By Kevin McPherson

LITTLE ROCK — 2022 Arkansas offer Nick Smith, Jr., was excited about his unofficial visit to Fayetteville before he arrived on Tuesday, and putting on the Razorbacks uniform for a “photo op” took that excitement to another level.

“It was my first time doing that, and it was especially cool because it was the Razorbacks,” Smith said shortly after his visit ended, adding that he could see himself officially wearing the gear as a future Hog. “Yeah, for sure.”

Smith (6-3 combo guard with 6-7 wingspan, Sylvan Hills, 16U Brad Beal Elite, national No. 48 / 4-star prospect according to holds offers from the Hogs, Texas (where he took an unofficial visit on Friday), Oklahoma State, and Oral Roberts. 

“It was a great experience,” Smith said of his Arkansas visit. “I really liked it. I really liked the coaches, really liked the school. Coach (Eric) Musselman impressed me with his basketball knowledge. He’s been around, coaching in the NBA and college.”

Smith said the bonding and relationship-building with Arkansas’s staff moved the needle for him in a positive way.

“I feel like we got closer because of this trip,” he said. “I got to meet all the coaches. We got to know each other more to build a relationship.”

Smith talked more about aspects of the visit that stood out to him.

“Coach Muss told us that he plays fast, he’ll give you the freedom on offense. They took me around the facility, showed me around the weight room. They took us to the food court, and how they do nutrition. 

“They took us onto the court (at Bud Walton Arena), and after seeing it on TV, it was really cool going out there and imagine fans watching you under the lights do what you do. The facilities were unbelievable. I really wasn’t expecting it to be that nice, and the academic facitlity was nice, too.” 

Smith was accompanied on the visit by his Dad, Nick Smith, Sr.

“I thought they were some first-class guys, and it’s a first-class organization,” Smith Sr. said. “I think the staff is on the same page, and I think they’re going to do an excellent job on the Hill.”

Smith Sr. liked what he heard when Musselman talked about how players generally fit into his system.

“Freedom,” Smith Sr. said. “Muss said he lets his guys play, it’s structured but he stresses letting players have the freedom be themselves on the court.”

Smith Sr. also looked ahead at the long-term recruiting picture.

“Arkansas is the home-state school, and we’re definitely looking forward to having more conversations and spending more time on the Hill in the next two years or so,” he said. “We enjoyed it. There’s no leaders right now.

“If you’ve got an in-state player who can play there, then the Razorbacks are going to have a chance. And we’re excited that they’re (Arkansas coaches) interested in him.”

Smith had a strong spring and summer playing up with 16U Brad Beal Elite, leading the team in scoring at 16.0 points per game. He played with BBE’s 15U team at the Nike Peach Jam in mid-July with Arkansas coaches consistently present to watch him lead his team to the semifinals. Between Nike circuit events, Smith was a standout at the prestigous Nike Elite 100 Camp in June, earning praise from several national recruiting analysts. As a freshman at Sylvan Hills in 2018-19, Smith averaged 16.5 points and 6.0 assists per game.

Smith is an alpha-scorer who has great court awareness and feel as a passer and facilitator, and his combination of length, instincts, and competitiveness is a strong hint that he can develop into a plus-defender.

Linked below is a highlight reel of Nick Smith, Jr. …