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By Kyle Sutherland

For the first time in state history, two players in one season from Arkansas have been named McDonald’s All-Americans, and they just so happen to be on the same team.

North Little Rock’s Nick Smith Jr. and Kel’el Ware were named to the 2022 team on Tuesday, the sixth and seventh players all-time from Arkansas to be selected and first since former University of Arkansas great Bobby Portis in 2013.

“We are so proud and excited for both of them,” North Little Rock coach Johnny Rice said. “They have represented the state, city, school and our team in a great way.”

 Smith is the highest-ranked player ever from Arkansas during the rankings era, coming in at No. 6 per ESPN. The Razorback signee is currently averaging 24.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. In a recent 2023 NBA mock draft from ESPN, Smith was projected as the third overall pick but was tabbed the top prospect for the 2022 class. 

Ware signed with Oregon in November and was recently bumped up to the nation’s No. 8-ranked player and No. 2-ranked center, per 247 Sports. The seven-footer is averaging a double-double this season with 21.2 points, 12.0 rebounds and 5.7 blocks per game.

The duo has led the Charging Wildcats to a 12-3 record this season and are the top-ranked team in the state — No. 12 in the SB Live/Sports Illustrated national rankings after playing a national nonconference schedule. 

“What excites me is that they both have had to sacrifice some numbers that they could get if they were not playing together,” Rice said. “Our team has been successful, and we have been fortunate to also get some individual awards.” 

Along with Smith and Ware being selected is Razorbacks signee Jordan Walsh from Link Academy in Branson, Mo.. Walsh is the No. 10 player in the country and has Link sitting currently at No. 5 nationally. Walsh and Smith will be the first future Razorbacks duo to play in the game since Todd Day and Lee Mayberry in 1988. Mayberry and Day were major contributors on the Razorbacks’ 1990 Final Four team.