LITTLE ROCK — Curious about the skills required to get invited to the McDonald’s All American game, scores from the 6A boys championship at Greenwood will have my attention.
If Little Rock Hall wins three games this week, Bobby Portis will be playing at Barton Coliseum in the title game on the weekend of March 7-9. Making plans to see the 6-foot-10 Portis was the first thing that came to mind when the Little Rock Convention and Visitor’s Bureau sent out a release about the 14 championships at Barton.
The tournament schedule was a skeleton — only start times for the four games on that Thursday and Friday and the six games on Saturday. Which final will be played when will be decided next Sunday after members of the Arkansas Activities Association staff compare notes about what they found when they visited the various tournament sites this week. The idea is to get a feel for which schools will bring the largest crowds and then alternate big classification-smaller classification.
Generally, fans from the larger schools do not stick around to watch teams from the smaller classifications, but fans from the smaller schools remain to see teams from the larger school districts. The lineup of games didn’t matter much when the site was Verizon Arena and there were seats for everyone. At Hot Springs the past few years and Barton this year, arena capacity is in play.
If asked, 4 p.m. on Saturday would be perfect for Portis and his Hall teammates. Arkansas fans could watch the Razorbacks finish the regular season against Texas A&M at 1 p.m. on ESPNU and then get to the Coliseum with a fresh perspective on how Portis could help Arkansas next season, particularly if Marshawn Powell passes on his fifth year in Fayetteville, as expected.
During that dream sequence, Arkansas signee Moses Kingsley would be at center. A teammate of Portis on an Arkansas-based AAU team, the 6-foot-9 Kingsley had scholarship offers from Florida, Louisville, and other major powers and quality of suitors is a good barometer of talent.
For a critique on Portis, the source is Dudley Dawson, who played high school basketball at Newport, worked under Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson and has been writing about recruiting since 1987.
Dawson, who has seen Portis play more than two dozen times, including five high school games this year, calls him a tremendously gifted all-around player.
Portis, he said, "attacks the rim, has a great mid-range game and a nice touch from 3-point range, as good a rebounder — especially offensively — as the Razorbacks will have had in a long time, is a fabulous passer and gets after it on defense, where he can guard anyone from a small forward to center."
Stacked on top of what I had heard previously about Portis’ character and work ethic, the young man should fit Mike Anderson’s system to a T.
Somebody who goes back farther than Dawson compared Portis to Keith Lee, the former West Memphis standout who was the No. 11 player picked in the 1985 NBA draft. Dawson says Lee was a better scorer, but that Portis is a better all-around player. He compared Portis to a taller and more skilled Derek Hood, one of my favorite Razorbacks in the late 1990s.
Portis is the seventh male from Arkansas to be selected for the McDonald’s All-American since 1980 and the last four have done well:
—1984, Andrew Lang, second round NBA draft, played more than 10 years.
—1992, Corliss Williamson, led Arkansas to NCAA title, a lottery pick in 1995, 12 years in the NBA.
—2007, James Anderson, 20th pick in the 2010 draft, plays for Houston.,
—2012, Archie Goodwin, averaging almost 14 points per game for Kentucky.
A home-grown McDonald’s All-American is rare at Arkansas and a preview should be available March 9.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.