LITTLE ROCK — As more story lines emerge after week three of Arkansas Razorbacks team training camp, the global vantage point continues to spotlight a unit that is not only big, long, and talented, but the sense that this is the most perimeter-equipped Hog squad in recent memory continues to expand. Here are our five takeaways from week three …
* Arkansas welcomed back star junior guard and Fort Smith native Isaiah Joe as he joined camp for the first time in week three, at least on a limited basis after withdrawing a week ago from the 2020 NBA Draft. During a Zoom meeting with the media on Monday (Aug. 3) second-year head coach Eric Musselman said this about the return of Joe (the SEC’s leading returning scorer and three-point shooter): “We just finished practice. When went through the drills, some of the drills he didn’t go through. But we had a good practice today. It’s awesome to have him back. He understands all our terminology. He does everything the right away. So it was really good to have him back.” Click the links for more details on Joe’s return (https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=716460.0) and his prospects to be a candidate for SEC Player of the Year in 2020-21 (https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=716718.0).
* Junior guard Desi Sills of Jonesboro is a fan favorite for a reason — his combo of effort, toughness, and spark inspire — and word is he’s having a strong camp in terms of performance and leadership. Sills and Joe are Arkansas’ only two returning double-figure scorers from a season ago, and certainly the backcourt duo’s experience playing together forms the foundation for Musselman to build around in ’20-21. It’s a bond that goes back to their high school days when they were spring/summer grassroots teammates with the Joe Johnson Arkasnas Hawks. For more on Sills’ Arkansas career so far as well as his development and role projection for the upcoming season, click the link … https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=716564.0
* Freshman shooting guard / wing Moses Moody is known as a plus-shooter from distance, although there are many aspects of his game that make him a well-rounded player, but the largest Moody tremor recorded to date from the Eddie Sutton practice court inside the Hogs’ performance center in Fayetteville was on Friday when the Razorbacks basketball program released a video via Twitter of Moody taking a pass and getting downhill quickly for a thunder-dunk in the mug of junior forward Ethan Henderson (linked here https://twitter.com/RazorbackMBBRec/status/1291830587091824640?s=20). Moody is having a good camp, prompting one observer to suggest Moody could be headed for a “spectacular” career at Arkansas.
* Bring it on. Two national college basketball analysts updated their way-too-early preseason Top 25 rankings following the NCAA’s Aug. 3 deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft — basically, a more informed guess at rankings given who came back to school and who stayed in the draft — and Arkansas was included in both polls. Aaron Torres of Fox Sports had the Hogs ranked No. 20 and Gary Parrish of CBS Sports inserted the Hogs at No. 24 in his rankings. In other words, expectations are mounting as Arkansas infuses 10 newcomers (mostly veteran) during camp. Musselman said on Monday: “Right now what we are is we’re a team with potential. There’s a lot of factors like chemistry, accepting roles, sharing the basketball, rotating on defense when you’re supposed to, getting loose balls, playing hard. All those things, I don’t know how they’re going to go, but I knew that if we had a good roster that the expectations at Arkansas, I knew what they were going to be like because we have incredible fans that have got a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm and they want to win. And so, I knew that there would be expectations, and certainly with Isaiah coming back those expectations got even more so. Which is cool, you know. Bring it on.”
* Speaking of way-too-early projections, after only 12 hours of training camp practices (that’s four hours per week for the last three weeks) it may seem foolhardy to take a stab at rotation projections, but maybe we can mix-in-then-stir our limited source information, brief video released by the UA, and what we already know about Musselman and these players based on past performance to concoct a best-guess cocktail. Again, these are my takes if the season were to start today, and certainly things can and will change before we arrive at the start of ’20-21 so we’ll reserve the right to change our course … but for now …
— For starters, we know Musselman prefers a tight 7-8 player rotation. He’s got the kind of quality roster to go 11-12 deep, but let’s not assume he’ll stray away from his typical rotation.
— Joe and Sills bring no-doubt starter value and proven production, thus they should once again carry heavy-minute workloads.
— After sitting out transfer-redshirt seasons, Connor Vanover and JD Notae are in line to play impact roles.
— All three grad-transfers have drawn positive reviews, but the two that have gotten the most shine so far are combo forwards Vance Jackson, Jr. and Justin Smith.
— Collectively, the four freshman have been impressive, but Moody and Khalen “KK” Robinson may have an edge in being able to contribute sooner rather than later.
— From this vantage point right now, that’s a top 8 of Joe, Sills, Vanover, Notae (he has not practiced yet due to wrist injury), Jackson, Smith, Moody, and Robinson with senior Jalen Tate and freshman Jaylin Williams on the fringes of breaking through. The ability to knock down shots and pass the ball stand out when looking at this roster, and certainly the size and length throughout the lineup (plus the backcourt quickness) suggests this team can be good defensively.