With high expectations for next season and the national attention Collin Moore and Moses Moody are gaining, the North Little Rock Wildcats are seeking attention from several basketball tournaments and classics.
The Wildcats are returning five of their top six players from the team that won the 7A state title last March. Additionally, Moody, who will be a junior next season, is ranked 26th by 247 Sports for the class of 2020. Moore, who will be a senior, is ranked ninth by D1 Nation for the class of 2019. All of those factors have led to the Wildcats being invited to national tournaments and one day classics. The last time the Wildcats received this much attention was when they had national recruit KeVaugh Allen, who plays for Florida.
“I’m kind of surprised,” North Little Rock Coach Johnny Rice said. “Moses and Collin have really blown up this spring and summer. Winning (state title) and our high expectations also helped.”
North Little Rock starts the season by hosting the Diabetes Awareness Kickoff Classic on Nov. 17. One week later (Nov. 24), they compete in the Lighthouse Classic in Corinth, Mississippi. Though the competition is a two-day event, the Wildcats will only play one game on Saturday with Friday left open in case the football team is playing.
From Nov. 29 – Dec. 1, the Wildcats are again competing in the Jonesboro Hurricane Classic. On Dec. 7, they play one game in the Ozark Mountain Shootout in Springfield where they are supposed to play the top team from Missouri. A game in the Conway Classic takes place Dec. 15 before North Little Rock embarks on two major tournaments.
From Dec. 26 – 29, the Wildcats are participating in the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach. The tournament started in 1981 with eight teams and now is a national tournament with 16 teams. North Little Rock competed in the tournament in 2015.
“They told me after that to call them when we would be good,” Rice said. “I was never sure and didn’t call, but this year they want us back.”
North Little Rock rounds out its whirlwind pre-season by participating in the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic from Jan 2-5 in New Orleans. Competing in this tournament required the Wildcats to move their first conference game with Little Rock Central to February. Rice agreed to compete in the Sugar Bowl classic in exchange for an invite to the national City of Palms Classic in 2019.
“The two biggest high school tournaments are the Beach Ball Classic and City of Palms,” Rice said. “The committee that runs City of Palms also runs the Sugar Bowl Classic. They said if we go to the Sugar Bowl Classic we would be invited to the City of Palms in 2019.”
Because of the Wildcats’ intense road schedule, Rice said he won’t have to worry about making sure the team bonds. They’ll be spending lots of time in hotels together. Rice also expects the Wildcats to be tested and ready for conference play, and his hope is that they don’t have any injuries. The caliber of competitions the Wildcats have been to or are going is not taken for granted.
“I’ve got to experience in my short time I’ve been here things other coaches have never experienced,” Rice said. “I’m a lucky, lucky guy.”