When it comes to the Class of 2023 recruiting rankings, Razorback hires Layden Blocker and the world’s most famous high school basketball player are on different trajectories this summer.
Bronny James, the 17-year-old son of LeBron James, has long been considered one of the best players in his class. And he should have been, given the genetic gifts he’s been blessed with and the benefits that come from training with the likes of Dwayne Wade and james lebron since early childhood. The Arkansans saw the 6’3″ shooting guard’s uncanny dribbling ability and shooting ability on full display three years ago at Bentonville.
Over the past few months, however, Bronny James’ rankings have fallen in major recruiting spots. On Rivals, for example, it went from n°29 to n°60. On the 247Sports composite, it was approaching five-star status but fell 13 places to No. 46 in the country.
It’s kind of the opposite trend for Little Rock native Layden Blocker, Arkansas’ first basketball commitment in the class of 2023.
Blocker has steadily risen through the ranks over the past two seasons, mirroring current Razorback freshman Nick Smith’s upward trajectory throughout high school. It is now classified No. 27 in the ESPN Top 100 and No. 28 in the 247Sports composite, having blown by Bronny James figuratively and literally.
Leyden Blocker Barbecues Bronny James
The latter happened earlier in July at the AAU Summer Tour, when Blocker’s Bradley Beal Elite team took on James’ Strive for Greatness team. At one point, Blocker showed his speed and elite grips by crossing James, then leaving him in a vapor trail as he rushed to the basket for a tectonic troubleshooter on the left:
It was all part of an overall standout for Blocker on the Nike EYBL Tour, as he earned third-team honors for his explosive play and steady hand:
The show only confirmed what so many scouting analysts had already predicted: sooner rather than later, Blocker will become the latest in a long, sudden line of five-stars signing up for the Razorbacks. It is high time indeed for Arkansas basketball.
More from Layden Blocker
Blocker gave some details about his game in the below pledge video posted by Hawgbeat’s Jackson Collier. In it, Blocker explains what he needs to work on moving forward:
“Catch and three-point shot, mid-range shot. Draw the fouls, go to the rim, finish the contact. And a few things I need to work on: playing with the rhythm. I’m so fast, sometimes I can go too fast. I have to learn to slow myself down. Also, free throw [accuracy].”
In another part, Blocker gives advice to young recruits who want to make a name for themselves: “Don’t get carried away with all the recruiting and all the rankings and all that because it could really mess you up. Me, I really wasn’t on the radar last year for them. I just stayed in the gym. My dad didn’t like recording when I was at the gym, posting all that stuff. He wanted people to find out, you know? Just stay in the gym, play level, stay humble, keep working.
Not posting a video is a far cry from Bronny James’ later years, where each of his highlights were broadcast to millions via his family’s massive social media and sports media outlets that track his every step. To Bronny James’ credit, however, he doesn’t seem to treat the game like he’s an authorized prince – he seems just as hardworking as the relatively anonymous teenagers he’s competing against.
When it came to where Bronny James would play college ball, his recruiting was extremely quiet. Neither he nor his dad has indicated where he might lean (or if he’ll choose to play pro ball like the G-League instead). Ohio State, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and even Tennessee were all thrown away as possibilitiesbut given Arkansas’ recent rise and Musselman’s stature as a social media prodigy, the Razorbacks may make more sense than the Volunteers.
What if Bronny James actually shocked the world and announced he was going to play alongside Blocker for the Razorbacks in 2023-24? Descend down that rabbit hole in the video below. Start watching at 11:40 a.m. to hear Arkansan commentators deepen their fantasies about Bronny James and Arkansas basketball: