LITTLE ROCK — While the Arkansas Razorbacks have turned the page from a historic, top 10-ranked regular season to the postseason that begins for them on Friday at the SEC tournament in Nashville, Tenn., the Hogs’ coaching staff has been multi-tasking with a constant presence recruiting out of the transfer portal.
Two of the most-recent examples are Auburn freshman-transfer Justin Powell and Omaha junior-transfer Marlon Ruffin, who both entered the portal earlier this week.
“Yes sir, they have,” Powell told Hogville.net on Wednesday when asked if he’s heard from the Razorbacks coaching staff.
Powell (6-6 guard, Goshen, Ky., native) is a versatile, big point guard. He started in 7 of the 11 games he played in at Auburn in ’20-21 and averaged 11.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.7 assists in 27.6 minutes per game while shooting 42.9% from the field, including 19-of-43 from 3 for 44.2%, and 76.5% from the free throw line.
He struggled scoring the ball in the only game he played against the Hogs, finishing with 4 points (1-of-8 field goals, including 0-of-3 from 3, and 2-of-3 free throws), but he did have 9 assists, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals in Arkansas’ 97-85 road win in both teams’ SEC opener on Dec. 30. One game later in a 68-66 road loss against Texas A&M, Powell suffered a concussion and never returned to play another game in ’20-21.
Powell’s size, court awareness, and offensive dribble-drive craft to create shots for himself and others stood out in his brief stint at Auburn. He twice scored 26 points — in back-to-back December wins over South Alabama and Memphis — and he also had games of 17 points in a win over St. Joseph’s and 15 points in a win over Texas Southern. He registered 6 or more rebounds in 7 games, and he had 5 or more assists in 5 games.
Arkansas’ coaching staff recruited Powell early in the summer of 2019 — just a couple of months into the Eric Mussleman era in Fayetteville — before Powell ultimately committed to and signed with Auburn.
Powell has already been contacted by a slew of heavyweight high-major programs, and there is considerable speculation on social media that Powell may soon be bound for his homestate Kentucky Wildcats.
Ruffin (6-5, 195 pounds, guard, Madison, Wis., native) was excited to hear from Arkansas.
“I was reached out to by assistant coach Anthony Ruta,” Ruffin told Hogville.net. “I entered the portal on Monday and Coach Ruta reached out on Tuesday morning. He said he wanted to introduce himself and how excited they are to recruit me. Expecting to hear back sometime this week.
“Very honored and interested! I hear Coach Musselman is a great guy and the Arkansas program is a phenomenal place to play.”
Ruffin started in 11 of the 16 games he played in as a junior in at Omaha 2020-21, averaging 13.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 25.6 minutes per game while shooting 41.2% field goals, including 23-of-60 from 3 for 38.3%, and 75.5% from the free throw line.
Ruffin averaged 22.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.0 steal in two losses against an Oral Roberts team that just won the Horizon League postseason tournament to punch its ticket to the NCAA tournament. Ruffin also had 18 points (7-of-12 field goals, including 1-of-4 from 3, and 3-of-3 free throws), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal in 21 minutes in a 94-67 loss against then-No. 9 Creighton on Dec. 1.
“A player who has a high motor & extremely competitive,” Ruffin said when asked to describe his game. “Great size with a knack for scoring. Versatile on both sides of the floor.”
Ruffin, who began his college career at Highland Community College as a freshman before playing the last two seasons at Omaha, said he’s been contacted by or drawn inquiries from Vanderbilt, Loyola-Chicago, Wake Forest, Rutgers, Utah, New Mexico State, UNLV, Robert Morris, Austin Peay, and Loyola Marymount among others.
“As of now I’m trying to take everything in and balance out my options,” he said. “Highly interested in Arkansas.”
Arkansas is likely interested in adding at least one more big guard to its 2021 class that already includes early-period signee and ESPN national No. 73 / 4-star prospect Chance Moore (6-5 wing, McEachern School in Georgia). The Hogs have two big guards — freshman Moses Moody (6-6) and senior grad-transfer Jalen Tate (6-6) — who could be moving on from the program following the ’20-21 season as Moody is projected as a first-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft should he decide to turn pro while Tate could also be eyeing pro basketball opportunities in ’21-22.
Head Hog Eric Musselman has brought in a total of 11 transfers — 5 in the 2019 recruiting class, 5 in 2020, and 1 so far in 2021 — spanning the three recruiting cycles overlapping his two seasons as head coach at Arkansas.
* 2022 Arkansas priority recruit Ramel Lloyd, Jr. (6-6 guard, Sierra Canyon, Temecula, Cali., composite national No. 68 / 4-star prospect) told Hogville.net on Monday that he had no plans to make a commitment announcement this week: “I won’t be committing this week. No timeline, it can honestly happen whenever.” The talented guard has a “top 8” schools list that includes the Hogs, Oregon, Baylor, Illinois, Arizona, Washington, Rutgers, and Nebraska.
* Pittsburgh junior-transfer Au’Diese Toney (6-6 guard, Hunstville, Ala. native) is a priority recruit for Arkansas, and you can read more about that in my article published here at Hogville.net on Thursday, March 4 (linked: https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=726476.0).
* With 247Sports.com expanding its 2023 prospect rankings to a Top 75 on Wednesday with two in-state Razorbacks recruiting targets landing on the updated list: Little Rock Central sophomore Bryson Warren (6-2 point guard, Mokan Elite) came in at No. 32 (a 4-star prospect), and Little Rock Christian Academy sophomore Layden Blocker (6-2 point guard, Brad Beal Elite) came in at No. 57. Both guards hold multiple high-major offers, including from Arkansas and other SEC programs.
* 2021 Arkansas signee Akol Mawein (6-9 combo forward, Navarro College in Texas, national No. 4 / 4-star junior college prospect according to 247Sports.com) had 14 points (5-of-5 field goals, including 2-of-2 from 3, and 2-of-2 free throws), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block in Navarro College’s 85-64 win Monday over Lamar State College-Port Arthur. Mawein is averaging 13.1 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 50.0% from the field, including 13-of-38 from 3 for 34.2%, and 71.2% from the free throw line.