Much has been written about the boys in-state basketball talent in the 2018, 2019 and 2020 classes, but at least two freshmen can be touted as potential college prospects going forward.
Sylvan Hills wing Jalen Ricks, 6-5, 170 pounds, and Mills guard Madison Peaster, 6-1, 170, were big contributors to their teams this season and showed a lot of promise for the future.
Ricks was forced into action this season after the Bears graduated seven seniors from last year's squad that reached the Class 5A state semifinals and returned only forward Alex Curry.
Despite his youth, Ricks showed flashes of things to come this season with his length and his ability to handle the ball, shoot and run the floor.
"Look at his body shape and the kid is still growing . He's 14 years old and he's going night in and night out going against teams like Mills and [Little Rock] Central," Sylvan Hills Coach Kevin Davis said. "He's grown up a lot. That's a credit to him. We've leaned on him all year as a ninth-grader. We knew we were down a little bit in the upper classes, and we've had some young guys that have come in and helped up.
Ricks, who averaged 9.4 points, 5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game for the Bears this season, will play for the 15-under Arkansas Hawks this spring and summer. Davis said he believes Ricks will continue to mature this summer.
Davis coached former Kentucky guard Archie Goodwin, who was taken by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft. He said it's a player's sophomore season before he begins to see the ability to play on the next level.
"The 10th-grade year, they usually start to turn that corner, and I think he's a little head of that pace because he's had this full year under his belt," Davis said of Ricks. "I just think his potential is just tremendous. He has such a soft touch, not only from the outside but inside. That ball nestles in there so softly, and that's really an art."
Ricks played all five spots on the floor without any complaints.
"He played the point for us and did a tremendous job," Davis said. "We played him in the middle of the zone and he played that five spot for us and did a great job there. He's built for that wing. He likes running the floor and playing in open space, but he'll play wherever you need him to play."
Being coachable is always a big key in maximizing the ability of an athlete, and Ricks has that along with good grades.
"He's straight-A student," Davis said. "He does all of the things you want him to do. He's just been super for us all year long. Our expectations were high and they will continue to be high for him as we watch him mature, grow and develop."
Mills Coach Raymond Cooper said Peaster has tremendous potential and the ability to make plays others can't make.
"He has a lot of upside," Cooper said. "He has some things you can't teach. He makes some plays and you go, 'Woo,' and then he'll do some freshman stuff. But he's grown up a lot this year and down the stretch we expect him to play more like a sophomore."
Peaster will also play for the 15-under Arkansas Hawks this spring and summer. He averaged 8 points, 5 assists and 2 steals per game this season and is a big reason for the Comets' 27-2 record going into Saturday's Class 5A semifinals.
"He's special," said Cooper, who coached Arkansas freshman guard Darious Hall. "As he grows, he has a chance to be one of the best I've ever coached. He has a feel for the game. He has toughness. He has ball handling.The thing about him is his passing ability. It's just unbelievable."
Arkansas Hawks chairman Bill Ingram said is excited to have Ricks and Peaster playing for the Hawks.
"Both young men are Power Five high-level players and possible five-star prospects," Ingram said.
Email Richard Davenport at email@example.com
Sports on 03/04/2018
Print Headline: Two in-state freshmen carrying big-time potential