LITTLE ROCK — The possibility of adding a second 7-foot-3 player with tremendous upside to the roster got stronger on Saturday when Purdue grad-transfer Matt Haarms named Arkansas among his Final 10 schools.
The Razorbacks and Kentucky Wildcats were the two SEC teams to make the cut for Haarms, who also has Arizona, Gonzaga, Texas Tech, Memphis, Minnesota, Boston College, BYU, and UNC Greensboro still under consideration.
Haarms (7-3, 250, center, native of Amsterdam, Netherlands) potentially could be head coach Eric Musselman’s second 7-3 haul from the transfer portal since May 2019 as he would join Arkansas sophomore stretch-5 and Little Rock native Connor Vanover on the Hogs’ frontline.
Rated the No. 3 grad-transfer prospect in the nation by a couple of national college basketball analysts, Haarms would also be Musselman’s third Top 20 grad-transfer pledge this spring if he were to commit to the Hogs, joining Northern Kentucky transfer Jalen Tate (6-6 combo guard, No. 11 on college basketball analyst Jeff Goodman’s Top 40 grad-transfer rankings) and New Mexico transfer Vance Jackson, Jr. (6-9 combo forward, ranked No. 19 on Goodman’s list).
Within an hour of entering the transfer portal on Monday, Haarms reportedly had already been contacted by at least 25 schools, including Arkansas. He will have one season of immediate playing eligiblity in 2020-21.
Haarms started 15 of 29 games in 2019-20 and averaged 8.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in 20.5 minutes while shooting 52.4% field goals (including 10-of-32 from 3 for 31.3%) and 63.4% from the free throw line.
Haarms per-40-minute numbers as a junior were strong: 16.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 3.8 blocks. In 102 total games played in his three seasons at Purdue, Haarms made 301-of-517 field goals for a career 58.2% shooting clip.
Haarms can be fiery and often displays his aresenal of in-game fist-pumping and flexing as he reacts to big plays and moments, which seems to be an ideal match for the kind of energy and enthusiasm that Musselman brings to the sideline ever night out. Haarm’s on-court value includes being an efficient scoring threat, a rim-protector, and a rebounder — all frontline trouble-areas for the Razorbacks a season ago.
As for a fit on the floor at the same time with Vanover, the notion is not as much of a novelty as one might believe — think both ends of the floor — as Haarms could offer an inside presence while Vanover would have more of a face-up game that extends beyond the three-point line. Defensively, imagine a backline of Haarms and Vanover bringing plus-plus-plus in terms of height, length, and wingspan.
And Haarms would not be limited to interior shooting as he would benefit from a spaced offensive scheme allowing him to showcase his evolving three-point game — at Purdue, he was 1-of-7 from 3 for 14.3% as a freshman, 7-of-25 for 28.0% as a sophomore, and 10-of-32 for 31.3% as a junior.
In addition to Vanover, Arkansas currently has 6-8 juniors-to-be Ethan Henderson and Reggie Chaney with SEC experience, 6-9 junior-transfer Abayomi “Baybe” Iyiola who sat out in ’19-20 after transferring from Stetson, and 2020 commit / 6-10 freshman-to-be Jaylin Williams.
With or without Haarms, the ’20-21 Hogs will offer a significant frontline-size contrast to the ’19-20 roster that saw 6-6 senior Adrio Bailey as the tallest regular starter. And with Haarms, Arkansas’s bevvy of way-too-early national Top 25 projections would likely move the needle up to Top 15ish projections.