FAYETTEVILLE – Head Coach John Pelphrey and the University of Arkansas men’s basketball team signed four student-athletes to National Letters of Intent on the first day of the fall signing period on Wednesday in Devonta Abron, Hunter Mickelson, Aaron Ross and B.J. Young.
The four new Razorbacks are the foundation of what many are considering a top three or four class nationally and a class that as Van Coleman, a national recruiting analyst mentioned in an article by Richard Davenport in early October could be "program changing."
"I am very excited about the young men that we have signed," Pelphrey said. "Each of them loves the University of Arkansas which is why they are coming. They found our history and fan base very appealing. This class is a product of the hard work done by our assistant coaches in developing relationships not just recently, but over the course of three years. We have been able to develop a family atmosphere when it comes to recruiting and I should also point out the attitude of our current players who did a wonderful job hosting these student-athletes when they came on their official visits.
"Obviously our staff and fans want a championship level program and that starts with quality student-athletes. One thing that I have addressed with all of our recruits is that if they come then other good players will want to come as well. I feel that with this class we were able to address several needs and that each player brings a unique set of strengths to Arkansas."
Razorback signees on Wednesday include two from inside the borders of Arkansas in North Little Rock’s Ross and Jonesboro’s Mickelson. Young hails from Florissant, Mo., and Abron from Dallas, Texas.
Ross committed to Pelphrey and the Razorbacks as a freshman and never wavered in his decision. The 6-8, 220-pound Ross is ranked No. 98 overall by ESPN and No. 147 by Rivals. He is considered a four star prospect by ESPN and the No. 22 small forward in this year’s recruiting class after averaging 17.6 points and 10 rebounds as a sophomore for Parkview Arts and Science Magnet HS and helping the Arkansas Wings win the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) National Title this summer.
"Aaron Ross will always have a special place in my heart because he was the first in this class to believe in what we are doing and want to be a Razorback," Pelphrey said. "He is a skilled offensive player who is continuing to develop. He is capable of scoring in and around the basket as well as out on the perimeter. He has worked extremely hard on his perimeter shot and because of that he will be a tremendous match up problem for opponents. He has become a legitimate threat from the perimeter with the ability to drive to the basket and be a playmaker."
At 6-10, Mickelson is the tallest player in Arkansas’ first-day haul and is a consensus top 100 and four star player by ESPN (48), Rivals.com (98) and Scout.com (50). Mickelson is rated as high as No. 8 on the power forward list for the class of 2011 and averaged 22 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks-per-game as a junior for Westside High School in leading the team to a 4A state championship. Mickelson was also a member of the Arkansas Wings AAU National Championship team and considered Kentucky, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest before signing with the Razorbacks.
"Hunter is a fantastic young man who is blessed with size and unbelievable talent," Pelphrey said. "He has speed and quickness which makes him a perfect big man for our system and style. Hunter is very unique in that he has also been blessed with the ability to shoot the basketball from the three-point line. Hunter is also a great shot blocker who plays with a lot of toughness which should go a long way to make us an outstanding defensive team. Hunter has tremendous potential to grow as a player and become a great one."
Young is this highest rated player in Arkansas’ Wednesday signees and is regarded as a five-star recruit and top 19 player by the major recruiting rankings. A 6-3 combo guard, Young is an athlete first and foremost and is considered one of the nation’s top guards. Young was also regarded as one of the top guards at the 2010 NBA Top 100 Camp this year and chose Arkansas over Indiana, Marquette, Illinois State, Baylor and others.
"I believe that B.J. is one of the best scorers in the country from this class," Pelphrey said. "He has great speed and the uncanny ability to get to the basket. He has tremendous energy and a high threshold for work. B.J. is one of those unique players that because of how much he loves to play and compete, he is able to influence those around him."
Abron rounds out Arkansas’ first-day haul of new players and at 6-7, the Seagoville High School product is not one that can be overlooked. A three-star athlete by the recruiting analysts, Abron is the No. 27 power forward according to the ESPN rankings and the No. 21 power forward by Rivals.com. Abron averaged 24.8 points and 13.4 rebounds as a junior and scored 50 points against North Dallas as a sophomore. He was highly recruited by Texas A&M, Florida International and North Texas among others.
"Devonta is another great human being, a tremendous student who is just starting to scratch the surface of how good he can be," Pelphrey said. "He brings a physical toughness to our team. He is a tremendous finisher and rebounder and because of his unmatched work ethic he has already started to develop his perimeter skills"
The fall signing period continues through Wednesday, Nov. 17.
The 2010-11 Razorback men’s basketball team plays its second exhibition game of the season on Thursday night at Bud Walton Arena against Victory University at 7 p.m.