Sixteen boys and four girls teams will compete in the Dec. 27-29 King Cotton Holiday Classic at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.
Here's a closer look at the boys teams and top players, beginning with the participating Jefferson County teams:
• Pine Bluff High School: The Zebras are returning a large number of varsity players from a 5A-South Conference championship team that made a state quarterfinal finish last March. The Zebras won 13 straight games coming off a 36-day pause through the Christmas break due to covid-19 issues.
• Watson Chapel High School: The Wildcats were runners-up in both District 8-4A and the 4A-South Region tournaments and came from a 2-7 start to win 11 straight games.
• White Hall High School: The Bulldogs were 5-19 under then first-season Coach Josh Hayes, but the Bulldogs now have his 6-6 son Jai'chaunn, the top-ranked freshman in the state.
• Beaumont (Texas) United High School: The Timberwolves went 31-0 last season in winning the Texas 5A state championship and is led by senior small forward Terrence Arceneaux and junior shooting guard Wesley Yates, both four-star players
• Calvary Baptist Academy of Shreveport: The Cavaliers have won Louisiana District 1-1A and reached the Division IV state finals in back-to-back years
• Cane Ridge High School of Antioch, Tenn.: The Tennessee AAA state runner-up Ravens feature five-star small forward Brandon Miller, the state's No. 1-ranked player
• Cardinal Ritter College Prep of St. Louis: The Lions are back-to-back Missouri Class 5 state champions
• Christian Brothers High School of St. Louis: The Cadets are coached by Justin Tatum, the father of Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum and led in part by shooting guard Larry Hughes Jr., whose father Larry Sr. played 14 years in the NBA (1998-2012)
• De La Salle Institute of Chicago: Meteors coach Gary DeCesare led University of Arkansas star Kareem Reid's St. Raymond's (N.Y.) team to the 1993 King Cotton championship
• Fort Bend Hightower High School of Missouri City, Texas: The Hurricanes went 17-3 last season
• Goose Creek Memorial High School of Baytown, Texas: The Patriots won 18 straight games last season
• Huntington High School of Shreveport: The Raiders are coached by UA Pine Bluff alumnus Mack Jones
• Little Rock Parkview High School: The Patriots are coached by Razorback great Scotty Thurman (1994 NCAA champion) and feature state No. 1-ranked sophomore Dallas Thomas, a small forward
• Magnolia High School: The District 8-4A and 4A-South Region champ Panthers feature Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year and Razorback commit Derrian Ford
• North Little Rock High School: The reigning 6A state champ Charging Wildcats gained the top-ranked player in the state and Arkansas commit Nick Smith Jr. from Sylvan Hills High and also features the No. 2-ranked player, University of Oregon commit Kel'el Ware, and
• Raymond (Miss.) High School: The Rangers finished as state runner-up the past two years after winning three straight 4A championships.
A girls division will be contested for the first time since the early 1990s. The teams include:
• Watson Chapel: The Wildcats are District 8-4A runners-up and state tournament qualifiers and feature a returning starter in 5-5 guard Tatyana Barbee
• Huntington, of Shreveport: The Raiders are back-to-back 4A state runners-up in Louisiana
• Hutchinson School for Girls of Memphis: Coach Thomas Jones leads the Sting, and
• Sylvan Hills High School: The Bears return three starters including seniors Karsyn Morgan and Jayla Harris.