The Arkansas Razorbacks continued to practice on a limited basis inside the basketball performance center in Fayetteville last week as third-year head coach Eric Musselman once again had his team in preparation for the 2021-22 season that is just over three months away.
Here are some tidbits and takeaways from practice and other aspects of the Arkansas men’s basketball program spanning the past week …
* Last week’s practices focused on offensive “shot selection and extra passing”, according to a source. With so many NBA-influenced plays to learn, practice, and execute, players must also understand when NOT to shoot in favor of moving the ball for a better (or higher percentage) shot. It takes a willingness to make the extra pass to improve the offense’s chances for success. Good shot selection and extra passing also forces a defense to work harder to maintain on-ball position integrity, exert more energy to stay attached, and increases the chances that a defense will have a bust in on-ball and/or rotation coverage.
* The Hoop Hogs added “Milwaukee Bucks spacing with five spots on the floor that Milwaukee uses”, according to the source. The newly crowned NBA champion Bucks mostly use a five-out scheme (don’t all NBA teams now?) but with variations that often slides a big back and forth from the corner to both sides of the lane along the baseline (dunker spot) with screening action as deep as the mid-post area as Finals MVP Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo (6-11) initiates the offense as a primary handler probing for slashing angles into the paint where he can finish or set up a teammate for an open look. Guards Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday — the team’s second and third leading scorers — also spend a lot of time on the ball initiating the offense, and all three top point-producers for the Bucks are asked to set picks to help free up others.
Milwaukee uses a variety of pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop sets including creative variations of double-screens with read options. With Antetokounmpo being an elite rim finisher and 7-0 Brook Lopez also being effective scoring around the basket, it’s notable that neither player is adept at low-post, back-to-the-basket offense. In fact, one of the best reserves in the NBA — former Hog star Bobby Portis (6-10 forward / center, Little Rock native) — is Milwaukee’s best option in true post-up isolation plays.
The frontline options on the Hogs’ current roster that could offer some similar inside-out traits that Milwaukee’s bigs bring to the table are covid-freshman Jaylin Williams, senior-transfer Stanley Umude, and covid-sophomore Connor Vanover.
* As the Razorbacks men’s basketball program continues to post brief video cut-ups from practice on various social media platforms, there are valuable nuggets of info for hoops junkies and casual fans alike to consume.
Case in point was last week’s offering that revealed a glimpse of 5-7 senior-transfer guard Chris Lykes playing off the ball on offense and running behind a couple of pin-down screens from the baseline and curling up for a three-point look.
What stood out watching the play were a couple things: 1) Lykes’ burst on his first step combined with his raw speed aided by the two screens freed him up for a wide, wide open look that he knocked down; and 2) at 5-7, Lykes is a difficult read for his defender (and help defenders as well) to track even when he is on the move. Much of Lykes’ offensive game has been viewed through the lens of his on-ball skill to create for himself and others, so to see him create a unique mismatch advantage playing off the ball was intriguing.
* Arkansas announced last week two new additions to the extended men’s basketball staff with the hiring of former Hog star and NBA journeyman Ronnie Brewer as recruiting coordinator, as well as Springdale native and UA alum Jon Blake coming on board as the program’s assistant director of basketball administration. Brewer’s connections to Arkansas basketball obviously played a big role in his hire, but so did his and his father’s (famed Triplet Ron Brewer, Sr.) NBA connections with Musselman’s father and other NBA coaches. As for Blake, who came to Arkansas from USC’s football staff, there was another tie to Musselman from Miami Dolphins scout Adam Engroff, who worked for the Head Hog in minor league basketball and recently gave a strong recommendation for Blake. For more on both hires, click here.
* A source told Hogville.net, that Musselman spent up to “two hours a day” last week on the phone with multiple NBA teams interested in selecting former Arkansas star guard and the program’s first one-and-done Moses Moody in the upcoming NBA Draft. The 2020-21 SEC Freshman of the Year has been invited to and will be in attendance in the green room inside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on draft night (Thursday, July 29). In preparation for the draft, Moody participated in the draft combine and the recent Klutch Sports Group pro day televised by ESPN, and he’s had individual workouts with the Indiana Pacers (pick No. 12), Orlando Magic (pick Nos. 5 and 8 ), Memphis Grizzlies (pick No. 17), Golden State Warriors (pick Nos. 7 and 14), Sacramento Kings (pick No. 9), Oklahoma City Thunder (pick Nos. 6, 16, and 18), and Charlotte Hornets (pick No. 11).
Moody — projected in the mid-lottery to late-teens in the first round of the draft — is likely to become the first Hog selected in the first round since fellow Little Rock native Bobby Portis was picked No. 22 overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2015 draft. Should Moody go higher than No. 10 (which is the spot that former Hog Joe Johnson was selected by the Boston Celtics in 2001), he would be the highest drafted former Razorback this century.
* There was no shortage of social media activity from Musselman and the Razorbacks’ men’s basketball program on Tuesday night, July 20, after Portis posted 16 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 block in 23 minutes off the bench in a Game 6, NBA Finals-clinching 105-98 home win over the Phoenix Suns to cap the Milwaukee Bucks’ first NBA title in 50 years. Portis’ run to being an NBA champion while becoming a folk hero in Milwaukee is detailed in my deep-dive article.