By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman and his three Arkansas staffers criss-crossed the country during the NCAA’s sanctioned four-day “recruiting period” that started Monday and ends today.
Here is what we know regarding Razorback coaches’ visits with recruits, and other Hoop Hogs related topics …
* Arkansas assistant coach Corey Williams traveled to Arizona on Monday to see 2020 Arkansas offer Kyree Walker (6-5 combo guard, Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix, ESPN national No. 13 / 5-star prospect). Walker’s Dad, Khari Walker, said: “It went great!”
* Musselman and Arkansas staff coach Anthony Ruta were in West Memphis on Tuesday to see 2020 Arkansas offer Chris Moore (6-6 combo forward, West Memphis, composite national 4-star prospect), who also had coaches from Tennessee in to see him on Wednesday.
* Arkansas coaches on Tuesday were in to see 2020 Greg Brown (6-9 forward, Vandergrift High School, Austin, TX, composite national No. 6 / 5-star prospect), who is the top-rated junior in Texas.
* Arkansas staff coach Hays Myers was at Fort Smith Northside on Wednesday morning to see 2020 Arkansas offer Jaylin Williams (6-10 forward / center, Fort Smith Northside, national No. 100 / 4-star prospect according to Rivals.com). Williams talked about Arkansas’s visit: “It went good. (Myers) told us things to get to know Coach Musselman more and he told us about himself. He also (talked about) how they like to play and that Coach Musselman liked the way that I play.” Williams picked up an offer from Auburn on Wednesday to go with offers from the Hogs, Oklahoma, State, TCU, Tulsa, and Lamar.
* Arkansas staff coach Hays Myers was at Bryant on Wednesday afternoon to see 2020 Khalen “KK” Robinson (6-1 combo guard, Bryant), who after opening eyes nationally over the weekend at the Nike EYBL session in Atlanta has drawn interest from the Hogs, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Oklahoma State, Houston, and others. Robinson talked about the visit from Arkansas: “I don’t know Coach Musselman personally but heard some good things from Coach Myers (the assistant that visited). But I really like where they are going with the program, and their style of basketball.”
* Musselman and Ruta traveled to California on Wednesday to see Cal freshman-transfer and Arkansas native Connor Vanover (7-3, 225, stretch-5, won two state titles at Baptist prep in Little Rock). On Tuesday, Vanover’s plans to visit Arkansas (May 9-10) and Vanderbilt (May 7-8) next week were announced.
* Arkansas assistant coach Corey Williams traveled to Florida on Thursday to see 2020 Arkansas offer and Little Rock native Moses Moody (6-5 shooting guard, Montverde Academy in Florida, ESPN national No. 22 / 5-star prospect). Moody talked about his visit Thursday from Williams: “I got to know Coach Corey a little bit, that was my first time meeting him. He’s trying to build a relationship. He said he’s going to show up a lot & try to make it where I say Arkansas recruits me the hardest. It was cool. We talked a lot since we didn’t have practice. He watched me work out (weights and basketball drills).”
* Arkansas coaches also visited many other prospects — NCAA Division 1 college transfers, junior college prospects, and high school prospects — underlining the exhaustive recruiting effort that Musselman demands of himself and his staff.
* Musselman is considering, interviewing, and vetting a long list of assistant coaching candidates. His first assistant coaching hire, Corey Williams, checks a lot of boxes: experience as a player at the high-major-college and NBA levels, many combined years of experience as an NCAA Division 1 head coach and assistant coach, and he was part of a staff at Florida State that was, and still is, known as one of the best in recruiting in college basketball.
* Arkansas freshman shooting guard Isaiah Joe was honored Wednesday night as the University of Arkansas’s Male Rookie of the Year for 2018-19 during the annual Hogspys awards ceremony in Fayetteville. Joe, who was named to the SEC All Freshman team in March, finished the regular season as the SEC’s top 3-point shooter. Additionally, he finished as Arkansas’s all-time leader in made 3-pointers in a season (113), a mark that also tied him with former Kentucky guard Jamal Murray as the SEC’s all-time freshman leader in made 3-pointers in a season. Joe averaged 13.9 points (second on the team), a team-leading 1.5 steals per game, he led the team in drawn charges, and his 41.4% shooting from 3 was tops in the SEC.
* Former Arkansas big man Daniel Gafford (6-11 F/C, El Dorado) is projected to go No. 22 overall in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft, according to NBADraft.net’s most-recent mock draft that was updated on Tuesday. Several recent mock drafts project Gafford to be selected anywhere from in the high-teens to the early second round, with his average / aggregate of projections landing in the mid- to late-20s of the first round. Gafford, who left Arkansas as a sophomore following the SEC tournament in March, was honored as University of Arkansas Male Student-Athlete of the Year during the Hogspys Awards ceremony in Fayetteville on Wednesday. He was named All SEC 1st team and SEC All Defensive team following the ’18-19 season. The 2019 NBA Draft will be held on Thursday, June 20, at the Barclays Center in New York.
* Musselman was interviewed by NCAA.com college basketball analyst Andy Katz earlier in the week, and a few things that stood out while listening to the podcast were …
1) Musselman said the Arkansas coaching opportunity “felt great”, and he cited athletic director Hunter Yurachek, the Hogs’ tradition, the recruiting footprint, and the facilities as big selling points for him.
2) Musselman talked about the real possibility of Arkansas playing without a center, or without a “5”, in 2019-20 based on his preference to not bring in a big body just to fill a spot in the spring. In other words, don’t count on the next Daniel Gafford, Moses Kingsley, or Bobby Portis to be added to the roster in time for the ’19-20 season.
3) Delving deeper into recruiting, Musselman said he believes at Arkansas he can recruit 4- and 5-star players on a consistent basis. He also talked about his recruitment of college transfers, and the fact that only two so far have been grad-transfers while the rest he’s taken in have had a transfer-redshirt year for him to help develop and prepare players for his system.
4) Musselman talked about having a challenging, competitive non-conference schedule, but conceded it was likely too late to have the “flexibility” to put his imprint on Arkansas’s ’19-20 schedule.
5) Musselman said “It felt awesome” to have the Arkansas logo on his shirt when he was evaluating talent over the weekend at the Nike EYBL session in Atlanta followed by the Adidas Gauntlet session in Dallas, adding “the (Arkansas Razorbacks) brand carries weight.”