By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — The centerpieces of the Arkansas Razorbacks’ 2022 national No. 2-ranked recruiting class, Nick Smith, Jr., and Jordan Walsh, will team up on the West squad in the annual McDonald’s All American game that will be played on Tuesday in Chicago.
Smith (6-5 combo guard, North Little Rock, national Top 5 / 5-star prospect, Naismith First Team All American) is fresh off leading the Charging Wildcats to a 6A state title, and the McDonald’s game is the first of at least three postseason events he will attend in the spring before moving to Arkansas’ campus in early June.
“What’s coming up is really big for me,” Smith told Hogville.net during a recent interview. “Staying in the gym, staying tight on the ball, and staying in shape for the McDonald’s game, Jordan Brand Classic, and Nike Hoops Summit.
“Going out and playing with top-level players, and showing that I’m one of the top level guys, top five in the nation. Just going out there to have fun and compete at the same time is basically what it boils down to.”
Walsh (6-7 combo forward, Link Academy in Branson Missouri, ESPN national No. 10 / 5-star prospect) will join Smith in both the McDonald’s game and the Jordan Brand Classic all-star game (April 20 in Las Vegas). In between those events, Smith will participate in the Nike Hoops Summit game against international competition as part of the 12-member USA Basketball Junior National Team (April 8 in Portland, Ore.).
“It’s something I’ve always wanted and have always worked for,” Walsh said of playing in the McDonald’s game. “I get to play against the best of the best and I love competition. This is just a dream come true.”
Smith and Walsh are expected to arrive in Chicago this weekend in advance of the McDonald’s game on Tuesday. A source confirmed Walsh will take part in the Powerade Jamfest dunk contest on Monday.
A third Arkansas recruiting target — Anthony Black (6-7 combo forward, Duncanville, Texas, 247Sports national No. 14 / 5-star prospect, McDonald’s All American) — will announce his post-high-school decision on Monday from a handful of options that includes the Hogs. That’s a day prior to the McDonald’s game. Black is also on the West squad.
Prior to Smith and Walsh making the same McDonald’s All American team, it had been nine years since the last time the Razorbacks had an incoming recruit make the McDonald’s team, and 34 years since the program last boasted two incoming recruits who received the same honor in the same season.
The last time Arkansas had a McDonald’s All American join its program out of high school was in 2013 when national top 20 / 5-star prospect Bobby Portis of Little Rock Hall was selected and participated in the event before completing his high school requirements and moving to Arkansas’ campus just a few months later. And the only other time the Hoop Hogs’ program had two incoming recruits make the same McDonald’s All American team was in 1988 when national top 20 prospects Todd Day and Lee Mayberry made the team and competed in the ’88 game.
Portis, Day, and Mayberry along with Corliss Williamson, Joe Kleine, Andrew Lang, Ron Huery, Derek Hood, Kareem Reid, Darnell Robinson, Olu Famutimi, Ricky Norton, Willie Cutts, and Glendon Alexander were the former Hogs to be honored as McDonald’s All Americans before going on to play at Arkansas with many eventually enjoying long careers in the NBA.
Smith is only the sixth native Arkansan to both sign with the Hogs and make the McDonald’s All American team as he joins Portis, Williamson (Russellville), Lang (Pine Bluff), Cutts (Bryant), and Norton (Okalona) on that short list.
Smith and Walsh are joined in the Hogs’ 2022 5-player recruiting haul by ESPN Top 100 / 4-star prospects Derrian Ford, Joseph Pinion, and Barry Dunning, Jr.. Here’s a link to prospect analysis, scouting reports, signing articles, zoom interviews, and game highlights of all five players: https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=735857.0