LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Real Deal in the Rock founder and executive director Bill Ingram has seen plenty of talent in his amateur basketball tournament over the years. Guys like Kevin Durant, Jimmer Fredette, Blake Griffin, Tristan Thompson and Kemba Walker immediately stand out.
Andrew Harrison is ranked No. 3 in the country by 247Sports.
But when the three-day tournament starts Friday in 44 gyms around Little Rock, Ingram will be on the lookout for the next Derrick Rose.
“I’ll never forget, when Derrick Rose came here, he was 16, and nobody knew anything about him,” Ingram said Thursday. “I don’t want to say nobody knew anything about him. He was good. But he wasn’t on the national scene. He came up here and we were like … you’re looking on the floor and you’re like, ‘Man, there’s a difference between him and everybody else.’
“Every year, we have somebody come here and blow up.”
Every year, the Real Deal in the Rock also has plenty of names already well-known on the national scene, and this year is no exception.
The 2012 tournament will feature five of the top 10 players for 2013, as ranked by 247 Sports, and at least 10 players ranked in the top 37. That includes twins Andrew Harrison, the No. 1 point guard in the nation, and Aaron Harrison, the No. 1 shooting guard in the nation, both of whom play for the Houston Defenders.
Other top 50 players for 2013 to be on the lookout for include: power forward Chris Walker of Team Breakdown; guards Chris Thomas and Nate Britt of D.C. Assault; power forward Isaiah Hicks of Garner Road Elite; small forward Nick King of M33M Elite; combo guard Rysheed Jordan of Team Philly; small forward Karviar Shepherd of Urban DFW Elite; and shooting guard Brannen Greene of the Atlanta Celtics.
Britt and Hicks are committed to North Carolina, and Greene has committed to Kansas.
About 420 teams have confirmed they’ll play in the tournament.
Anywhere from 200-300 college coaches are also expected to be in attendance. That includes Arkansas’ Mike Anderson, Kentucky’s John Calipari, Florida’s Billy Donovan, Alabama’s Anthony Grant, Missouri’s Frank Haith, UCLA’s Ben Howland, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, South Carolina’s Frank Martin, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Kansas’ Bill Self, Maryland’s Mark Turgeon and North Carolina’s Roy Williams.
“We’re expecting a huge turnout as far as college coaches,” Ingram said. “Most of the summer coaches I talk to say our field is probably the best out of all the tournaments so far as far as teams. Of course, there’s a lot of tournaments that have popped up since the college coaches could come back out. And the competition is stiffer, but for some reason guys choose to come back to Little Rock.
“The only thing I can attest it to is the way we treat people. That’s the bottom line. Because this is not Atlanta. This is not New York. This is not (Las) Vegas. This is not Dallas. This is Little Rock, Ark. And we think, literally, this is the best tournament in the country.”