By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — Forget contemplating whether or not you prefer that rickety ride over a smooth walk. Better off securing your seat now on the Muss Bus, then buckle up and brace yourself because Arkansas Razorbacks basketball recruiting is clocking record speeds in Fayetteville.
The era of slow-drip recruiting at Arkansas seems like a distant memory, but in reality — ahem, make that space-time-recruiting relativity as conceived by Eric Musselman — it’s only been 18 days since the new Head Hog got behind the wheel of the Razorbacks hoops program and accelerated it into 1 grad-transfer visit and subsequent commitment, 2 more planned upcoming visits by grad-transfers, 2 offers out to junior college prospects, 6 offers out to Class of 2020 prospects, 2 offers out to Class of 2021 prospects, and several more college-transfer potentials considering visits to Arkansas.
All of that as Musselman prepares for the first live-period of grassroots basketball this weekend with Nike (Atlanta), Adidas (Dallas), and Under Armour (Kansas City) each hosting events that college coaches will be able to attend and evaluate prospects.
Here’s a recap of the latest and a rundown of what is still to come …
* Musselman’s first official visitor — grad-transfer Jeantal Cylla, a 6-7 forward — committed to Arkansas at the mid-point of his visit last weekend. 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.
“It feels good!” Cylla said on Sunday when asked how it felt to be a Razorback. “I’ll bring leadership and experience.”
Several things stand out when watching Cylla’s highlights and reviewing his statistical data from last season at UNCW (highlight reel linked just below) …
1) He’s got effective catch-and-shoot and one-dribble-and-shoot skill — from 3-point distance but especially in the mid-range — which should make him a scoring threat in pick-and-pop situations as well as spot-up opportunities in halfcourt sets and in transition. Opposing defenses will have to account for the combo-forward-4 spot away from the basket in 2019-20.
2) You see very litte wasted movement and dribbling as Cylla gets into his offense quickly once he has the ball, striking before defenders can close on him. A lot of that success with the ball is set up by his feel / court awareness without the ball as he finds and runs to pockets and creases in the defense. Excellent feel for spacing and timing on the offensive end.
3) Although he’s not an above-the-rim type of player in the paint, he is crafty and uses good footwork to establish advantageous finishing angles and rim-runs, and he does a good job of shielding defenders with his body to minimize getting his shots blocked or altered around the cup.
4) His 4.6 rebounds per game may not be eye-popping, but that glass production would have been second-most for the Razorbacks last season. His ball-handling skill appears to be good enough for him to take a defensive rebound, turn, and push the ball up the floor.
5) His 84.8% free-throw shooting would have been the best among the Hogs last season, and his 3.8 free throw attempts per game would have been third-most on the team. In Musselman’s new pace-and-space system of offense where 3-point shooting in bulk, close-range / high-percentage shot attempts, and free throw shooting are the three biggest points of emphasis, Cylla’s ability to get the free throw line and then cash in appears to be just what the doctor ordered.
* Not only did he make his first official assistant coaching hire on Wednesday — Corey Williams, who spent the last six years as Stetson’s head coach following six years as an assistant at Florida State — Musselman wasted no time later in the day in making assignments for this weekend’s one-and-only April live period when NCAA Division 1 coaches are permitted to attend the various grassroots events.
According to a source, Musselman will be in Atlanta this weekend to evaluate prospects at the Nike EYBL session, and Williams will be in Dallas for the Adidas Gauntlet session.
Arkansas has four offers out to Class of 2020 prospects and one out to a Class of 2021 prospect who will be playing in the Nike EYBL event in Atlanta: 2020 Moses Moody (6-5 shooting guard, Little Rock native, Brad Beal Elite 17U, ESPN national No. 24 / 5-star), 2020 Chris Moore (6-6 combo forward, Woodz Elite 17U, composite national 4*), 2020 Jaylin Williams (6-10 forward / center, Woodz Elite 17U), 2020 Woody Newton (6-8 forward, Team Takeover 17U, composite national No. 79 / 4-star), and 2021 Trey Alexander (6-5 wing, Team Griffin 16U, composite national No. 32 / 4-star).
Arkansas has at least two offers out to Class of 2020 prospects, plus a couple of 2021 prospects of potential interest, who will be playing in the Adidas Gauntlet event in Dallas: 2020 Kyree Walker (6-5 wing, Dream Visions 17U, ESPN national No. 13 / 5-star) and 2020 Dalen Terry (6-6 point guard, Compton Magic 17U, composite national Top 35 / 4-star) are the offers, and 2021 Jalen Ricks (6-6 wing, Sylvan Hills) and 2021 Terran Williams (6-4 wing, Barton) are the in-state prospects of potential interest.
Newton of Mount Zion Prep is the latest of Arkansas’s six 2020 offers, and he talked about it on Wednesday.
“I’m very interested in Arkansas,” said Newton, who also has reported offers from Maryland, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Kansas State, Virginia Tech, Seton Hall, and Xavier among others. “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 continuous top team in the country every year. So I’m honored that the coaching staff has offered me.”
On Friday, Moody talked about his early recruiting interactions with Musselman.
“It was good,” Moody said of his first discussion with Musselman. “We’re getting a good feel for each other’s personalities. He said he’s been watching a lot of film (of Moody) and that I would be a focal point in (Arkansas’s) recruiting. We also talked about the NBA playoffs. It’s been good.”
* Arkansas has reportedly offered 2021 Michael Foster (6-9 forward, Milwaukee, WI, ESPN national No. 5 / 5-star prospect). Foster was an impressive big with ball skill and poise as a high school freshman when he played up with Kevon Looney Elite 17U in 2018, and he put his talents on display last April when KLE 17U played Joe Johnson Arkansas Hawks 17U in the Adidas Gauntlet session in Atlanta.
* Arkansas appears to be in a three-team triangle vying for the services of St. John’s sophomore-transfer L.J. Figueroa (6-6 wing), who visited Western Kentucky on Wednesday, indicated he could visit Arkansas within the week, and may end up staying put at St. John’s.
The key piece to the puzzle very well could be Hilltoppers assistant coach Marc Hsu, who has previous ties to Figueroa and who also has a reported interest in potentially joining the unsettled St. John’s assistant coaching staff. If Hsu remains at Western Kentucky, Figueroa may transfer and join him there. If Hsu gets a job on new Red Storm head coach Mike Anderson’s forming staff in New York, Figueroa may decide to remain at the Big East school. And there may be some mutual interest between Musselman and Hsu working together at Arkansas.
Figueroa averaged 14.4 points (51.3% field goals including 38.3% from 3), 6.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.7 assists in his only season at St. John’s in ’18-19 after starring at Odessa (TX) juco in ’17-18. He reportedly also has interest in Georgia and Miami.
* As it stands now, Arkansas and Musselman are expected to host at least two more grad-transfers — and possibly three — in the next two weeks.
The next grad-transfer visitor to Arkansas — Jaire Grayer (6-5 guard, George Mason) — is planning to be in Fayetteville on Monday. Grayer averaged 8.8 points and 3.1 rebounds in 19.5 minutes per outing through seven 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 redshirt 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.
“It just seems like a great opportunity for me,” Grayer said of his interest in Arkansas. “I like what Coach Muss has to bring as a coach.”
Two more grad-transfer guards are looking to visit Fayetteville in early May.
High Point’s Jahaad Proctor (6-3 guard, native of Harrisburg, PA) reportedly will take his official visit to Arkansas the weekend of May 3-5. He earned second-team All Big South honors after averaging 19.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.3 steals in 34.6 minutes per game while shooting 46.4% field goals, including 33.1% from 3, plus 77.1% free throws as a junior in 2018-19 for High Point, which finished 16-15 overall and 9-7 in the Big South.
Proctor, who began his career at Iona as a freshman in ’15-16 before transferring to High Point, will be a 5th-year senior with immediate eligibility in ’19-20. Proctor visited Purdue on Wdnesday. In addition to the Razorbacks and Boilermakers, Proctor is reportedly drawing interest from West Virginia, Michigan, Wichita State, Stanford, and Virginia Tech.
Idaho State’s Brandon Boyd (6-0 point guard, Los Angeles native) — he led ISU in scoring (14.2 points) and assists (3.6) last season — confirmed Monday he’s considering a visit and transfer to Arkansas.
“I’m interested in Arkansas,” said Boyd, who’s also considering TCU, Washington State, Cal Baptist, and a possible return to ISU. “I am still in the process of planning a visit to (Arkansas’s) campus. Hopefully it’ll happen in the next two weeks.”
* Arkansas apparently is among the favorites for two of the Top 5 junior college players in the country as Khadim Sy (6-10, 245, center, Daytona State College, national No. 5 juco prospect according to JucoRecruiting.com) has the Hogs among his final five schools of interest and plans to visit, while Cameron Mack (6-2 point guard, Salt Lake Community College, national No. 3 juco prospect according to JucoRecruiting.com) has been granted a release from his St. John’s letter of intent and is talking about the possibility of visiting Arkansas in the near future.
“I think Coach (Eric) Musselman came in and made (Sy) a priority, talked to him about his vision for him (at Arkansas), and Khadim is intrigued,” said Daytona State head coach Brock Morris.
Sy, who was a freshman at Virginia Tech in 2016-17 before redshirting and 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 in ’18-19. Morris said Sy was a juco honorable mention All American in ’18-19, as well as the Player of the Year in the Mid Florida juco conference. In his one season with the Hokies in the ACC, Sy averaged 4.0 points and 2.7 rebounds while shooting 56.7% field goals in 32 games.
A former player at prestigious Oak Hill (VA) Academy, Sy will have two years to play two at the NCAA Division 1 level beginning in ’19-20. He has already taken two official visits — to East Carolina and Pitt — and he visited Ole Miss on Tuesday. He reportedly will set a visit date to Arkansas soon, and has indicated he’ll visit LSU in the first week of May.
On Monday, Mack confirmed he’s taking a look at Arkansas.
“Yes, I have interest (in Arkansas),” said Mack, who signed with St. John’s in the November early period but requested a release shortly after Chris Mullins resigned as head coach in early April.
Mack, who had a 44-point scoring game in ’18-19, averaged 19.1 points, 7.6 assists, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.4 steals last season for Salt Lake CC. He’s set to visit Nebraska this weekend, and at present has no other visits scheduled.
* According to multiple sources, Scotty Thurman will not be retained or re-hired at Arkansas. An assistant coach for the Hogs over the past three seasons and part of the basketball staff for roughly a decade, Thurman had been working to assist Musselman for the past two-plus weeks — both in recruiting and on-court coaching. Sources said Thurman was offered an opportunity to remain on the staff in an administrative role, but not as one of the three assistant coaches, and Thurman declined the offer.