For the longest time there was as an animus that existed toward the Arkansas basketball team about its in-state products. The Razorbacks weren’t getting the best players from within the Natural State borders.
The fervor about the situation was never higher than about a year ago, when Arkansans watched as Malik Monk went to Kentucky, Payton Willis to Vanderbilt and Mitchell Smith to Missouri. Three high-school players within an hour’s drive of Fayetteville left the state lines to play SEC basketball.
My, how things have changed.
Coach Mike Anderson landed the third of three recruits in the 2017 class on Friday, and like the two before him, Khalil Garland is an Arkansas native. Garland, from Parkview in Little Rock, joins Daniel Gafford (El Dorado) and Darious Hall (Mills) to form a top-20 recruiting class in the country, all as homegrown talent.
Garland signed his letter of intent Friday afternoon. He joins two other former Parkview players – junior guards Daryl Macon and Anton Beard – on the roster, or rather, he will come next season, barring something unforeseen. And Garland brings an element lacking among the current stable of players.
He’s a 6-foot-6 combo guard who specializes in slashing. Garland has long arms and wants to get to the rim at every opportunity. He can handle the ball, though he probably won’t be asked to play much point guard, and is an adept passer, being as tall as he is and able to see over defenses. ESPN has him rated as the No. 55 player in the nation and it’s possible he can make an impact from the moment he sets foot on campus.
Garland, Gafford and Hall didn’t plan their recruiting simultaneously. But as the dominoes fell, they began to speak to one another more. Eventually, it was decided the three of them going to Arkansas could be a haul for the Razorbacks and, more importantly, for themselves.
“Me and Day Day (Hall) and Daniel, we talked. It’s never happened to have the top three in the state go to the same college,” Garland said. “We wanted to make Arkansas special. My parents had a big deal in my commit, too. I wanted to go somewhere where I was happy and they were happy for me. Arkansas was the best place.”
Suddenly, an Arkansas program that watched player after player go out of the state, has become a shining example of keeping things in-house. Guard Dusty Hannahs, swingman Manny Watkins, forward Trey Thompson and walk-on RJ Glasper are all from Arkansas, too. And while the new three won’t change any outcomes for the Razorbacks this season, the hope for the future is a complete 180-degree difference from where it was a year ago.
“It’s an opportunity for us all to make a name for Arkansas,” Garland said.