King Cotton loaded with state talent

Arkansas’ top-ranked recruits from each of the next three recruiting classes will converge on Pine Bluff this week.

The King Cotton Holiday Classic is set for Wednesday through Friday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. Pine Bluff and White Hall will represent Jefferson County, but they will be joined by three other Arkansas high schools, each boasting a No. 1-ranked Arkansas recruit.

Little Rock Central senior An-nor Boateng, a Missouri commit, is the top Arkansas recruit in the class of 2024 according to 247 Sports. Benton junior Terrion Burgess is No. 1 in the state for 2025, and Little Rock Christian sophomore J.J. Andrews is ranked No. 1 for 2026.

Boateng said he has always heard about King Cotton and is excited to finally play in it.

“I always seen big talent go there, and I was like, ‘I definitely want to compete in a tournament like that,’” Boateng said. “So, being able to compete in the tournament this year is just a great experience, playing teams from out of state, playing some great competition, seeing how you measure up against people that are just as good as you, just as skilled.” Central has been unstoppable so far this season. The Tigers, hailing from Class 6A, already defeated LRCA this season and are the only team to beat Spring-dale Har-Ber. Central beat the No. 1 team in Missouri, Oak Park, as part of a tournament in Springfield, Mo.

The Tigers finished second in the 6A-Central Conference last season behind eventual state champion Jonesboro and were knocked out of the playoffs in the second round by eventual runner-up Springdale High.

Joining Boateng at Central are senior Daniel Culberson, who holds an offer from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and junior Luke Moore, who has offers from Drake, Old Dominion and St. John’s.

Central Coach Brian Ross said the Tigers are coming to win and just need to be themselves to do so.

“We’re going to play tough, hard-nosed defense,” Ross said. “We’re going to try to play an up-tempo on offense, and we’re just going to play the right way. There’s not going to be any complaining, any whining, no excuses. We’re going out there just to get the job done and do what it takes to win.” Benton has gotten off to a 3-0 start to 5A-South Conference play, most recently defeating White Hall 81-53 at home. The Panthers’ only losses were to Class 6A opponents Har-Ber and Bryant. They have dominated most opponents but have also shown they can win close games.

The Panthers finished seventh in the 5A-South last season but have already matched last year’s overall win total.

Burgess said the Panthers want to show they are a different team than last season.

“We really just want it this year,” Burgess said. “We don’t like losing. We want to win.” LRCA won the Class 4A state championship last season. The Warriors beat fellow King Cotton participant Duncanville (Texas) on Dec.

2. Their losses have come against 6A teams Central, Bryant and North Little Rock.

Besides Andrews, LRCA also has senior Louisiana Tech commit Landren Blocker and a talented freshman, Kameron Hicks.

These highly-rated Arkansas recruits will face some of the best players in the country. Eleven teams from seven other states will travel to Pine Bluff for this tournament. This year’s King Cotton is expecting a total of at least 30 blue chip recruits to play.

Benton Coach Dexter Hendrix said the opportunity to face this type of talent is why the Panthers agreed to participate.

“It’s such a big privilege, the tradition of the tournament,” Hendrix said. “But another huge reason is you think, ‘Well, I know we’re going to play some really high-level competition, and we’re going to have to compete at a high level, and that can only make us better for conference play.’”

Wednesday’s King Cotton games

NOTE: Schedule for Thursday and Friday games to be determined; times subject to change 10 a.m.: Benton vs. McDonough (Ga.) 11:30 a.m.: Pinson Valley (Ala.) vs. Silsbee (Texas) 1 p.m.: White Hall vs. Sandy Creek (Tyrone, Ga.) 2:30 p.m.: Little Rock Christian Academy vs. Westminster Academy (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) 4 p . m . : G o n z a g a C o l l e g e H S (Washington, D.C.) vs. St. Joseph Santa Maria (Calif.) 5:30 p.m.: St. Francis Academy (Baltimore) vs. Booker T. Washington (Houston) 7 p.m.: Pine Bluff vs. Duncanville (Texas) 8:45 p.m.: Little Rock Central vs. Archbishop Wood (Warminster, Pa.)