In a state that boasts four high school prospects ranked in the national Top 20 spread over three classifications, 2023 Bryson Warren has the highest ranking of all and predictably has emerged as a recruiting priority for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The Hogs’ pursuit of Warren (6-2 point guard, Link Academy in Missouri, ESPN national No. 15 / 5-star prospect) took another step in the right direction on Sunday as the highly skilled Little Rock native made his way to campus for his first unofficial visit to Arkansas.
Warren came away impressed.
“The visit was definitely great,” he said. “Just to see the facilities, the campus, all the top-notch equipment they have. It was definitely great to see. One thing that stood out was all the NBA experience they have on the coaching staff, I think it’s over 75 years (combined) experience, and that’s really good because they know I’m trying to get to the next level. And they know what it takes to help me get to the new level.”
Warren said Head Hog Eric Musselman shared his vision for Warren as a Razorback should he eventually commit to Arkansas.
“They definitely see me as being a playmaker, a point guard and a playmaker that comes down and makes threes and is a coach on the floor,” Warren said. “They see me fitting well in their system, offensively and defensively. They showed me a few clips of how they believe I can help them, and some things I can work on. They think I can be a great player for their system.”
Warren picked up his Arkansas offer as a high school freshman in January 2020, and roughly a month later Musselman got to see Warren compete for the first time when Warren’s North Little Rock Charging Wildcats were on the road playing against Fort Smith Northside and current Razorbacks freshman big man Jaylin Williams. But due to the covid-19 pandemic that shut down sports a month later and the subsequent lengthy NCAA recruiting dead period, Warren was unable to trek to Fayetteville to meet with coaches and check out the campus as a visitor while at the same time the Hogs’ coaching staff could not attend Warren’s and other recruiting targets’ games in person.
Fast-forward to June of this year when visits and live evaluations periods resumed, and Arkansas coaches and Warren picked up where they left off 17 months ago.
At the very moment that Division 1 coaches could initiate direct contact with class of 2023 prospects — midnight on June 15 — the Razorbacks coaching staff reached out to Warren. Then, Musselman and assistants Keith Smart, Gus Argenal, and Clay Moser were frequent onlookers at Warren’s games throughout July as he played up with 17U Mokan Elite on the Nike EYBL circuit.
Warren raised his national profile this summer as he consistently held his own or better against several of the top guards in the nation that are older than him.
Warren’s substantial offer list is further proof that he’s one of the most highly coveted players in the country: Arkansas, Kansas, Memphis, Tennessee, Auburn, Maryland, Georgetown, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Seton Hall, Texas Tech, Ole Miss, TCU, St. John’s, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, and others. Duke and Michigan are among the programs showing interest.
In addition to Arkansas, Warren has taken unofficial visits to Kansas, Memphis, and Tennessee State.
Warren said he plans to come back to Fayetteville for another unofficial visit during the Arkansas-Texas football-game weekend (Sept. 10-12). He also plans to take visits to Auburn, Tennessee, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and he said he’ll likely take an official visit to Arkansas in the future.
Named the 2020-21 Arkansas Boys High School Player of the Year by the Arkansas Basketball Coaches Association following his sophomore season at Little Rock Central, Warren averaged 26.9 points, 3.9 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.8 steals while shooting 56.2% from the field (including 47.8% from 3) for a Tigers team that won the 6A-Central regular-season title before losing in the 6A state championship game at the end of the season.
As a freshman in ’19-20, Warren was a day one starter at North Little Rock and helped the Charging Wildcats win the 6A-Central title and advance in the 6A state tournament.
The move from North Little Rock to Little Rock Central and playing at each stop for one season before stepping up as a junior to compete at an independent school that will play a national schedule is similar to the path that Arkansas star guard and ’20-21 SEC Freshman of the Year Moses Moody took, and Moody just cashed in with a one-and-done lottery selection in the 2021 NBA Draft on Thursday as the Golden State Warriors picked him at No. 14 overall in the first round.
“We did talk about what happened with Moses,” Warren said. “For me, it was cool to see him get drafted in the lottery, just that we’re both from Little Rock, and knowing that I’ve worked out with him several times.
“It was a cool thing, too, for him to stay home, go to Arkansas, and be a one-and-done. It was definitely cool to see, and the Arkansas coaching staff said they believe I can do the same thing.”
Warren said Hog coaches also talked to him about what its like to prepare for the next level beyond college.
“They prepare you for questions that you might get asked on draft day. I really like that because that’s where I want to be at, that’s what I’ve got to be ready for. So, I really like how they prepare you for those questions and teach you how to answer them. They have a plan for all the things that you need for the NBA.”
Not only is Warren one of four in-state prospects ranked in the national Top 20 — 2022s Nick Smith, Jr., and Kel’el Ware of North Little Rock and 2024 Dallas “Slim” Thomas of Little Rock Parkview are too — but he’s also the fourth 5-star prospect to visit Arkansas since June 1, joining a list that includes Ware, 2022 big man Kijani Wright of Los Angeles, and 2022 versatile wing and Texas native Jordan Walsh.
Warren is a smooth, highly skilled scoring point guard who is emerging as a primary ball-handler and facilitator. His combination of volume and efficiency as a shooter-scorer has been elite. He’s especially adept at dribble-drive pull-ups, both in the mid-range and beyond the three-point arc as his transitions from driving to getting into his shots look effortless and almost textbook.