Arkansas vs. Florida: The Game Within The Game
The Arkansas Razorbacks will host the Florida Gators for what is most assuredly, the start of a series of “must-win” games for the Hogs. After getting humiliated on the road by Tennessee, the Razorbacks are in a part of the season where they literally can’t afford to lose another game if they want to go Dancing. Florida is coming off a relatively simple road win against a suspension-depleted Alabama club, but they haven’t been particularly great on the road this year, with wins coming against three “mediocre-at-best” teams in South Carolina, Ole Miss, and the aforementioned Alabama.
We all know the Hogs’ story, Miss Arkansas at Bud Walton, Mr. Bald Knob on the road, and the tale continues tomorrow. One thing everyone should look forward to tomorrow is not just the game, but a game within the game. Most people probably realize both Arkansas and Florida possess two of the best Freshmen in the nation, BJ Young and Bradley Beal, respectively. What a lot of people probably don’t know, is these two have a deeply-rooted rivalry stemming all the way back through their high school days. That rivalry takes on another chapter in Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas’ young buck, BJ Young, played for McCluer North in Florissant, Missouri, just outside of Saint Louis. The Gators’ diaper dandy, Bradley Beal, went to Chaminade High School in Saint Louis, about 20 minutes from Young’s high school. BJ Young played for the AAU squad, the St. Louis Gameface, while Beal played for the St. Louis Eagles. Both of them five-star recruits. Both players were highly sought after by college coaches. While Beal is physically impressive: ripped, can jump out of the gym, athletic, and possesses great finishing ability, Young is skinny and quick, with surprising leaping ability, great range, an impressive ability to finish around the rim, and a certain smoothness about him. Both players are basketball savvy and are the reason their teams are what they are.
I’ll focus on these two players’ Senior years of high school. During the regular season Beal (Chaminade) whooped Young (McCluer) on national television. Bradley put up 40 points on the man who was guarding him, Young, in route to a 76-58 blowout on ESPNU. There was a poster posted around the city of Saint Louis to get people to come, calling it “History in the Making,” but it didn’t take much encouragement to get people there. Nobody wanted to miss it when these two played. I remember watching the game, and there might as well have been nobody else on the court, because the only focus was on Young and Beal. Everyone who follows Razorbacks or Gators sports religiously knew this game was happening, and a large contingent of fans tuned in. Beal stole the show in this one, but it wasn’t over yet.
Once the Missouri Class 5 tournament came around, it was undefeated #1 Chaminade and #2 McCluer North at it again. They met in the quarterfinals, and it was the Beal/ Young Show. This one wasn’t as highly publicized and hyped as the first matchup, but nonetheless, when redemption is on the line, in the playoffs, it’s a big game. Young came out firing in this round, putting up 32 points in a 57-56 win over Beal’s Chaminade Red Devils. Beal didn’t go down without a fight obviously, scoring 30 of his own, but Young had the last laugh, causing Bradley Beal to lose his final high school game of his career, and end his hopes for a state crown. BJ Young’s McCluer North Stars went on to win the state championship and both players went off to start their careers as stellar SEC Freshmen.
So there’s something fun to look for in this game. This time it's not McCluer against Chaminade, it's Arkansas against Florida and the stakes are much higher. In college, these two won’t get to go head to head quite as much because of the styles of offense both teams play, but when they do match up, don’t think it’s the first time it’s happened. These guys know each other very well, and neither one wants to walk out of Bud Walton Arena without beating the other.