Mountain Home’s Preston Groesbeck caught fire in the fourth period of the East’s 100-83 victory over the West at last week’s Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star basketball game at the Farris Center in Conway.
Groesbeck — one of three from the Twin Lakes Area to participate in the showcase — drained three 3-pointers in a two-minute span and finished with 12 points.
Mountain Home head coach Mitch Huskey served as an assistant for the East staff, and Flippin’s Josh Rogers played around eight minutes for the West squad.
“We had gone into that gym the night before to kind of get used to it,” Groesbeck said. “I liked it a lot. I was shooting well. After I hit that first one, I knew I had a little rhythm going.”
Rogers only attempted one shot, but enjoyed the experience, nonetheless.
“It was a lot of fun,” the 6-1 guard said. “There were definitely some good athletes on the other team, a completely different kind of game. It took me a little while to get adjusted to the overall speed of things. Once I got used to that, it was a lot of fun.”
Although he had witnessed it many times before, Huskey was impressed with Groesbeck’s shooting performance.
“He was pulling them from deep and hit four out of five,” Huskey said. “He just played about 12 minutes and ended up with 12 points.
“It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” he added. “Having Preston get to play in it made it even more enjoyable. Getting to be around other players we’ve played against and that I’ve seen on film and getting to coach them and see what type of people they are was a great experience.”
And, having Huskey there made it more comfortable for Groesbeck.
“A lot of the guys asked me what his coaching style was like. I said, ‘yeah, he’s cool. He can be a grump sometimes,’ ” the 5-8 point guard joked, “but it made it a lot easier knowing he was there. I felt more comfortable.”
Groesbeck was not on the original East roster, but was added as a late replacement.
“We had a kid that was going to be coming back from a college in Kansas, and he missed his flight,” Huskey explained. “If you don’t make so many practices, you can’t play. We added two. We had to give those (MVP) awards out earlier, like before the fourth quarter, and if we had waited ’til later, Preston might’ve had a shot at winning it.”
The East might have had even more talent if two Division I players hadn’t left for college already.
“Marquise Pointer (College of Charleston) and Kevaughn Allen (Florida) were going to be on there, but they had to attend college early,” Huskey said. “We got Laquan Davie from Marion, Gary Henderson from West Memphis, Jarma Perkins from Jonesboro and Sam Dunkum from North Little Rock, so we still got four of them from (Mountain Home’s 7A/6A-East Conference).
“What made this week so fun for me was coaching 14 guys and they were all unselfish,” he added. “We had great practices, and the game turned out to have unselfish play, and to win made everything even better.”
Practices through the weel leading up to the game were in a two-a-day format.
“Usually, every day we woke up and ate breakfast and went and practiced from about 9 to 11,” Groesbeck said. “Then, we had lunch and came back and practiced from about 1:30 to 4. The morning practices were more about getting loose and getting some shots up, and the afternoon was about getting up and down and getting some drill work in. They worked us out really well and pushed us.”
While Groesbeck was an East teammate of some players he had faced during the regular season, Rogers was on the opposite side once again of some familiar foes.
“On my team, there wasn’t anyone I had played against,” Rogers said, “but on the other side, I had played against Preston, Mahlon Martin from ECS and Marquez Chew from Rivercrest. It was awesome. It was nice to get to play in front of all those people. It was probably the biggest crown I’ve played in front of.”
Huskey was as excited about the East coaching staff as much as he was the players. The East was headed by Monticello’s Wayne Sherrer, and assisted by Huskey, Episcopal Collegiate’s Micah Marsh and North Little Rock’s Johnny Rice.
“That’s two years with five state champions,” Huskey said. “To be around those guys and see their style and how they do practices and games was a learning experience for me and will make me a better coach.”
Little Rock McClellan’s Keith Hayes was named the game’s MVP with 17 points. Groesbeck played the entire first quarter and returned in the fourth for his hot shooting performance.
“That was eye-opening to see we had that many good players we played against,” Groesbeck said of his 7A/6A-East running mates. “It was nice to talk to those guys about the season and talking about playing each other.”
The up-and-down style was something both Groesbeck and Rogers weren’t used to on their high school teams, but Groesbeck enjoyed the style, which he expects to play at North Arkansas College in Harrison next season.
“It was different. We had a good team this year, but it’s just totally different styles,” he said. “It’s different from going down an running an offense to running up and down in an all-star game. I enjoyed it a lot.”