By Kevin McPherson

LITTLE ROCK — There’s an old saying that goes “Everything is bigger in Texas,” and lately that’s been unmistakably true of the Arkansas Razorbacks men’s basketball program’s recruiting success in the Lone Star State.

Hog coaches have nearly put up a proverbial wall to keep home in-state recruiting prizes with national acclaim — Moses Moody, Jaylin Williams, Devo Davis, KK Robinson, Nick Smith Jr., Derrian Ford, Joseph Pinion, and Layden Blocker offered proof of concept in 2020, 2022, and 2023 — but the inroads made through big-and-bad Texas are significant of late, too.

It doesn’t get much bigger than landing not one, but two, national top 15 / 5-star high school prospects in the same class from a sports-rivaling border state, but that is exactly what the Hoop Hogs’ coaching staff managed in their class of 2022 recruiting when current Arkansas freshmen and Dallas-Fort Worth-area natives Jordan Walsh and Anthony Black committed and later signed with the program.

Just like Moody’s program-first one-and-done journey to the 2021 NBA Draft lottery blazed a trail for future in-state recruits to follow, Walsh and Black could have a similar effect for the Hogs in Texas. In fact, not since Ron Huery (Memphis, Hogs’ class of 1986) and Todd Day (Memphis, Hogs’ class of 1988) had the program landed two same-state McDonald’s All Americans that would play together as Razorbacks until Walsh and Black.

Now, Arkansas is trying to parlay that success in its class of 2023 recruiting that is laser-focused on several top-shelf national prospects in Texas, including Ron Holland (6-8 forward, Duncanville, Texas, ESPN national No. 4 / 5-star prospect, took official visit to Arkansas on June 9-11, Hogs among his final four college choices); Chris Johnson (6-4 combo guard, Montverde Academy via Missouri City, Texas, ESPN national No. 25 / 4-star prospect); Wesley Yates III (6-4 guard, Beaumont, Texas, composite national No. 34 / 4-star prospect); Zayden High (6-9 forward / center, Arizona Compass Prep via Spring Brand, Texas, composite national No. 37 / 4-star prospect); RJ Jones (6-2 guard, Denton, Texas, ESPN national No. 37 / 4-star prospect); and Ashton Hardaway (6-7 forward, Duncanville, Texas, ESPN 4-star prospect).

With Holland, the Hogs coaching staff hopes his ties with Black (high school teammates at Duncanville a season ago) and Walsh (Nike EYBL 17U Drive Nation teammates last year) are part of an equation that leads the uber-talented forward and two-time Team USA junior national gold medalist to Fayetteville.

Johnson and Jones previously took unofficial visits to Arkansas, and Johnson is likely aiming at taking an upcoming official visit to Fayetteville. Same with High and Yates.

And since midnight on June 15 — the first day Division 1 coaches could initiate direct contact with class of 2024 recruits — Arkansas’ staff has wasted no time in prioritizing multiple Texas prospects, including Tre Johnson (6-6 guard / wing, Lake Highland in Dallas, Texas, ESPN national No. 3 / 5-star prospect, recently picked up a Hog offer); Liam McNeeley (6-6 wing, Plano, Texas, ESPN national No. 6 / 5-star prospect); Dink Pate (6-7 guard, Pinkston High School in Dallas, Texas, composite national No. 29 / 4-star prospect); and Jalen Shelley (6-8 small forward / wing, Frisco, Texas, ESPN national No. 36 / 4-star prospect).

Pate is impressed with the recruiting work the Hoop Hogs have accomplished in his hometown and home state.

“My interest (in Arkansas is) very high,” Pate said. “I’ve been paying attention to what they have done in the recruiting class of last year (2022) and what they are building still. What coach Muss (Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman) has put together with the DFW players and players in general is special right now.”

Pate averaged 25.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.0 steals per game for Pinkston during the TABC scholastic live-evaluation event in late June with Hogs assistant coach Gus Argenal on hand watching him compete. Pate plays up with 17U Team Trae Young on the Adidas 3SSB grassroots circuit, and he performed last week at the 3SSB event in Rock Hill, S.C., where Hogs assistant Keith Smart attended games to evaluate prospects. After spending his sophomomore season at Prolific Prep in California, Pate is back at Pinkston in Dallas where he played as a freshman and will once again play during his upcoming junior season in 202-23.

Pate holds scholarship offers from Texas, Arizona, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU, Arizona State, Cincinnati, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, SMU, and Washington State among others.

He said he has yet to receive an offer from Arkansas but is being courted persistently by Hog coaches as he plans to visit Fayetteville in the coming months.

“No (Hog) offer yet,” Pate said. “But they have been recruiting me heavily … I plan to visit them during the school year.”

(UPDATE / EDIT at 10:45 p.m. CT, Thursday, July 14: Hours after this article was originally published, Pate told Hogville.net that Head Hog Eric Musselman offered him a scholarship on Thursday night … https://twitter.com/ARHoopScoop/status/1547779850932326400?s=20&t=fBhjsZaVxQMq5eYGyYUkqg)

“I’m very excited about this offer from Arkansas,” Pate said. “I’ve been talking to Coach Muss for weeks now. He called me last night (Thursday) and offered me himself.

“I like Arkansas at the top of my list.”

Pate is a self-described “big guard.”

“I’m a playmaker who can score,” Pate said. “You have a lot of players who just score a lot of points but can’t effect the games in other ways. I can shoot, score, pass, and get my teammates highly involved. Rebound and defend multiple positions. I just want to win.

“Always been a guard. I’m just tall. That’s one thing I’m glad more people are noticing. Don’t label me a small forward just because of my height.”