Kevin McPherson

LITTLE ROCK — The curious case of Arkansas star sophomore forward Trevon Brazile took a turn for the better in recent days while perhaps forecasting just how good he can be as the catalyst for a 14th-ranked Razorbacks squad that is seeking the program’s first SEC regular-season title since the 1990s and a fourth consecutive deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Given Brazile’s injury-to-surgery-to-rehabilitation journey spanning the past 10-plus months, even the most optimistic observer probably had no reason to think that within the past week Brazile’s status would surge upward in the best possible ways.

Brazile literally went from a very recent status of uncertain when he’d be able to resume 5-on-5 scrimmaging in practice after rehabilitating a knee injury for almost a year to not only getting back to full-court, full-contact competition but doing it during the Hoop Hogs’ Pro Day (Oct. 11) while generating a palpable buzz among 30 or so NBA scouts/front-office personnel representing 23 league teams before garnering preseason All SEC first team projections from the league’s media just six days later (Oct. 17).

It simply can’t be overlooked that Brazile has exceeded recent expectations while doing so on an unthinkable fast-track.

“Lottery pick! Top 5, top 10 based on that performance,” one NBA scout told Hogville. “He didn’t miss, felt like he didn’t miss a damn shot. Okay, he missed one shot from three out of 5 or 6 attempts (during 5-on-5 live scrimmaging), and he looked so smooth out there. Just based on this platform understanding no games have been played yet, he looked like a lottery pick.”

Another NBA scout told Hogville that Brazile’s pro-day performance was “exceptional.” Other sources inside the Razorbacks basketball performance center for Arkansas Pro Day expressed similar sentiments. Again, Brazile just prior to pro day had not been taking part in the team’s live, full-contact 5-on-5 scrimmaging and had not had meaningful competitive challenges in nearly a calendar year.

Obviously, NBA teams won’t be drafting a player solely on the basis of a single pro day. However, considering Musselman’s claim a year ago that Brazile (6-10 stretch-4 with 7-4 wingspan, plus-athleticism, and NBA-worthy frontline versatility because of his face-up skill) was among the five best players in the SEC combined with some NBA Draft first-round talk early into the 2022-23 campaign before Brazile went down with his injury, it’s understandable why scouts are now able to make the leap from likely not knowing what to expect in Brazile’s return to the floor to seeing a pathway for him to ascend as high as a lottery pick in the 2024 NBA Draft in June.

As for Musselman’s plans to gradually bring Brazile into the fold in games against opponents, the Head Hog addressed it specifically during SEC media days on Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala.

“He’s ready to roll,” Musselman said during his interview on SEC Network. “We don’t know what he’ll do Friday when we play our exhibition game (against Division II Texas-Tyler). He might play, he might not play. He’ll for sure play a little bit against Purdue (second exhibition game on Oct. 28).”

Arkansas’ regular-season opener is at home against Alcorn State on Nov. 6, and Musselman is planning to have Brazile in the lineup with hopes of increasing his workload while escalating his playing time. Certainly many unknowns remain regarding Brazile, including how soon he is able to consistently perform at the level he was playing at last season leading up to his injury.

Musselman has repeatedly cautioned that Brazile may not look the same early in the campaign compared to his likely progression by as soon as January, with the point being that Brazile should continue to improve as the season moves along.

Brazile played in roughly 25.0% of the Hoop Hogs’ games last season, missing the final 27 contests due to that knee injury suffered in early December 2022 that required surgery and the subsequent rehabilitation process that kept Brazile in a limited participation status in June, July, August, September, and the early part of October.

He averaged 11.8 points and 6.0 rebounds, and he was the team’s leading 3-point shooter at 37.9 percent (11-of-29) at the time. In his eight-plus games played, Brazile led the team in rebounding five times and blocked shots four times. He recorded his first two career double-doubles with 21 points and 12 rebounds against North Dakota State and 13 points and 10 rebounds against South Dakota State. At the Maui Invitational, Brazile led Arkansas to an overtime win over San Diego State by scoring 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Brazile scored 23 points in a win over San Jose State, making 8-of-9 shots from the field.

Here are few more Hoop Hogs observations from the same NBA scout, who by the way has attended Arkansas Pro Day every year since Musselman’s arrival …

– “This is Musselman’s best team at Arkansas when looking at quality and depth … if a guy can’t go or doesn’t get it, he’s got options to say ‘Next.'”

– “(Senior transfer guard) El Ellis is a scorer, a good player. He might be the best guard on the team.”

– “(Senior transfer wing JeremiahDavenport can make shots, he’s a threat.”

– “(Sophomore wing JosephPinion is the best shooter on the team, definitely the best pure shooter.”

– “(Junior guard KhalifBattle and (senior forward JalenGraham did not play (at pro day).”