By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — Eric Musselman is still working on hiring two more full-time assistant coaches, but he and three other Arkansas staffers were out in full force over the weekend (April 26-28) to evaluate high school prospects during the April live period — the one and only 48-hour window in the spring that NCAA Division 1 coaches could attend the various grassroots basketball events around the country to watch recruits compete in person.
Musselman and staff coach Anthony Ruta started off at the Nike EYBL session in Atlanta on Friday, then Musselman left for Dallas mid-day Saturday for the Adidas Gauntlet session while Ruta remained in Atlanta through Sunday. Musselman joined new assistant coach Corey Williams, who was in Dallas the entire weekend for the Adidas Gauntlet event, and Hays Myers, who eventually will serve as special assistant to Musselman. Both Ruta and Myers followed Musselman to Arkansas from Nevada, while Williams comes to Arkansas after serving as head coach at Stetson for the past six years.
The emphasis of the staff over the weekend was to focus on priority offers as well as in-state targets while casting a wide net with new prospects.
Less than 24 hours on the job, Musselman on April 8 extended offers to 2020 Kyree Walker (6-5 combo guard, Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix, ESPN national No. 13 / 5-star prospect), 2020 Moses Moody (6-5 shooting guard, Little Rock native, Montverde Academy in Florida, ESPN national No. 23 / 5-star prospect), and 2020 Dalen Terry (6-6 point guard, Hillcrest prep in Phoenix, composite national Top 35 / 4-star prospect), and then a couple of days later Musselman reached out to offer two in-state prospects — 2020 Jaylin Williams (6-10 forward, Fort Smith Northside) and 2020 Chris Moore (6-6 combo forward, West Memphis).
Fast-forward roughly three weeks later, Musselman and staff heavily attended weekend games to watch all five priority 2020 offers in action. Musselman and Ruta saw Moody (Brad Beal Elite 17U) play Friday night, then the pair was also on hand Saturday to see both Williams and Moore (Woodz Elite 17U compete) — all at the Nike EYBL event in Atlanta. Meanwhile, Williams and Myers were courtside for Friday and Saturday games that Walker (Dream Vision 17U) and Terry (Compton Magic Elite 17U) competed in during the Adidas Gauntlet event in Dallas. Once Musselman arrived in Dallas late Saturday, he along with Williams and Myers were on hand to see both Walker (two games Sunday) and Terry (one game Saturday night, one game Sunday) each play twice.
Walker, a sturdy combo guard with elite finishing skill as a slasher who also consistently proved himself worthy as a playmaker for others, was glad to see Arkansas coaches at all four of his games.
“It’s really good getting recruited by Arkansas,” Walker said on Sunday. “Like I said before, Musselman recruited me when he was at Nevada, so it’s good I’m getting recruited (by Arkansas) now.”
Terry, a long and slender facilitator-first guard who averaged a double-double in points and assists at Hillcrest as a junior, talked about his Arkansas recruitment as well.
“(Musselman) recruited me at Nevada, he offered me, and his coaching staff that came with him to Arkansas they offered me as soon as they got there,” Terry said Friday just prior to his first game. “So I just heard from (Arkansas on Thursday) that they’re going to be here (Friday).”
New reported offers went out over the weekend, and combined with a few made previously, the Razorbacks have extended a total of eight offers to national Top 25 / 5-star prospects — Walker, Moody, 2021 Michael Foster (6-9 forward, Washington High School in Milwaukee, Mac Irvin Fire 17U of Nike EYBL, composite national Top 5 / 5-star), 2020 Nimari Burnett (6-3 guard, Chicago native, Prolific Prep, Team Why Not 17U of Nike EYBL, ESPN national No. 22 / 5-star), 2020 Cade Cunningham (6-7 point guard, Arlington, TX, native, Montverde Academy in Florida, Texas Titans 17U of Nike EYBL, ESPN national No. 9 / 5-star), 2020 Jalen Suggs (6-4 point guard, Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, MN, Team Sizzle 17U of Under Armour Association, ESPN national No. 12 / 5-star), 2020 Josh Christopher (6-4 shooting guard, Mayfair High School in Lakewood, CA, Vegas Elite 17U of Nike EYBL, ESPN national No. 10 / 5-star), and 2021 Terrence Clarke (6-6 small forward, Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, Expressions 17U of Nike EYBL, ESPN national No. 3 / 5-star).
Arkansas also has reported offers out to six national Top 80 / 4-star prospects — Terry, 2021 Trey Alexander (6-5 wing, Heritage Hall in Oklahoma, Team Giffen 16U of Nike E16, composite national No. 32 / 4-star), 2020 Micah Peavey (6-7 small forward, Duncanville, TX, Pro Skills 17U on Nike EYBL, ESPN national No. 41 / 4-star), 2021 Kennedy Chandler (6-1 point guard, Briarcrest Christian in Memphis, Mokan Elite 17U of Nike EYBL, ESPN national No. 43 / 4-star), 2020 Jabri Abdur-Rahim (6-6 small forward, Blair Academy in Short Hills, NJ, New Jersey Playaz of Nike EYBL, ESPN national No. 40 / 4-star), and 2020 Woody Newton (6-8 power forward, Mount Zion Prep in Baltimore, Maryland, Team Takeover 17U of Nike EYBL, composite national No. 78 / 4-star).
“I’m very interested in Arkansas,” Newton said. “I’m looking forward to learning more about the culture and what Arkansas basketball is all about. This Arkansas offer means a lot. Arkansas has a great program and they’re making strides to become a continous top team in the country every year. So I’m honored that the coaching staff has offered me.”
The Hogs are also showing interest in 2020 Jayden Stone (6-3 combo guard, Central Park Christian High School in Birmingham, AL, Australia native, Team Carroll Premier 17U of Adidas Gauntlet, ESPN national No. 56 / 4-star) and 2020 Matthew Murrell (6-3 combo guard, Memphis Whitehaven, Team Thad 17U of Under Armour Association, ESPN national No. 84 / 4-star).
“I’m welcoming every opportunity,” said Stone, a native of Perth, Australia, who confirmed he first heard from Musselman on Monday, April 22. “Arkansas has a strong basketball history.”
Moody, Moore, and Murrell each took junior-year official visits to Arkansas last fall at the invitation of the previous Arkansas coaching staff.
The current Hogs’ coaching staff invested considerable time watching and evaluating Arkansas talent over the weekend. In addition to Williams and Moore, in-state players that make up all but one roster spot on the Arkansas-based Joe Johnson Hawks 16U team (Adidas Gauntlet) had some combination of Musselman, Williams, and Myers courtside for all four of their games in Dallas.
According to a source, the Hogs are already inquiring and showing interest in the 16U Hawks’ 2021 prospects Jalen Ricks (6-6 wing, Sylvan Hills), Terran Williams (6-4 wing, Barton), and Tamaury Releford (6-8 forward / center, Fayetteville), as well as the 15U Hawks’ 2022 prospect Quion Williams (6-3 combo guard, Jonesboro).
“Well, I’ve been grinding every day trying to get an offer,” said Releford, an active space-eater in the paint who was a productive scorer, rebounder, and rim-protector in Dallas over the weekend. “I’ve been grinding, trying to be a Hog one day.”
Below are a few video highlights and interviews with Walker and Terry from the Adidas Gauntlet session over the weekend in Dallas …
“He reached out and said he’s excited to recruit me,” Williams said of Ruta.
In addition to Moore and Williams, Arkansas’s staff will be out visiting more of its recruiting targets this week.
* Grad-transfer Jaire Grayer (6-5 wing, George Mason) did not make a couple of previously planned Monday visits to Arkansas — April 15, then April 22 — but a visit to Fayetteville is still in the works, mostly likely to happen in the next couple of weeks. Grayer averaged 8.8 points and 3.1 rebounds in 19.5 minutes per outing through eight games played in his 2018-19 senior campaign at George Mason — a season that ended abruptly with a foot injury that has led him to seek a medical waiver and a subsequent extra year of eligibility in ’19-20. In parts of four seasons combined at George Mason, Grayer averaged a combined 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 35% from 3. He has not set up other visits at this time.
Another grad-transfer — Jonathan Laurent (6-6 combo forward, UMass, native of Orlando, FL) — said Monday that he’s looking to visit Arkansas next week.
“I’m supposed to be on campus Monday (May 6), but haven’t finalized anything yet,” Laurent said.
A 6-6 combo forward, Laurent averaged 9.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.5 assists as a fourth-year junior in 2018-19 at UMass, and his shooting efficiency was outstanding — 53.7% field goals, including 46.7% from 3, and 85.7% free throws.
“I got in the gym and taught myself how to score from all three levels,” Laurent said. “Just good at making shots in my spots.”
Laurent, who played his freshman and sophomore seasons at Rutgers in the Big 10 from 2015-17 before sitting out a transfer-redshirt season in ’17-18, will have one season of immediate playing eligibility where he lands in ’19-20.
Laurent reportedly will visit Oklahoma State this weekend (May 3-5).
Eric Musselman’s first official visitor as head coach at Arkansas — grad-transfer Jeantal Cylla, a 6-7 forward — committed to the Razorbacks at the mid-point of his April 12-14 official visit. As a fourth-year junior last season at North Carolina-Wilmington, Cylla averaged 13.7 points and 4.6 rebounds in 28.2 minutes and shot 42.7% field goals (including 31.1% from 3 while averaging one make per game from distance) and 84.8% free throws. Cylla, who has immediate playing eligibility as a senior at Arkansas in 2019-20, was reportedly drawing interest from multiple high-major programs — Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Oregon State — after entering his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal following the ’18-19 season.
* Daytona State (FL) College big man Khadim Sy (6-10, 245, sophomore, forward / center, native of Dakar, Senegal, junior-college national Top 5 prospect according to JucoRecruiting.com) is still considering taking a visit to Arkansas, per a source. Sy has already taken three visits — East Carolina, Pitt, and Ole Miss — with a fourth planned to LSU within the week. A visit to Arkansas would likely follow his trip to LSU. Sy, who was a freshman at Virginia Tech in 2016-17 before transferring to Daytona State, averaged 16.8 points and 9.8 rebounds while shooting 55.1% from the field and 67.9% free throws as a redshirt sophomore at Daytona State College in ’18-19. Sy will have two years to play two at the NCAA Division 1 level beginning in ’19-20.