewel, the headline guy of this recruiting class," Heath said.
"He's a man-child. He's hard to handle. He's got a chance to
command double-teams and triple-teams and really open up the floor
for other teammates."

Jefferson, a 6-foot-9, 265-pound center, faxed his paperwork
after Heath had already addressed the media on 6-11 center Steven
Hill of Branson, Mo., and 6-10 center Darian Townes from
Alexandria, Va.

A fourth big man, Charles Thomas from Jackson, Miss., is
expected to be made official later this week. Wednesday was the
first day high school seniors could sign early with colleges.

Heath ran out on the Bud Walton Arena floor with Jefferson's fax
in hand to spread the news about the signee he said could play for
the Razorbacks right now.

The exuberance could be short-lived, depending on whether or not
Jefferson ever plays for Arkansas or if he's just here for a year.
There's talk of Jefferson choosing to enter the NBA draft after
this year.

"Obviously, there's talk of what he's going to be doing next
year," Heath said. "Those are questions that are going to be
answered down the road. If there's a great opportunity in front of
him, we'll support him in that and Arkansas won't stand in his way.

"But at the same time, he's planning on being at Arkansas and
we're planning on having him. He has a chance to be a tremendous
impact for us right away."

Sophomore guard Jonathan Modica asked Jefferson during the
summer if he planned on going to college.

"I can only go by what he told me and he told me he was going
to come," Modica said. "He said he didn't plan on staying for
long, but he was really sincere about coming.

"If he has a chance to go make a lot of money, you have to be
happy for him. But we want him to come here so we can try to win a
national championship, also."

Jefferson, who chose Arkansas over Alabama, highlights a class
expected to fill in what the Razorbacks have lacked for several
years -- talented big men who can score and play dominating defense.

The new class is expected to blend well with the past two
classes, which are dominated by guards. Modica and point guard Eric
Ferguson are sophomores, while this year's freshmen class includes
guards Ronnie Brewer and Olu Famutimi and 6-9, 215-pound forward
Vincent Hunter.

Jefferson averaged 37 points, 18 rebounds and six blocks a game
as a junior to lead Prentiss, Miss., to a state championship. Heath
said he spoke with Jefferson early this week and that his new star
was feeling bad after a loss in which he scored 33 points, blocked
26 shots and grabbed 18 rebounds.

"I had never heard anything like that in my life," Heath said.
"He's a phenomenal talent, a great low-post player with the
ability to step out and make a 15-footer."

Jefferson is ranked as the No. 3 prospect overall and the No. 1
power forward by TheInsiders.com and the No. 7 prospect and No. 2
center by Rivals.com.

Hill, who has bulked up from 225 pounds to 255 over the summer,
averaged 18 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks as a junior at
Branson. He was rated as one of the top 20 players at the Nike Camp
this summer.

The left-hander plays AAU ball for Arkansas Wings and he chose
Arkansas over Kansas and Missouri.

Heath credited Hill's decision to commit to Arkansas during the
spring for landing Jefferson and generating interest among other
potential signees.

"Steven was the first and that drew a tremendous amount of
attention to us," Heath said. "When Al jumped on board and made a
commitment, that took everybody by storm and made them say 'Wow,
Arkansas is going to be right where they used to be real quick.' "

New assistant coach Ronny Thompson has been recruiting Townes
since the Hargrave Military Academy student was in junior high.
Townes initially committed to Georgetown, where Thompson was an
assistant, as a sophomore in high school.

The 235-pound Townes averaged 13.8 points, 11 rebounds and eight
blocks as a senior at Archbishop Carroll High in Washington, D.C.
As a junior, he averaged 16 points, 11 rebounds and he set a
Virginia state record with 183 blocks, breaking the previous mark
held by Alonzo Mourning.

"Darian is a good shot blocker," Thompson said. "He has
gotten a lot of credit for being a defensive post guy, but
offensively, he's pretty good, too. But he's so special
defensively. He will allow us to have defensive flexibility."

Marcus Monk from East Poinsett County likely will play
basketball for Heath, too, but he is expected to sign a football
scholarship in February. Monk is a 6-6, 210-pound, guard-forward on
the basketball court and a talented wide receiver on the football

He averaged 26 points and 13 rebounds as a junior and has more
than 1,100 yards receiving this year.