By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — North Dakota State junior-transfer Grant Nelson is planning to visit Arkansas, a source told Hogville on Friday, June 2.
Nelson — he’s also setting up visits to Baylor (Tuesday, June 6) and Alabama (Wednesday, June 7) — plans to be in Fayetteville this coming Thursday and Friday (June 8-9), marking what could be his final stop before a decision.
Arkansas coaches immediately reached out to Nelson once he entered the transfer portal in early May, and after he attended the 2023 NBA Draft Combine in mid-May followed by withdrawing from the draft pool on May 30, Eric Musselman and his staff had a zoom meeting with Nelson on Thursday, June 1, and discussed plans for his upcoming visit.
A consensus top 5 portal prospect, Nelson (6-11 forward) was a first-team All Summit League selection in 2022-23 after starting all 30 games and averaging 17.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.7 blocks in 30.6 minutes while shooting 52.1% on field goals, including 25-of-93 from 3 for 26.9%, and 72.0% free throws.
Nelson had 17 points (5-of-9 field goals, including 1-of-2 from 3, and 6-of-8 free throws), 6 rebounds, 1 block in 21 minutes in NDSU’s 76-58 loss at Arkansas on Nov. 7 in the ’22-23 season opener for both teams.
Including the Arkansas tilt plus an 82-59 loss at then-No. 5 Kansas on Nov. 10, Nelson faced two high-major opponents last season and averaged 13.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks while shooting 42.1% from the field, including 2-of-7 from 3 for 28.6%, and 71.4% from the free throw line.
Nelson scored 20 or more points 11 times last season. He scored 30 or more points three times in ’22-23, including a season-high 36 points (13-of-20 field goals, including 2-of-5 from 3, and 8-of-11 free throws) to go with 7 rebounds and 3 blocks in a 91-75 win over in-state rival North Dakota on Jan. 27.
As a first-time transfer, Nelson will have immediate eligibility to play in ’23-24.
Arkansas has already welcomed to campus its highly regarded 5-player portal recruiting haul — all guards and wings.
If they could land Nelson, the Hogs would bolster their frontline with height, length, athleticism, and skill as he brings similar versatility to that of returning junior-to-be stretch-4 Trevon Brazile.
Nelson is fluid and agile, and he might be the best ball-handling drive-to-shot-creation big man in college basketball. He can dribble effectively on the move with both hands using crossovers and cross-behinds to change direction. He also can transition from drive to low-post, back-down positioning with an array of moves and excellent footwork to drop-step toward the baseline or turn into the paint for close-range looks. He’s a plus-passer for a frontliner and is enough of a threat shooting from distance to keep defenders guessing.