Hoop Hogs notebook: Muss weighs in on Hoop Hogs’ success in NBA Draft, early limited practices, SEC scheduling

By Kevin McPherson
on 2023-06-27 20:59 PM

By Kevin McPherson

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Eric Musselman held his first 2023-24 pre-season zoom press conference on Monday and covered a lot of ground, including his takes on the program’s historic showing in last week’s 2023 NBA Draft, SEC scheduling, and his team’s early limited practices.

Musselman’s Razorbacks had three players selected in last week’s NBA Draft and a fourth player sign an undrafted rookie free agent two-way contract (you can check out all of Hogville’s unprecedented and unmatched in-depth pre-, during-, and post-draft coverage here: https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=756383.0).

The last time Arkansas had at least three players drafted in the same draft was in the 1992 NBA Draft. Hoop Hog one-and-dones Anthony Black, Nick Smith, Jr., and Jordan Walsh were all selected among the first 38 picks of the 2023 draft last Thursday, with Black going No. 6 overall to the Orlando Magic as a first-round lottery pick, Smith going No. 27 overall to the Charlotte Hornets in the first round, and Walsh going No. 38 overall to the Boston Celtics (via trade from Sacramento) in the second round.

It was the first time since that 1992 draft that the Razorbacks had at least two players drafted in the first round of the same draft. Junior guard Rick Council IV went undrafted but signed a two-way contract with the Philadelphia 76ers that will allow him to split time playing in the NBA and NBA G-League as a rookie in ’23-24.

“It’s great for a program when one player gets drafted, let alone when you have a lottery pick, a first-round pick and then an early second-round pick,” Musselman said. “Then you add in the fact that all three were one-and-dones. All three players, a freshman season here. A great day for everybody. (Arkansas assistant coach Keith) Smart got the opportunity to be in Dallas with the Walshes. And then obviously my family and a bunch of support staff people were able to be in New York and Brooklyn with Nick and Anthony. So just a phenomenal day. And then really, really happy that Ricky Council got his two-way immediately after the draft. It showed the commitment by Philly and the excitement that the Sixers have in Ricky.

“Close to a historic day. But certainly one that was historic for this year’s draft, because we had the most players selected in the draft. For all three of those guys to be freshmen really makes it special.”

Musselman envisions another one of his players getting a 2024 NBA Draft green room invite (signifies a first-round draft projection) down the road after first-round picks Black and Smith were sitting in the 2023 draft green room when they heard their names called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

“I hope we have another player sitting in the green room next year, and I don’t have any doubt that we will,” Musselman said.

Regarding the NBA feedback and ongoing development of junior guard Davonte “Devo” Davis – he initially declared for the draft before withdrawing on May 31 to return to school — Musselman said he believes his star guard is on track for future NBA consideration.

“I think it’s really important for us that we, even our guys that leave, we called at least two people from every organization that a player works out with and then if our guys don’t work out with somebody, it’s certainly important for us to take notes and develop a little book for our guys,” Musselman said. “Devo’s situation, I think he’s trending in the right direction. You look at his three-point shooting last year, his percentage, he’s made drastic, drastic improvements from 3. Came in as an elite dribble-driver and has now evolved into one of the best 3-point percentage shooters and volume 3-point shooters in our league. So I think there’s been incredible growth with Devo in an area that is important for him at the next level.

“I think everybody understands that Davonte’s as good of a defender as there is in college basketball, rebounds his position, has got great versatility, has played anywhere from the 1 to the 4 for us. So, certainly I think that area of 3-point shooting, he addressed it last year and now the key will be to have consistency and try to improve on some really, really good numbers from 3 that he had last year.”

* Early limited practice updates: Musselman hit on a few of the finer points with the Hogs having gone through the first few weeks of limited practices.

– On the team’s mile-run testing, Musselman said: “I can tell you conditioning-wise, best team I’ve had in eight years of coaching college basketball. Now again, we do the mile times for a reason. One, to find out where we are with conditioning. It’s a mental toughness test as well. Everybody passed within the first or second run. That has not been the case in the past. We got one player that still has to pass, but he’s had a slight groin/hamstring thing, and we don’t want to rush that. I’ve never had a team do it in two tries and every single guy pass. Great from a conditioning standpoint.”

– Regarding on-court instruction, Musselman said: “We’ve added a tremendous amount of things from an offensive standpoint. We’re running some of the things that the Milwaukee Bucks ran two years ago, their five-out spread offense. We’re a veteran team that has a very mature approach to practice and the individual skill work. I have no idea how the season is going to unfold, but it’s a group that is very mature and really comes in with a mindset to try to get better. We’ve had great practices, we really have. And they’ve had great skill work, as well.”

– On progress of sophomore stretch-4 Trevon Brazile, Musselman said: “If he would have stayed healthy, I think he would have been in the green room, to be honest with you. It was a devastating injury for him and our team. Certainly, he’s got an incredible future ahead of him. Rehab is going great. I don’t like to use the term ‘way ahead of schedule’ because with us, the schedule is going to stay the same no matter what. The strength, the testing, he’s in a great spot, but we’re not going to rush him back. We’re going to get him ready to play in November, and that’s all we’re focused on. But I will tell you, he did run the mile with our team, and he beat some guys. He made his time the very first time he ran the mile. I think if a head coach is telling you that he ran the mile and beat some players and made his time the first time, that’s a really good sign.”

* Hoop Hogs learn their 2023-24 SEC opponents and game sites: The SEC on Monday released each league team’s slate of 18-game conference opponents and game sites. The three items that stood out most for Arkansas was a home-and-away series against Kentucky for a second-consecutive season; a home game without a return road game vs. Tennessee, which marks a first since ’17-18; and a road game vs. Alabama, which will mark the fifth straight season that Arkansas will have played at ‘Bama with only two home games in the same span (you can read all about the Hogs’ SEC foes and playing sites, plus what we know about their ’23-24 non-conference opponents, here: https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=756493.0).

“I think it’s good,” Musselman said of the Hogs playing Kentucky twice for the second campaign in a row. “Both programs have incredible respect for each other. (Kentucky head coach John) Calipari is someone I think everyone in the coaching profession has incredible respect for. He’s always got talented, talented teams. Teams that have NBA draft picks on them. And when you go play at Kentucky there’s a special feel to it without a doubt. When Kentucky plays home games, it’s a big game for every home crowd wherever they travel. I think it’s good we are playing them twice.

“When the schedule came out — we got it a couple days ago and kept it internal with our family — my wife is extremely excited to go to Georgia because that is where she’s from and where her sister went to school and we have not gone there very much. It’s different than the NBA and G League where it’s pretty balanced. I think I’ve been to Alabama every year that I’ve been here and I think they’ve only been here twice. So, I know it’s not a balanced schedule. I think another first for me is getting these schedules that are kind of random the way they happen.”

* Razorbacks recruiting:

– Within the span of a week, Arkansas could have two transfer-portal additions announced as part of the 2023-24 roster. The first part of that equation was the Friday, June 23, commitment of Memphis-grad Chandler Lawson (you can read all about that here:  https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=754852.0). The Hogs could add another commitment in the next few days.

– Arkansas recently extender a scholarship offer to 2025 5-star prospect Trey McKenney (6-4 guard, Flint, Mich., composite national No. 14 / 5-star prospect), who announced his Hog offer via social media on Saturday, June 24.

– 2024 Hog target K. Annor Boateng (6-5 wing, Little Rock Central, 17U Arkansas Hawks) just wrapped up a stellar all-tournament performance in the Adidas Euro Camp in Treviso, Italy, and on Monday he departed for Orlando, Fla., to take part in the prestigious NBPA Top 100 Camp.

“The Adidas EuroCamp was a great experience,” Boateng told Hogville. “I got to play against some really good and potential NBA players in the future. It was my first time out of the country and i really enjoyed it.

“I was kind of uncomfortable at first but being with the other players made it easier to relax. Left the camp feeling good about myself as well as feeling like I improved, too.”

(Last updated: 2023-06-27 20:59 PM)