Are John Pelphrey Recruits the Start of a New Beginning for Arkansas?

Tyler JonesAnalyst IJuly 25, 2008

John Pelphrey has hit the nail on the head with this year's recruiting class.

After his first season at Arkansas, Pelphrey took a team of Stan Heath's players to the NCAA tournament and a first round win over Indiana before losing to eventual Final Four competitors North Carolina.

As Pelphrey enters his second season, he will be depending on a few key returning players like Michael Washington and Patrick Beverly, but he will also be depending on incoming talent in Arkansas' best recruiting class in years.

On four major recruiting web sites, the lowest rank Pelphrey's class receives is 24th by, and it is ranked as high as sixth by, a CBSsportsline site.

The head of the class features two outstanding guards in Courtney Fortson, out of Patterson School in North Carolina, and Rotnei Clarke from Verdigris High School in Oklahoma.  Fortson is rated as the sixth-best point guard of the class by and ninth by, who rates the class at 16th.  ESPN ranks the class at 11th.

Clarke became Oklahoma's career all-time leading scorer in his last season at Verdigris, scoring 37 points in his final game to lead the team to a 3A state championship.  Clarke chose Arkansas over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kentucky, and Gonzaga, among other schools.

Fortson helped lead Patterson School to a 33-1 record and has been highly regarded by Pelphrey, who saw him play against some other big national recruits.  Here is what Pelphrey had to say in an interview with Hogs Illustrated.

"Courtney Fortson has just been a tremendous winner...I had a chance to see him play against Brandon Jennings and somebody else (on staff) saw him against Tyreke Evans—two of the top point guards in the country...Courtney competed very well in terms of a individual basis on points and assists, but more importantly his team won both games.  That is exciting as a coach."

Fortson turned down Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi, Minnesota, Kentucky, Iowa, Clemson, and Florida State to join the Hogs.

Rivals also has recruit Jason Henry rated as the 13th-best small forward in the country.

Another ESPN-noted recruit is 6'6" shooting guard Montrell McDonald out of Fort Worth County College in Kansas.

CSTV is also big on 6'7" signee Daniel Payne, who should help add to the three and/or four spots of the recruiting class.

With a young but talented group, Pelphrey is expected to have a rebuilding year, which it certainly could be.

But if recruiting continues the way it has been going, look for Pelphrey to have the Razorbacks back in the national spotlight in the next few years.

Note: The class recently dropped in a few polls  (26th in rivals, 13th in CSTV) with the recent decommit of a key recruit, although not Fortson or Clarke.