Preview: Real Deal in the Rock
Arkansas is the place to be this weekend for non-Nike teams
Over 5,000 basketball players will descend on Little Rock, Arkansas - a city of 500,000 - this weekend for the highly anticipated and NCAA Certified Real Deal in the Rock tournament.
Look out for Twitter updates (@5starbasketball) throughout the weekend, and don't forget to check back Monday for a full recap. In the meantime, here's what you need to know...
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Ranked Teams Participating:
15U: No. 6 Compton Magic
14U: No. 1 Dunk Dog
No. 10 Sports U./Team IZOD and No. 12 Houston Defenders will square off in Pool A of the 17U Joe Johnson Division, rekindling a heated match-up that took place last weekend at the Hoop Group Pitt Jam Fest. Sports U. downed the highly-touted backcourt brothers, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, and their Defenders squad, 72-61. Coaches from Kentucky, Maryland, Baylor, Clemson, Oregon, Iowa and VCU were on hand in a game that's still being talked about today. Watch THIS for more information.
Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, Wesley Johnson, DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Gordon Hayward, Paul George, Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry, Larry Sanders, Luke Babbitt, Eric Bledsoe, Avery Bradley, James Anderson, Elliot Williams, Damion James, Quincy Pondexter, Daniel Orton, Blake Griffin, Hasheem Thabeet, Michael Conley Jr., Thaddeus Young, Johnny Flynn, DeMar DeRozan, Gerald Henderson, Earl Clark, Jeff Teague, B.J. Mullens, Wayne Ellington, Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Brook Lopez, Anthony Randolph, Robin Lopez, Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, Jimmer Fredette, Klay Thompson, Alec Burks, Markieff Morris, Kawhi Leonard, Iman Shumpert, Chris Singleton, Nolan Smith, Reggie Jackson, Marshon Brooks, Jordan Hamilton, JaJuan Johnson, Norris Cole, Cory Joseph.
About Real Deal Founder, Bill Ingram:
Ingram knows a thing or two about the Little Rock community. Born and raised right in town, he was a two-sport standout at local Parkview High School, whose notable alums include former NFL All-Pro and College Football Hall of Famer Keith Jackson and current Los Angeles Laker Derek Fisher.
Ingram turned down a couple of Division II basketball scholarship offers to play football for the home state Razorbacks, graduating in 1990. Although his time in Fayetteville was spent primarily on the gridiron, he never lost sight of his affinity for basketball. "I played a lot of pickup ball in college," remembers Ingram. "I just love the game. My passion has always been basketball."
In fact, Ingram traces his start in coaching back to his college days when he'd volunteer at the local recreation center in Fayetteville. In the summertime, he would head home where he held a job coaching summer league teams at the Little Rock rec center. But his official entree into the grassroots scene came after college, ironically enough, with the Arkansas Wings, the program Ingram semi-jokingly refers to as "bitter archrivals."
After a couple years coaching with the Wings, Ingram connected with old college buddy and Olympic Gold medalist Mike Conley, Sr., to collaborate on building Conley's new Arkansas Hawks organization. In 1996, their first year together, Conley and Ingram had three future NBA players in the program: Joe Johnson (Atlanta Hawks), Ronnie Brewer (Chicago Bulls), and Conley's son Michael Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies).
Together, Ingram and Conley built the Hawks into the top program in Arkansas, coaching elite talent such as the aforementioned NBA stars, but also a couple of guys who went on to make their names known outside of basketball: former undisputed middleweight boxing champion Jermain Taylor and Heisman Trophy runner-up and current Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden. That impressive list of alumni—which also includes dozens of Division 1 players—made the program a national force on the AAU scene, giving Ingram the credibility in the space to execute his ambitious vision for creating a national event held in his relatively small hometown.