Fresh off quarterbacking his team to a Class 6A state football championship, Pulaski Academy three-sport junior star Kel Busby was ready to announce his collegiate baseball future.
Busby, a 6-2, 195-pound right-handed pitcher, met with Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn and pitching coach Matt Hobbs on Wednesday in Fayetteville and committed to the Razorbacks.
“I had really wanted to do it earlier, but we were still in football season,” Busby said. “But once football was over with, I just thought I am going to go up there and tell them that I want to be a Razorback.”
Busby, the nephew of Bo Busby, a former Arkansas football star All-Southwest Conference safety in 1975, made the trip to Fayetteville with his mom Melanie and dad Lee, who played his collegiate baseball at Ouachita Baptist University.
“We went up there today and got to see the facilities again, got to see a pro like (former Arkansas star pitcher and current San Diego Padre minor leaguer) Kevin Kopps throw a bullpen and some other pros,” Busby said. “ I met with the strength guy and the trainer and we got to figure out a few questions that we had. After that, I just let them know I wanted to be a Razorback.”
Busby noted that having one of the nation’s elite programs so close to home was great.
“I have been a Razorback fan since I was little and to be able to play someplace close to home is awesome,” Busby said. “Guys talk about all these colleges like Ole Miss and how great they are, but Arkansas is second to none.”
Busby praised the way that Van Horn and Hobbs handled the recruiting process.
“They were real patient with me and gave me plenty of time to make a decision and didn’t give me a deadline when I had to commit,” Busby said. “I wanted to keep my options open for football and they said ‘whenever you want, we are not rushing you.’ That just made it feel like home.”
While telling other coaches he is headed to Arkansas was tough, it was not as hard as telling his sister – Ole Miss student Mary Riley.
“She was on me a little bit about it,” Busby said. “She did her part in trying to get me over there. She texted me after it and said ‘tough love’ and ‘bittersweet.’ But she is happy for me.”
Arkansas Sticks baseball coach Chase Brewster is extremely high on Busby, who also shines for school’s basketball program, and played for Brewster when his schedule allowed for it.
“Kel Busby in one of the greatest leaders for a 16- or 17-year old that you could ever find,” Brewster said. “For what he has been asked to do for the last few years for their football program and their system, to step into that and do such a great job leading them has been special. All of us in Arkansas know what that takes and he helped win the state championship in football.”
Busby finished his freshman season with a 5-2 pitching record, a 0.96 ERA and 65 strikeouts in only 43 2/3 innings.
He followed that up with a 6-2 mark as a sophomore with a 1.55 ERA while whiffing 86 in 58 innings.
“I think one of my better pitches right now is my 12-to-6 curveball,” Busby said. “I can bring in my fastball at about 92 (miles per hour) and run it in with my two-seam on them at about 90. You see those two fast pitches working up and in on you and then all of a sudden you have this 12-to-6 coming in at you at 80 and it is hard to hit.
“This year I think I am going to get my change up really good and be able to bring my fast ball at 90 and my change up at 80. I think that is going to be huge for me.”
Busby, who passed for 4,157 yards and 42 touchdowns this season, thought hard about taking the gridiron route in college.
He took football recruiting visits to Oklahoma State and Mississippi State while also getting interest from Baylor, Pittsburgh and Arizona State.
Busby had baseball offers from Arkansas, Ole Miss, LSU, Pepperdine and Arkansas Little Rock and recently decided the diamond was the best path for him.
“I really decided during football season,” Busby said. “I love football, I love every minute of it and it was awesome. But I think the road for me to excel best is in baseball and I think I will focus in on baseball and get ready for the season now.”
Busby has not made a decision if he will play football during his senior season.
“I think that is still kind of floating in the air,” Busby said. “I think I am going to sit down with my family and discuss that before I make a decision. I am going to figure that out for sure…I don’t have any answers on that just yet.”
Brewster thinks focusing on one sport will aid Busby’s development.
“Arkansas offered him a baseball scholarship as a freshman,” Brewster said. “The summer has unfortunately been mostly caught up with football, but the times he has thrown for us and in spring with PA, he has been as electric and anyone in that class and there are some really good ones.
“… He is just a really good athlete. He can dunk a basketball and obviously can throw for as many yards as he wants to on a football field and is always one of the best baseball players on the field when he steps on there.
“He has just done some things that is not common in all three sports in the state of Arkansas and he has done them at a high level.”
Busby joins Brenton Clark, Lawson Ward, Lance Davis, Ross Felder and Gideon Moates as 2024 in-state prospects who play for the Sticks now doubling as Razorback pledges.
“I have a ton of buddies on that teams and they talked to me about committing and when I am going to do it so I know they are excited today hearing about it,” Busby said. “…They are all studs and I really look forward to playing with this summer and hit the road with them in Fayetteville in two years.”