By Kevin McPherson
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas hosted three visitors for its nationally televised matchup against Big Ten opponent Indiana on Sunday at Bud Walton Arena — a dramatic 73-72 Hogs’ win — and the experience left at least two of them with a positive impression of the Razorbacks.
Here’s what they had to say …
— 2020 Arkansas offer Jaylin Williams (6-10 forward / center, Fort Smith Northside), was in attendance (not on unofficial or official visit) .
“The game was exciting to watch,” Williams said. “You can tell the team is improving every game. What Daniel (Gafford) did on the court tonight was amazing.”
Much like Gafford was Sunday while getting a career-high 27 points to go with 12 rebounds and 3 blocks against Indiana, Williams was “amazing”, too, playing in the Hoopin’ 4 Hoodies event Saturday in North Little Rock.
Williams went head-to-head against 2020 ESPN national No. 59 / 4-star prospect Nick Ongenda (6-10 center, Southwest Christian Academy, Western kentucky commit) and finished with a double-double = 21 points (9-of-15 field goals including 2-of-4 from 3, plus 1-of-3 free throws), 14 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal, but Ongenda (8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks) scored on a lay-in to beat the horn and give the Lions a 58-56 win over the Grizzlies.
Williams was one of the unofficial visitors to Arkansas during the Red-White game over homecoming weekend in October, and he plans to schedule one of his junior-year official visits to Arkansas in 2019.
Williams, who holds offers from the Hogs, Oklahoma State, TCU, Tulsa, and Lamar, is a gifted face-up / mid-range shooter and high-post passer with soft hands. He runs the floor well and has improved his back-to-the-basket, low-post game. He was a double-double machine during 2018 spring/summer grassroots play with the Joe Johnson Hawks 15U squad before joining the Hawks’ 17U team in late July and showing well at the Las Vegas Fab 48 event.
— 2021 Emareyon McDonald (6-1 point guard, Red River High School in Coushatta, LA, Louisiana Supreme on the Adidas Gauntlet grassroots circuit), unofficial visit.
“The visit went well and I’m excited about returning and the future of me getting recruited by University of Arkansas,” McDonald said. “Coach (Scotty) Thurman talked to me and my family about the opportunities I would have here at Arkansas … and about what happens after basketball life when that basketball stops bouncing. I look forward to my future recruiting from the University of Arkansas and coach Thurman.”
McDonald also talked about his experience at Bud Walton Arena.
“It was a good game and we cheered for the hometown, Adrio Bailey (who’s also from Louisiana),” McDonald said. “Game atmosphere was pretty cool, and me meeting the players and head coach was pretty nice also!”
McDonald, who confirmed his visit plans as well as his interest in Arkansas on Thursday, said he holds an offer from Tulane and that he’s taken unofficial visits already to LSU, Auburn, Lafayette, and Northwestern (LA) State.
Former LSU guard, McDonald’s All American, and NBA player Randy Livingston coaches McDonald during the spring/summer grassroots season, and McDonald said Livingston told him that “Coach Thurman played at Arkansas and can shoot good like (McDonald).”
“My game is coming along good,” McDonald said on Thursday. “I can shoot the ball from deep, penetrate and finish at the goal … I really just try to do whatever my coaches ask me to do.”
— 2020 Arkansas offer Davonte Davis (6-3 point guard, Jacksonville, ESPN national No. 58 / 4-star prospect), did not take his unofficial visit to Arkansas as planned.
“No sir, I wasn’t able to make it,” Davis said when asked on Sunday.
Davis had previously said he plans to set up one of his junior-year official visits to return to Arkansas in the near future, but he’s now missed two planned unofficial visits on back-to-back weekends.
Davis led his Jacksonville team with a double-double — 14 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals — but his Titans team lost, 68-66, against North Little Rock on Saturday in the Hoopin’ 4 Hoodies event.
Davis took an unofficial visit to Arkansas in the fall of 2017, and he has already taken official visits to Auburn in late September and Oklahoma State in late October. Davis is also considering taking official visits to Oregon, Florida, and Ole Miss — all three have offered him. Arkansas associate head coach Melvin Watkins was in Jacksonville in September to watch Davis practice.
Anderson and Watkins were regular spectators as Davis helped lead Woodz Elite 16U to national titles in July at the Nike Peach Jam and Las Vegas Fab 48. He’s a long-armed, long-legged, wiry-strong lefty who combines quickness, skill, and long strides to get into the lane and to the basket seemingly at will. He’s a plus-facilitator with great court awareness and timing, an electrifying open-court playmaker who has improved his perimeter shot out to the 3-point line, and a dangerous defender who when locked in gets a lot of deflections and steals using that length and quickness.
— 2019 Dericko Williams (6-8, 212, power forward, Kinston, NC, Team CP3 on the Nike EYBL circuit) was on campus taking an official visit to Arkansas this weekend.
Given the Hogs’ pursuit of big men in the 2019 class, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Williams could commit and sign a letter of intent before the end of the week-long early signing period, which runs Wednesday, Nov. 14, to Wednesday, Nov. 21. That may seem unlikely, but Arkansas began offering Class of 2019 frontline players in the spring and the Hogs continued to offer senior big men throughout the summer and fall in anticipation of the early departure of sophomore center Daniel Gafford, who is expected to leave Arkansas in the spring to declare for the 2019 NBA Draft.
Williams reportedly holds offers from Kansas State, Houston, and Virginia Military Institute with several more high-major programs showing interest, including Arkansas, Louisville, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma State, Wake Forest, and others.
In June, Williams listed Arkansas among the 15 schools that were recruiting him, and Razorbacks assistant coach Scotty Thurman was a regular at Team CP3 games during the spring and summer while evaluating both Williams and his CP3 teammate, 6-7 forward / center Brian “BJ” Mack, who at one time scheduled an official visit to Arkansas for late October but ended up committing to South Florida before ever journeying to Fayetteville. Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson joined Thurman to watch Williams play in Las Vegas in late July, at which time a source confirmed that there was mutual interest and that the Hogs were “working on it” in regards to getting Williams on campus for an official visit.
A multi-sport athlete who also excels in football, Williams is aggressive and athletic with a strong frame. He attacks the rim, glass, and shot-blocking opportunities with ferocity. He’s a plus-defender, but is limited in ball-handling and shooting skill.