By Kevin McPherson

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Razorbacks arrived back to campus in Fayetteville over the weekend as 2023-24 fall semester full session classes began on Monday, which also meant a return to 4-hours-per-week limited practices in the short term as the team hit the court on Monday to resume preparations for the upcoming basketball season that is effectively just two months away.

During the team’s 18-day break (July 3-20), the Hoop Hogs basketball staff finally began cranking out practice video and photo content via various social media platforms — something that was noticably missing during the team’s eight weeks of limited practices in June and July.

In this week’s installment of the Hoop Hogs notebook, we’re linking all of that content as well as our first look at a Top 7 rotation, recruiting updates, and the latest with Pro Hogs.

Let’s get started with freshman Layden Blocker (6-2 guard, Little Rock native), who’s highlight clip (linked here: was released on Saturday, Aug. 12, by Head Hog Eric Musselman with the caption: “@Laygogetit2 with a little bit of everything 👀”

Perfect summation by Musselman as, in order in the highlight reel, Blocker a) caught a pass beyond the three-point line on the left side of the floor and very quickly jab-stepped to his left, made a single hard dribble to his right, then tweenie-crossed back to his left for a hard drive attacking the rim and resulting in a difficult reverse-layin conversion; b) went from his guarding position defending the in-bounder on the baseline (set up on the left side of the backboard based on Blocker’s perspective) to aggressively turning and darting toward the inbounds-pass recipient on the opposite side of the backboard (the right side based on Blocker’s previous perspective) where he blocked the shot attempt a couple of feet in front of the basket; and c) in a primary-handler, initiate-the-offense role during a halfcourt possession, Blocker backed the ball out a bit further out on the right side of the court, called for his screener (fellow freshman Baye Fall), then used a single dribble going left to transition into a side-shuffle-step pull-up three-pointer as the defender was slightly rubbed and deterred by Fall’s screen.

The takeaways are many: Blocker’s quickness and burst offer advantages that he knows how to maximize with the skill to finish off plays; defensively, those same athletic traits plus a fearless dog mentality helps him challenge bigger players at or near the rim (the same is true when he attacks offensively or crashes the glass as a rebounder at both ends); and to fully appreciate the final play in the highlight, it starts with a subtle reset to move back a step before setting up his two-man play with Fall, revealing patience and maturity because properly utilizing a screen is as much about spacing and timing between both players as it is about the screener using good footwork and body positioning to execute the physical part of the play. The ball-handler and screener working in concert produces more consistent results, and certainly Blocker economized his movement with a single dribble going left before finishing off the play beautifully with a quick rise-and-strike three-point make just above the top of the arc.

Two days after that highlight reel was dropped by Musselman onto social media, we got an up-close, in-person look at a Blocker workout (Monday, Aug. 14) in his hometown of Little Rock that was focused solely on shooting skill drills. Having attended Blocker workouts over the years, this was his most laser-focused and consistently efficient performance, at least that we can recall.

Linked here are Blocker’s workout highlights followed by Hogville’s four-part interview with him …

Here are the other 10 Hoop Hogs practice clips put out by Musselman in chronological order of when they were posted to X (formerly known as Twitter) …

– Jeremiah Davenport

– Joseph Pinion

– Baye Fall

– Khalif Battle

– Davonte “Devo” Davis

– Denijay Harris

– El Ellis

– Jalen Graham

– Keyon Menifield, Jr.

– Tramon Mark

Talkin’ EARLY Top 7 Razorbacks rotation: With eight weeks of limited summer practices behind us and the resumption of practices getting underway this week with the season roughly just two months away, we take our first stab at projecting a Top 7 rotation. That is to say, this is how we view things right now — the initial Top 7 — with plenty of time for new developments and circumstances to potentially shift our thinking on the matter before the season officially tips up on Nov. 6.

As he enters his fifth season at Arkansas, Musselman has established that he’ll go with a Top 7-8 rotation with five or six of those players getting the heavy bulk of the minutes game-to-game, bringing us to the next part of the equation which is the players who in theory enter fall camp filling out the Nos. 8-13 portion of the roster. We believe this is the first top-to-bottom roster under Musselman that each of the 13 available scholarship players has a viable path (some more than others) to crack the Top 7-8 rotation.

Here’s our first take …

Top 7

– Trevon Brazile (6-10 redshirt-sophomore forward) … Musselman said he was one of the top five players in the SEC last year before a knee injury cut down Brazile’s season in early December after only eight non-conference games … assuming he returns fully healthy, Brazile is an all-league caliber player who’s combination of length, athleticism, and perimeter skills make him a matchup nightmare for opponents.

– Davonte “Devo” Davis (6-4 senior guard) … a two-time All SEC selection (preseason All SEC second team in ’21-22 and SEC All Defensive team in ’22-23), Davis has been as instrumental as any player in helping the program to back-to-back-to-back NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 runs (including two consecutive Elite Eights) … an elite defender and a jack-of-all-trades combo guard, Davis obviously brings all league credentials into his fourth season playing for Musselman, and he has the leadership qualities to go with on-court abilities to guide this Arkansas team to yet another deep NCAAT run … biggest questions coming in are how much does Davis play on the ball as a primary handler, and how much of that is based on lack of effectiveness of others in the same role.

– Tramon Mark (6-6 wing, junior transfer from Houston) … like Davis, Mark is a lefty with elite defensive ability and a big-time regular-season and NCAAT tournament winning pedigree … he immediately brings all-league caliber defense with an emerging offensive game that was evident during the Cougars’ Sweet 16 run a season ago … we see Mark as a day-one starter who could prove to be one of the most versatile players in college basketball because of his two-way ability (offense/defense) with a knack for consistently impacting winning plays at both ends of the floor.

– Khalif Battle (6-5 guard, senior transfer from Temple) … Battle led Temple in scoring last season at nearly 18 points per game, he’s physically strong, vertically athletic, his three-point shooting is both impressive in terms of both volume (nearly three makes per game the last two seasons) and efficiency (37.3% combined spanning the last two seasons), and his shot creation at all three levels has some professional-level feel to it … another Hog with all league potential in ’23-24.

– Makhi Mitchell (6-10 senior forward/center) … Mitchell started all but one game for Arkansas in ’23-24, and his contributions were not only worthy, but it’s reasonable to think he would have been even better with a healthy Brazile at his side on the frontline … after missing all of limited summer practices for a publicly undisclosed reason (Mitchell was seen in a walking boot in a team photo that was released in early June), he is expected to be back to practice full-go as soon as this week … while the returns of Brazile and Davis were huge for Musselman, the return of Mitchell has probably flown a bit under the radar but he’ll be key in whatever success Arkansas enjoys this season.

– El Ellis (6-3 combo guard, senior transfer from Louisville) … Ellis is known as a gifted scorer — he led a struggling Louisville squad at nearly 18 points per game last season — but his abilities as a facilitator while initiating the offense have been underrated as he also averaged 4.4 assists (which would have led the Hogs in ’22-23) … Ellis does struggle with turnovers (3.8 giveaways per game last season), so that will need to be cleaned up to some degree if he is to shore up a top-rotation role as a primary handler … his experience at the high major level as a dual threat on offense (score and pass) assure he’ll get an opportunity at a major role, but improving in the turnover department while plugging in as a competent defender will ultimately shape his role and impact.

– Jalen Graham (6-10 senior forward) … Graham was an offensive spark at times last season, but inconsistency on defense as well as lacking the physicality in certain SEC frontline matchups led to him being outside the top 7-8 rotation for most of the season … however, Musselman has noted that Graham’s dedication and work ethic were vastly improved through limited summer practices, and if Graham is truly dialed in with an attention to the details that can help him improve on the defensive side of the ball combined with the offseason departures of Makhel Mitchell and Kamani Johnson, it means he’s the most likely candidate coming of the bench to spell Brazile and Makhi Mitchell … the former second team All Pac 12 selection will have plenty of opportunities to stake his claim to a Top 7 rotation spot.

Vying for the 8th spot and possibly better than that (in no particular order)

– Layden Blocker (6-2 freshman guard) … Blocker appears to be the best long-term lead guard on the roster — he has burst, he’s a willing facilitator, he has two-way value on offense and defense, and a determined toughness that makes him a plus rim threat at his size. But coming straight from high school suggests he’ll have to out-right win the point guard role to factor heavily into the top 7 rotation as a freshman as Musselman defers to players with experience when there is not clear separation competitively … but don’t count Blocker out of winning the primary ball-handler job, and certainly there’s a path for him to find the back end of the Top 7-8 rotation, which if it does not happen early in the season potentially could develop later on as he gains experience at the high-major level.

– Jeremiah Davenport (6-6 3/4-combo forward, senior transfer from Cincinnati) … Davenport is more wing than a small-ball-4, and his catch-and-shoot ability on three-pointers both in terms of volume (over 200 made triples at Cincy) and efficiency (around 35% in his career) makes him the kind of effective quick-trigger and deep-range sniper that Arkansas has been missing in recent seasons … it’s conceivable entering fall camp that Davenport is currently eighth in the rotation pecking order, and like with most his reliability taking care of the basketball, making good decisions, and effectiveness defensively will help determine his role and minutes.

– Denijay Harris and Chandler Lawson (both 6-7 3/4-combo forwards, both 5th-year senior transfers) … we lump these two together because they may offer the best true small-ball-4 versatility on the roster … both players are efficient scorers because they do not color outside the lines (a.k.a. they play within the strengths of their games while not trying to do too much), but their biggest value will likely be what they bring defensively while being complementary pieces at both ends of the floor … can’t help but think of former Arkansas forward Trey Wade, who went from forgotten man on the bench to a starting role midseason on a team that went on to an Elite Eight two years ago, when considering what Harris and/or Lawson possibly could mean for this team.

– Joseph Pinion (6-5 freshman wing) … while Arkansas’ three 2022 5-star recruits grabbed most of the headlines last season, Pinion came to the rescue off the bench in not one but two SEC games with his three-point shooting and floor-spacing gravity in games against Missouri and Ole Miss that looked to be on losing paths for the Hogs before Pinion did his thing … while question marks remain about Pinion defensively, he now has a year of college basketball under his belt and has shown at each level of his career that he’s more than a catch-and-shoot scoring threat, although that is the strength of his game … there are matchup combos where Pinion fitting into a Top 7-8 rotation could play out.

– Baye Fall (6-10 freshman forward/center) … the math is easy = only three players on the frontline offer the height that Fall does, all three have vastly more experience than he does, but given the numbers it’s obvious that Fall is one injury or foul trouble away from factoring into the Top 7-8 rotation on any given night, and that’s assuming he does not impress enough through fall camp to move into that rotation … his length, bounce, end-to-end speed, and quickness offer a combo that only Brazile can come close to matching … if nothing else stands out while he develops and adds strength, Fall is a day-one threat to block shots and finish lob passes at the rim if given playing time.

* Razorbacks recruiting

– 2025 national Top 50 / 4-star prospect Malachi Moreno (6-11 forward/center, Georgetown, Ky.) told Hogville he will be making his way to Fayetteville for an unofficial visit: “I am visiting Arkansas on the 9th of September.”

– 2024 Hog offer and 247Sports national No. 22 / 4-star prospect Isaiah Elohim (6-5 guard, Sierra Canyon in Calif.) will take an official visit to Arkansas on Saturday, Sept. 16 (deep-dive article linked here:

– 2024 Hog offer and national Top 50 / 4-star prospect Rakease Passmore (6-5 wing, Combine Academy in N.C.) will take an official visit to Arkansas on Oct. 6, according to a source. Passmore, he was offered a scholarship by Arkansas in early July, is set to take at least three official visits in September (Mississippi State, Miami, and LSU).

– 2025 national Top 60 / 4-star prospect Jermaine O’Neal, Jr. (6-5 wing, Dynasty Prep in Dallas) will take an unofficial visit to Arkansas on Saturday, Oct. 28, and will attend the Hoop Hogs’ charity exhibition game against Big Ten power Purdue at Bud Walton Arena. O’Neal’s famous father is Jermaine O’Neal, Sr., an NBA all-star who went directly to the league from high school. He played for Bill Musselman (Eric Musselman’s father) when the both were with the Portland Trail Blazers (O’Neal as a player and Musselman as an assistant coach).

– 2025 national No. 8 / 5-star prospect Jalen Haralson (6-6 combo guard, La Lumiere School, La Porte, Ind.) reported a scholarship offer from Arkansas on Monday, Aug. 21.

– Arkansas hosted highly regarded 2024 in-state target K. Annor Boateng (6-5 wing, Little Rock Central, 17U Arkansas Hawks,‘s national No. 9 / 5-star prospect) on an official visit on Friday, July 28, and Boateng came away impressed (for more on his thoughts on the visit and other teams in the mix in his recruitment, click the link to our Hogville article published on Sunday, July 30:

– Elohim and Passmore were two of 20 participants last week in the inaugural Damien Lillard Formula Zero Elite Camp, with the Hogs’ Battle serving as one of the college counselors at the event.

* Pro Hog updates

– With FIBA World Cup play up next, former Arkansas star and current Milwaukee Bucks forward / center Bobby Portis helped Team USA go 5-0 through a handful of showcase games, which concluded over the weekend with wins over Greece (108-86 on Friday) and Germany (99-91 on Sunday) in Abu Dhabi. Portis finished with 10 points (5-of-8 field goals), 7 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal in 11 minutes in the win over Greece, and he had 2 points (1-of-2 field goals), 5 rebounds, and a boxscore plus-1 in 8 minutes (of which 5 minutes came in a fourth-quarter comeback) as Team USA rallied from 16-point second-half deficit for the 8-point win over Germany (linked here are multiple Portis game highlights that were posted to Twitter: … … … … In the five showcase games, Portis averaged 6.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 8.4 minutes per game while shooting 60.0% from the field and 75.0% from the free throw line.

– Former Arkansas star Anthony Black — named All SEC second team and SEC All Freshman team last season before taken No. 6 overall by the Orlando Magic in the 2023 NBA Draft in June — was in the Razorbacks’ basketball performance center on Monday for the team’s return to practice.

– Former Arkansas star Daryl Macon was honored on Tueday, Aug. 15, during a ceremony with a proclamation that Daryl Macon Day will be on Aug. 16 each year in Little Rock. The former Little Rock Parkview star was presented a plaque with a key to the city of Little Rock by Mayor Frank Scott, Jr.,with friends & family in attendance.