Recruiting Guy

5-star center praises the chicken

Class of 2026 5-star big man Sam Funches Jr. said he thoroughly enjoyed his recent visit to the University of Arkansas and he also left with a new favorite restaurant.

The Arkansas coaches and the stripe out during the Hogs' loss to Auburn on Jan. 6 stood out to him, as did a newly-opened fast food chain restaurant on Martin Luther King Boulevard.

"I like the atmosphere and then I also liked the campus and the Big Chicken restaurant down the street," Funches said laughing. "They have some great milkshakes and they have a good chicken sandwich. It's 'A' tier. Get the classic chicken sandwich."

Funches, 6-11 and 190 pounds, of Madison (Miss.) Germantown, was the first prospect in his class to receive a scholarship offer from Razorback Coach Eric Musselman in November 2022.

He also has offers from Auburn, Kansas State, Indiana, Missouri, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Florida State, Michigan, Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and others. He received an offer from Georgetown before he started the eighth grade.

He and his father were able to tour Arkansas' 66,000 square foot practice facility and talk to strength and condition coach Dave Richardson.

"I like the weight room and I like the strength and conditioning coach," Funches said. "The nutrition, I did see a lot of snacks in that room."

Funches' love of food turned his attention back to the Shaquille O'Neal-backed Big Chicken. He said he would likely be a regular customer should he become a Razorback.

"Probably all my calorie intact is going to come from the Big Chicken," Funches said.

The younger Funches can make one laugh with his dry sense of humor, according to his father, Sam Funches Sr.

"We can walk around the house all day and we'll just start laughing and he'll say something funny and it always catches you off guard because you don't expect it," Funches Sr. said. "My wife is the same way. She'll walk around the house and say something and we'll bust out laughing."

Funches is averaging 18 points, 11 rebounds and 6 block shots per game this season. ESPN rates him as a 5-star prospect, the No. 1 center and No. 9 overall prospect in the 2026 class.

Arkansas recruiting coordinator and assistant coach Ronnie Brewer is a partner in the Big Chicken restaurant in Fayetteville. Funches said he wants Brewer's help to expand the fast food chain into his home state.

"Tell him to branch out to Mississippi," Funches said.

Brewer and assistant Keith Smart communicate with Funches and his father.

"It seems like they genuinely want the best for me," Funches Jr. said. "I feel like they're great at developing because I did notice how like Arkansas gets these young classes. Three of the freshmen from last year were draft picks. They're pretty good at developing because at the end of the year they start taking out ranked teams and go off in March Madness."

The elder Funches, who played basketball at Connecticut and North Texas in the 1990s, said his son likes how the Hogs utilize forward Trevon Brazile's talents.

"I think Sam likes the way they use Brazile," he said. "Because Brazil can play the 3, 4 and the 5. Just so happens they started him at the 3 spot [against Auburn], but as the game went on he eventually went 4 and 5. I think Sam likes the way they move him around and shows his skill set whether it's on offense and defense and I think they think they can do the same thing with him."

Funches Jr. said he is confident in the abilities of Musselman and his staff.

"I think they would have a good game plan if I were to go there," Funches Jr. said.

Basketball and food aren't the only things Funches likes about Arkansas. A fan of cold weather, he said he likes that he could experience snow like he did in Little Rock last year while playing for Joe Johnson-sponsored Team Iso Joe in the spring.

"It was snowing that day. ... It was me and my sister and once we arrived and we were in that snow, we didn't know how to act," Funches Jr. said. "We were just playing around in the hotel parking lot."

Email Richard Davenport at rdavenport@arkansasonline.com

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