Analysis: Musselman finds system fits in 2024 commitment duo of Top 50-ranked Isaiah Elohim, Jalen Shelley

By Kevin McPherson
on 2023-10-05 12:48 PM

By Kevin McPherson

LITTLE ROCK — It very well could be that Head Hog Eric Musselman and his Arkansas men’s basketball program sticks to a two-player 2024 high school signing class as a repeat of what transpired in last year’s 2023 class.

If it does play out the same, the Hoop Hogs have their duo thanks to Thursday’s commitment announcement of 2024 Isaiah Elohim (6-5 wing, Sierra Canyon in California, Rivals national No. 32 / 4-star prospect), who joins recent 2024 Arkansas pledge Jalen Shelley (6-8 combo forward, Link Academy, ESPN national No. 43 / 4-star prospect).

Elohim (big, sturdy wing) and Shelley (long, active 3/4-combo) fit smack dab in the wheelhouse of the kind of versatile players that Musselam has coveted, signed, and developed over the years at Arkansas.

For a variety of reasons, it’s not difficult to visualize these two Hog pledges fitting in together on the court at the high major level, whether in conventional or unconventional lineups.

“I’m excited,” Shelley told Hogville on Thursday after learning that Elohim had joined him as a committed Hog. “I’m looking forward to winning games with him.”

A Kingston, New York, native who moved to the west coast in California when he was 8-years-old, Elohim is a strong, physical guard who plays with power and skill as a slasher going left or right with craft in his mid-range shot creation game plus three-point range in catch-and-shoot opportunities.

He averaged 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game for Sierra Canyon in 2022-23, which was his second season with the well known national independent high school. He played his 2023 spring and summer grassroots basketball with 17U Paul George Elite on the Nike EYBL circuit, during which Arkansas coaches were able to watch him compete.

Elohim averaged 19.3 points (on 56.0% field goal shooting), 5.4 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in ’20-21 as a high school freshman at Northridge (Calif.) Heritage Christian. He moved on to Sierra Canyon for his sophomore season in ’21-22.

Shelley was effective as a primary ball-handler and initiator on offense while playing at Prestonwood Christian Academy in ’22-23, but he recently said he’ll transition to more of a 3/4-combo forward in his senior season at Link Academy, which is a role more suited to how he projects moving on to the high-major college level. His length, agility, quickness, and competitive instincts make him an intriguing jack-of-many-trades prospect.

Shelley was a multi-sport athlete, and he has said his cross-training between football and basketball helped enhance his game on the hardwood.

Position versatility, sometimes referred to as positionless basketball, is an apt descriptor for both.

Elohim is plug-and-play at either the 2 or 3 spots with the frame to deal with bigger wings and to bully-ball many shooting guards. Shelley is on track to be a multiple-position defender at the next level as he’ll be tasked with matching up with wings and forwards while being agile and quick enough to take on lead guards and shooting guards.

When scanning the Razorbacks’ current roster, some of the younger players — wing Joseph Pinion, guard Layden Blocker, center Baye Fall, and guard Keyon Menifield, Jr. — appear to be the most
likely candidates to stick around for ’24-25 when Elohim and Shelley will be true freshman.

Assuming those four return joined by Elohim and Shelley, there’s a good balance in that mix of six with no bottleneck at any specific position or skill set.

And considering the players that have earned major roles and/or thrived the most under Musselman at Arkansas, it’s a list mostly made up of guards in the 6-5/6-6 range (Mason Jones, Isaiah Joe, Moses Moody, Jalen Tate, Stanley Umude, Au’Diese Toney, Anthony Black, and Nick Smith, Jr.) and a decent share of ‘tweener-sized combo forwards (i.e. Justin Smith, Trey Wade, and Jordan Walsh with Umude and Toney also being comparable here based on how they were often used in the ’21-22 team’s small-ball lineups).

Linked here is Elohim’s Arkansas commitment article:

Linked here is Shelley’s Arkansas commitment article:

(Last updated: 2023-10-05 12:48 PM)