University of Arkansas basketball coach Mike Anderson announced the signing of three student-athletes to a National Letter of Intent (NLI) on Thursday, adding guards Nick Babb (Arlington, Texas) and Anton Beard (North Little Rock, Ark.) along with forward Trey Thompson (Madison, Ark.) to the Razorback family on the second day of the early signing period.
All three will be freshman in the fall of 2014, as Beard and fellow in-state big man Thompson are tabbed as the top two recruits in the state of Arkansas. The 6-foot-5 Babb shot up recruiting rankings in the summer and is now ranked just outside the top 100 by multiple services.
"All three of these young men come from terrific families and we're happy to welcome them into ours," said Anderson. "We answered some areas of need with this class and that was to bring in some perimeter players and a guy of size. Each of these guys are instinctive players that possess versatility that is critical to our style of play on the court, but they also fit the makeup of our program off the court."
A native of Arlington, Texas, Babb averaged 15.3 points and 9.2 rebounds as a junior for an Arlington Martin team that advanced to the regional semifinals in the 5A State Tournament and finished with a 29-7 record. Babb, rated just outside the top 100 by 247Sports.com and Rivals.com, was recently named to the All-State Preseason first team. His older brother Chris starred at Iowa State and spent this past preseason with the Boston Celtics.
"Nick's game breathes versatility," Anderson said. "He's a very athletic 6-foot-5 guard that has the ability to score the basketball, but also run the show. Nick is a high-character kid from a great family, whose best basketball is ahead of him. Our up-tempo style will allow him to showcase his athleticism, not only on offense, but on defense where he can guard a guard and the forward position."
A lightning-quick 6-foot-1 lefty, Beard is rated the 92-best overall prospect by ESPN.com after a junior season at Little Rock Parkview in which he averaged 23.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.5 steals. Beard was named to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette All-State first team in 2013, along with current Razorback Bobby Portis. Following his junior season, Beard participated in the LeBron James Camp, the Deron Williams Point Guard Skills Camp and the NBPA Top 100 Camp. Beard, who played with Team Penny on the AAU circuit, is rated just outside the top 100 by Scout.com, Rivals.com and 247Sports.com.
"I describe Anton's game by calling him a warrior. He's got a big heart and plays hard on both ends of the court each and every game," Anderson said. "He's a gritty player. His toughness and heart is something you can't teach and his basketball IQ has resulted in wins everywhere he's been. Offensively, he can get to the rim, create for others and he's just got a great feel for the game. Anton is a great addition and we're happy to keep one of the top ranked guards in the country in his home state as a Razorback."
Another in-state product, Thompson posted 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks per game at Forrest City as a junior. Thompson, a two-time Arkansas Democrat-Gazette honoree, is rated as the 30th-best power forward in the 2014 class. He played on the AAU circuit with the Arkansas Hawks.
"Trey is someone who we've been following for a long time," said Anderson. "He's very versatile in how he plays because he has the strength to bang inside, but also has great footwork and the ability to step outside. He has a great set of hands, which is a premium for a big man, the ability to pass the ball and his upside is tremendous. Even better, Trey is another in-state kid who wants to be a Razorback."
Arkansas returns to Bud Walton Arena where it has won 15 straight games on Friday to host Louisiana. Tip is slated for 7 p.m.