As expected, North Little Rock got not just its first McDonald’s All-American, it got two on Tuesday afternoon when Kel’el Ware and Nick Smith Jr., were named to the roster.
The game will be played later this year in Chicago.
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Smith, a 6-foot-4 guard, who has signed with Arkansas, was also short-listed for National Player of the Year last week. But, so was Ware, as the 7-foot center and Oregon signee is also on the same short list.
The announcement was live on ESPN as a crowd gathered at the high school to watch.
Smith, who played last season at Sylvan Hills and was caught up in a bitter transfer dispute after his family moved to North Little Rock last summer.
The move likely added millions in potential earnings though for Smith, who is just 17 and is considered the No. 3 pick in the 2023 NBA draft after his freshman season at Arkansas. While Smith starred on the AAU summer circuit, North Little Rock has played a nationally competitive schedule this season and have beaten the No. 1 high school team in the country.
That exposure to such high level competition, which he simply wouldn’t have gotten playing at Sylvan Hills, has pushed his profile to the stratosphere.
Ware is another who is looking at an NBA career as well.
If the two do make the league, they would be the first pair of Arkansas high school teammates to be in the NBA since Keith Lee and Michael Cage starred at West Memphis in the very early 1980s.
North Little Rock, the defending 6A state champ, is extremely likely to repeat this March. About the only thing that could keep that from happening is Covid and the title games being called off.