FAYETTEVILLE – Little Rock’s Whitney Zachariason and Fort Smith’s Shanita Arnold signed their national letter of intent to play basketball for the University of Arkansas, Lady Razorback head coach Susie Gardner announced on the opening day of the early signing period.
The duo represent the top Division I prospects from the state of Arkansas. Zachariason was named the state player of the year as a junior and Arnold is the point guard of the top program in the state’s largest high school division.
“There is no question that we are thrilled to begin the early signing period with these two players,” Gardner said. “It is very important for the best players from your state to stay in state. They are the starting point for what we believe will be a tremendous signing class.”
Zachariason averaged over 20 ppg the past two seasons as the record-setting force behind the Central Arkansas Christian juggernaut. With the 6-2 forward, CAC has ted Class AAA s’ basketball, sweeping through the past two state titles with Zachariason named the MVP of the state tournament in 2005 and 2006. She is already the all-time scoring leader for the highly successful private school program under head coach Steve Quattlebaum.
“Whitney is nothing but a champion,” Gardner said. “She has known nothing but success at CAC. What impresses me the most about her is her work ethic. She has put in hours in the gym outside of her team practices to work on her game. She has post player size, but the ability to face the basket and hit the three.”
Arnold is the point guard of Fort Smith Northside, one of the most successful s basketball programs in state history. The 5-6 guard led the Lady Bears to their seventh straight conference championship for head coach Ricky Smith and the 2005 Class AAAAA championship. Last season, NHS was 24-3 and the state runner-up in the top division, now reclassified as the 7A. She was named the player of the year in 2006 by the Fort Smith Times-Record. For the upcoming season, she was named honorable mention all-America by Street & Smith’s College Basketball Preview.
“Shanita is one of the top point guards in the country, and we’re fortunate that she chose Arkansas,” Gardner said. “Every championship team has a great point guard, and Shanita is that caliber of player. She is an exceptional ball handler, but more important she has the point guard mentality. She has three-point range and could score 20 a game, but she would rather distribute the ball. I feel very confident the future of the point guard position is in good hands.”
Both players are fixtures on their respective all-district and all-state teams, as well as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s annual all-division statewide team. Zachariason was named the 2005 sophomore of the year by the Democrat-Gazette and Arnold to the all-sophomore team. Last year, both were first-team all-state picks with Zachariason named 2006 player of the year. She joins a long line of winners of the award to sign with the Lady Razorbacks.
Zachariason averaged 20 ppg as a junior, including 30 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in the state championship game last season. During her CAC career, she had a streak of 95 consecutive double-digit games, and currently has over 2,000 points and 800 rebounds in her high school career. She averaged 24 ppg and 14 rpg as a sophomore and 19 ppg and 13 rpg as a freshman.
Arnold has never lost a conference game as the starting point guard for Northside, an impressive 30 consecutive wins which represent the sixth and seventh straight league championship for Smith and the Lady Bears. As a junior, Arnold dished out 6 apg per game along with 9.3 ppg. She had a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio at Northside last season. Ranked as one of the top point guard recruits in the nation, Arnold has a 52-9 record at Northside and was 66-10 during her junior high days at Fort Smith’s Darby.
The Lady Razorbacks open the 2006-07 season this Friday evening at Clemson. Tipoff is 6 p.m. CST, and the game will be carried by the Lady Razorback Radio Network.