LITTLE ROCK — The respective journeys of arguably the two best 2020 high school basketball players from Arkansas — seniors Moses Moody and Khalen “KK” Robinson — will intersect this weekend when the long-time friends converge on Fayetteville for official visits with the Razorbacks.
To best understand where they’ve been, how they got here, and where they’re going we need to click back a few frames and set the stage: The scene was Arkansas high school basketball in 2016-17, and the state was loaded like never before (and not since) with next level talent — seniors Daniel Gafford, Khalil Garland, Darious Hall, and Javon Franklin; juniors Isaiah Joe, Ethan Henderson, Desi Sills, and Connor Vanover; plus sophomores Justice Hill, Issac McBride, and Allen Flanigan. There were many more eventual NCAA Division 1 players, but those were the headliners.
And then there were two freshmen who were among the standouts in what was a 2020 class on a fast-track to becoming the deepest, most talent-rich single class in state history. Robinson was a star at 3A Episcopal Collegiate, where he earned MVP honors by leading his team to the state title. Moody was a key reserve on one of the most stacked teams ever at storied Little Rock Parkview, and by the postseason Moody found himself in key roles in close games against then-5A rival Little Rock Mills, including having the ball in his hands at the end of a one-possession game against the Comets in the 5A state title game.
With all the high-major-college attention justifiably being heaped on the older players, these two talented and heady freshmen authored important, meaningful chapters in an unforgettable season.
Seems like the perfect launching pad to illustrate the arc of where they began and where they are now as highly coveted national recruits, but one of them wants to go deeper to explain the bond that will bring them together in Fayetteville for a weekend visit.
And perhaps more.
“I’ll take you all the way back to the beginning,” Moody said with a sense of pride and purpose. “We actually started playing together in the third grade — I wasn’t as good back then, I was playing the post — but we reunited in 6th grade and that’s when I really started developing as a player. KK had been one of the top players since we were real young, and when we got to the 6th grade we came together. It was me, KK, Chris Hightower (now at Little Rock Christian) … and we formed that (Arkansas) Hawks team and we just ran through the state.
“We won the state championship that year. Then we went to New Orleans to the Super 60 with 72 teams and came out No. 2. We beat the No. 1 team in the country, the Oakland Soldiers. That was our first year playing together, and it just worked out real well. I just think our games complement each other. With him being a point guard that can score the ball but is willing to get off of it, I feel like he complements my game. Off the court, on the court, we just really click well.”
Robinson said that bond has led to the duo having regular talks about playing together in college, possibly at Arkansas.
“All the time,” Robinson said of the frequency of those conversations. “(Arkansas’s) an option. I’m excited to see what Arkansas has in store for us. Me and Moses have been trying to schedule visits together, so we’re happy this one worked.
“Growing up playing with Moses started a bond early. As we got older it grew. We always played great together and fed off each other’s energy on the court.”
Moody (6-6 shooting guard / wing, Little Rock native, ESPN national No. 29 prospect) joined Robinson in the state-title and state-MVP categories as a sophomore (’17-18) at North Little Rock before moving on to national powerhouse Montverde Academy in Florida as a junior (’18-19). Moody was a star on the Nike EYBL 17U circuit that past two years, leading Brad Beal Elite in scoring while also being among the most efficient shooter-scorers on the circuit. Moody has racked up over 30 high-major scholarship offers, including Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio State, Florida, Florida State, Texas Tech, Oregon, Southern Cal, Texas, and many more.
Earlier this week, ESPN projected Moody to be selected No. 29 overall in the first round in its 2021 NBA mock draft.
ESPN’s highest-rated prospect in Arkansas since 2016, Moody is broad-shouldered and long (his wingspan is 7-feet-plus), and he’s a smooth operator with effective range out to the NBA 3-point line. Moody has improved his drive-and-create game and has developed into a valid threat to finish at all three levels. An underrated defender and facilitator from the wing, Moody is not shy about diving to the floor for 50/50 balls. He’s coachable and plays with a team-first mindset, and his mentors have praised him for always seeking knowledge and feedback while working to improve as an all-around player.
Robinson (6-1 point guard, composite national No. 72 prospect) led Bryant to the 6A state championship game as a junior (’18-19) before taking a page out of Moody’s transfer book as he is now at prestigious Oak Hill Academy in Virginia for his senior season. Robinson was also a force on the 2019 Nike EYBL 17U circuit, catapulting him to national-recruit status as Arkansas, Kansas, Texas Tech, Florida, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas A&M, Illinois, Iowa State, and Vanderbilt were among the schools to offer him a scholarship.
On Wednesday in Oak Hill’s first exhibition game against Bluefield College (NAIA), Robinson came within a whisker of registering a quadruple-double as he had 18 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists, and 8 steals in a 99-76 victory.
Robinson is arguably the best two-way (offense and defense) guard in Arkansas. The lefty has plus-arm-length for his height, he’s a good athlete, and his on-ball defense can be suffocating — he’s an elite defender. Steady, consistent, and reliable, Robinson has a nice pace as a ball-handler and he does not force his own offense as he’s a willing and capable facilitator for others. He’s an efficient 3-point shooter and he’s a determined slasher who finishes with toughness. He’s also clutch having knocked down his fair share of game-winners in high school and in grassroots play, and he’s a dependable free throw shooter (including down the stretch in tight games).
Both players took unofficial visits to Arkansas in the summer, both whittled their list of schools to a Final 7 just weeks ago, both have entertained Arkansas coaches on weekly visits to their high school campuses since early September, and both have taken official visits to other schools (Moody to Ohio State and Michigan, and Robinson to TCU, Kansas, and Illinois).
Now, both players will take official visits to Arkansas beginning on Friday with no other official visits currently scheduled for either of them.
“We were actually planning on taking other visits together, too, but that didn’t work out,” Moody said. “We did want to take this one together, the same weekend. We’ve been talking a lot about the school, about the decision.”
Could this be a last-visit, eventual-college-destination preview trip to Fayetteville?
“It’s not definite, but it’s definitely possible,” Moody said of playing with Robinson at Arkansas. “I like to play with KK, that’s one of my favorite players to play with.”
Already on board in the 2020 class for Arkansas is highly regarded in-state guard Davonte Davis (6-4, Jacksonville, ESPN national No. 79) who cited his relationship with first-year Razorbacks head coach Eric Musselman as well as the collective NBA coaching and player-development experience of the coaching staff as reasons he committed to Arkansas last Saturday. Two more national Top 100 prospects from the state — Chris Moore (6-6 combo forward, West Memphis, national No. 93 prospect according to 247Sports.com) and Jaylin Williams (6-10 forward / center, Fort Smith Northside, composite national No. 69 prospect) — are also top priorities on Musselman’s 2020 wish list, and both continue to build on their relationships with Arkansas’s new coaching staff.
Pursuading Moody and Robinson to be the next dominoes to fall could be key in winning over Moore and Williams to form what could be the most prolific in-state recruiting class in Razorbacks history. It’s not just that this 2020 in-state classs boasts an unprecendented five Top 100 nationally ranked prospects, but that all five can play on the floor together: Moody (2/3), Robinson (1/2), Davis (1/2), Moore (3/4), and Williams (4/5).
In poker terms, this 2020 in-state class looks like a Royal Flush hand! Just don’t push all your chips to the middle of the table. The Hogs aren’t holding all the cards, not yet. Still work to be done.
The next play is Moody and Robinson having their 48-hour window of exploration this weekend at Arkansas.
“I’m looking forward to further building relationships with the staff and the players,” said Robinson, whose unofficial visit to Arkansas was taken in late August. “I like all my schools right now. This is going to be a tough decision.”
Moody said his relationships with players he knows is the main attraction to Ohio State and his relationships with coaches is the big draw at Michigan, and player development is a major factor at every school he is considering.
Arkansas checks those boxes and it has a unique advantage to boot.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing the reality of what the school is now,” said Moody, whose unofficial visit to Arkansas was in late June. “During that unofficial visit, it was still early and Coach (Musselman ) had just gotten there. So I didn’t really do much of a visit, we did more of a meeting. I got to talk to the coaching staff, and saw their vision for me and where they saw me fitting in the program. It was a good meeting, definitely.
“The sense of putting on for your city, you know that’s definitely a draw. Growing up being around it, going to War Memorial to see games. It has the hometown feel to it, so it’s definitely an advantage. I’m from Arkansas, specifically Little Rock. I see a lot of stuff going on around there. I feel like if the (Razorbacks) team is strong, then they’ll have something to look at and it’s just more motivation to see something going well. A lot of people that don’t really root for a team they may not feel a sense of unity, like we’re all rooting for the same thing, you know. If we have something that really pulled everybody together I feel like that would be positive for the city.”
The gravitational pull of playing for the home-state school with the bonus of playing with a hometown pal is compelling for both 2020 stars. Compelling enough to pull the trigger during the visit?
“I don’t necessarily plan on it, but you never know what happens,” Moody said. “I plan on taking the visit, evaluating, talking to my Dad, talking to my family, and then just compare it to the other schools.”