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Razorbacks’ Calipari begins contacting highly ranked junior prospects

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – John Calipari and his newly formed first staff at Arkansas got the green light at midnight Saturday to recruit rising juniors. The aura that surrounds Calipari from school to school will continue with the Razorbacks. When it comes to putting young men in the NBA, he does a better job than any other coach in college basketball.

It took about half a day for the Hogs to land 6-10 forward Sam Funches. He is considered the top prospect in the country by ESPN, but not all recruiting sites are as high on him. Funchess is ranked 14th in On3’s Industry Ranking, which includes the average of all four recruitment services data. The Mississippi native plays his basketball for Germantown High School in suburban Jackson, in a region that has historically produced great prospects.

Funches is considered an all-around basketball player who can sometimes play multiple positions on the floor. He averaged about 19 points per game, with 11 rebounds and over six blocks per game as a true stretch big during his sophomore year. Other notable offers include North Carolina, Alabama, Kansas, Texas, Indiana, LSU, Ole Miss, Memphis and Mississippi State.

Little Rock Christian small forward JJ Andrews is a throwback to the Razorbacks (his father Stacy played football in the early 2000s). The 6-6, 215-pound forward is rated as a 4-star at No. 13 overall by ESPN, but is considered a consensus top-25 prospect by all four major recruiting outlets. Andrews has also heard from Oklahoma, LSU, Missouri, Marquette, Memphis and NC State.

Andrews’ physical frame is intriguing for most programs across the country. He led the Warriors to a second consecutive Arkansas Class 4A state championship this season, finishing the season with 21 points and 10 rebounds per game.

In typical Caipari style, No. 1 prospects are made a priority wherever he coaches. During his time at Kentucky, the top player signed with the Wildcats four times. He signed at least one top three prospect eight times. According to ESPN, Tyran Stokes is the top player in the country. The 6-7, 225-pound small forward is a physical athlete and a prolific scorer.

During his recent trip to Kansas City for Nike EYBL play, he scored 41 points while also grabbing 17 rebounds. Stokes also scored 29 points in another game en route to averaging 24 points, five rebounds and two assists during the Memorial Day weekend game. He has offers from Arkansas, USC, UCF, Texas A&M, Alabama, Auburn, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Xavier, Arizona State, Texas, Texas Tech and Ole Miss

Gritty four-star guard Deron Rippey was contacted by the Arkansas staff. The 6-1, 175-pound spark plug is considered an under-40 prospect nationally by recruiting services and top-5 point guard. Other notable programs to contact Rippey include Michigan, Kansas, Rutgers, Indiana, Auburn, Virginia and Syracuse.

Sharpshooter Aidan Chronister is a consensus top-60 prospect and top prospect in the state of Kansas. He recently transferred to Sunrise Christian after playing at Rogers during his sophomore season. Missouri and Oklahoma have received visits from Chronister, but have not visited Fayetteville since Calipari was hired as coach, which could change given the new contact between staff and prospects.

Florida five-star Alex Constanza heard from the Razorbacks very early on Saturday. The 6-8, 215-pound small forward has great size to play multiple positions at the college level. He is ranked No. 3 by ESPN and No. 6 by On3. All recruiting outlets list him as a top-15 talent nationally. Other programs that have contacted Constanza include Kentucky, Florida, Miami, Arizona State, Baylor and South Carolina.

Constanza played in 28 games as a sophomore, posting 14 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block per game. He made 49% of his shots from the field for Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Last season he made 35% of his three-point attempts. However, he drilled 45% of his threes as a freshman on 78 attempts. During his sophomore season, Constanza improved his free throw percentage to 84%, compared to 71% the year before. He’s almost automatic near the rim, knocking down 59% of his 2-point attempts.

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