By Kevin McPherson

LITTLE ROCK — It’s the very early and modest beginning of year five under Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman, but since arriving on campus in late May the Razorbacks are already taking classes in summer school session one, have undergone their physical exams, and are taking part in limited on-court instruction inside the team’s basketball performance center that along with housing the coaching staff’s offices stands across the street from Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

Arkansas’ summer school session one began on Tuesday, May 30, allowing newcomers and the five returning scholarship players to build up credits toward their degree work while also allowing them to go through the basketball program’s strength-and-conditioning training (up to 4 hours per week) and limited on-court instruction (up to 4 hours per week) shortly after they cleared physical exams.

Typically, the first eight weeks in the basketball program — effectively spanning both summer school sessions — are limited to the aforementioned 4-hours-per-week on-court instruction and 4-hours-per-week strength-and-conditioning training.

Of course, practice themes and descriptors always emerge this way in Musselman’s program: Fast-paced, high energy, well-organized, cohesive, and detailed.

Musselman uses the early limited practice sessions each season to drill down on his system philosophies, or as he put it on Twitter in early June a year ago: “TLC which stands for Teaching, Learning, and Communication.” It’s not too early for getting into some of the specifics, which includes working through offensive and defensive basics via drills, shooting drills, game- and clock-situation drills, and 5-on-0 drills among other initial team functions.

* The Hoop Hogs are not at full strength / full roster as they dive into early limited practices. There are currently only 12 scholarship players on the roster with one opening yet to be determined. Additionally, big men in junior Trevon Brazile (6-10 stretch-4, expected limited participation so far), senior Makhi Mitchell (6-9 forward / center, not practicing), and freshman Baye Fall (6-11 forward / center, not on campus as of yet) are in varying states of non-participation. Brazile continues his recovery from his season-ending knee injury that occurred in early December, and all indicators point to him being full-go in time for the start of the 2023-24 season. Mitchell — seen in the attached team photo wearing a walking boot on his left foot/lower leg — is a no-go for now according to a source. Fall is targeting joining the team some time later in June, according to a source.

The frontline shortage means the Razorbacks are going through their early limited practices with only 9 scholarship players and 2 walk-ons as full participants. Senior Jalen Graham (6-9 4/5-combo forward), senior-transfer Jeremiah Davenport (6-7 3/4-combo forward), and walk-on Lawson Blake (6-10 center) are getting all the frontcourt reps and most of the drill work to this point.

Arkansas has its full backcourt corps on the court — senior Davonte “Devo” Davis (6-4 combo guard), senior-transfer Khalif Battle (6-5 guard), senior-transfer Tramon Mark (6-5 wing), senior-transfer El Ellis (6-2 guard), sophomore Joseph Pinion (6-5 wing), sophomore-transfer Keyon Menefield, Jr. (6-1 guard), and true freshman Layden Blocker (6-3 guard).

* Davis’ return after withdrawing from the NBA Draft pool on May 31 (the NCAA’s deadline to do so) set a couple of program firsts in the Musselman era: 1) Davis becomes the first player at Arkansas to play for Musselman, enter the draft with remaining college eligibility, and return to Arkansas after withdrawing from the draft; and 2) Davis becomes the first player at Arkansas to play four seasons for Musselman. Davis should fairly quickly join the school’s 1,000-point career scoring club in ’23-24 (he needs just 59 more points to reach the milestone), and if Arkansas can win 25 games in ’23-24 he will become the first Hog to be part of 100 career victories since Lee Wilson (1993-97).

* Arkansas is expecting talented and versatile North Dakota State junior-transfer Grant Nelson (6-11 forward) to visit on Thursday and Friday (June 8-9), which means a chance for the nationally top 5-rated transfer-portal prospect to take in at least one of the Hoop Hogs’ limited practices at the performance center. Nelson — he withdrew from the NBA Draft pool on May 30 after taking part in the draft combine and workouts with NBA teams — first has a visit planned to Alabama (Tuesday-Wednesday, June 6-7), He canceled a planned visit to Baylor, a source confirmed. It’s thought that Nelson will likely make a decision on his new college destination after taking the two visits, ansd a source told Hogville an NIL bidding war will likely be as much in play toward a final decision as system fit and opportunity for continued development toward professional basketball. For more on his Arkansas recruitment, click the link to my recent article:

* Musselman — he attended the SEC meetings in Destin, Fla., last week — continues to interview candidates for the open assistant coaching position on his staff that resulted from the departure of Gus Argenal, who spent two seasons at Arkansas before leaving in May to accept the head coaching job at Division II Cal State San Bernardino.

A source told Hogville on June 2 that Musselman had interviewed at least three coaches with NBA ties and two more with college head coaching experience. It stands to reason that Musselman could consider promotions and/or extended duties for Ronnie Brewer, Jr. (Arkansas’ recruiting coordinator); Todd Lee (the Hogs’ director of scouting and assistant to the head coach, which was a new position created by Musselman a year ago); and possibly others already working within the program’s basketball administrative staff.

* Pro Hogs (and soon-to-be Pro Hogs) updates: Former Arkansas star Bobby Portis (6-10 forward / center, Milwaukee Bucks, native of Little Rock) has been selected to Team USA for 2023 FIBA World Cup play … former Arkansas star Jaylin Williams (6-9 center, Oklahoma City Thunder, native of Fort Smith) is slated to compete for the second consecutive off-season in the NBA’s annual Summer League … Nick Smith, Jr., will work out with the Miami Heat (first-round 18th pick but looking to trade up into the lottery) on Thursday, June 8; he just wrapped up a workout with the Washington Wizards (8th pick, lottery) on Monday, June 5, and he had an NBA team workout with team holding a lottery pick on Thursday, June 1 … Anthony Black worked out with the Dallas Mavericks last week … Jordan Walsh worked out with the Sacramento Kings on Monday, June 5 … Ricky Council IV has a work out with the Washington Wizards scheduled for Tuesday, May 6.