The more we see and hear from Arkansas head basketball coach Eric Musselman, the more he impresses.
Musselman wisely used the first couple of days of the mandated NCAA recruiting dead period to make the rounds with the state media, appearing on radio talks shows and sitting for interviews with print and television reporters. In doing so, he’s forging relationships not only with the media but more importantly with Razorback fans who only get to know him from print, radio, and television interviews. Musselman gets it, and Hog fans are starving for good news about the hoops program.
When Arkansas hired Musselman, it wanted something new and different in terms of energy and thinking, and Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek certainly found that with Musselman, who believes in sound practices but isn’t strapped to the tried and true in terms of his style of play or recruiting strategy.
When the former Nevada coach’s name first blipped up on the radar of fans, one thing that jumped out was that he relied on transfers to fuel the building process with the Wolf Pack program. Some wondered if he do that at Arkansas and whether it would work for the Razorbacks?
The answers to those questions so far is absolutely, and we’ll have to wait and see.
Musselman has added three transfers to Arkansas’ program since taking over the job in early April in graduate transfers Jeantal Cylla, a 6-7 forward from North Carolina-Wilmington, and Isaiah Moss, a 6-5 guard from Iowa, and Connor Vanover, a 7-3 center from California.
Cylla and Moss are taking advantage of the NCAA graduate transfer rule that allows graduates a fifth year of eligibility at a different school. They are immediately eligible for one season with the Razorbacks.
Vanover, who grew up in Little Rock before playing his senior year of basketball at prep school in Las Vegas, is a more traditional transfer, who has three years of eligibility. However, unless he receives a waiver from the NCAA, he will have to redshirt one year before he will be able to play.
Jeantal Cylla / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com
Again Musselman’s embracement of transfers has some Hog fans a bit concerned. In the past, some have viewed transfers as taking on other program’s problems or a quick fix that ultimately leaves a program bankrupt.
No doubt if we thought hard enough we could come up with some examples that fit that scenario, but when changes begin to happen in the game, like the graduate transfer rule and the willingness of talented players to exit programs for a possible better fit elsewhere, smart coaches who aren’t opposed to embracing change use the rules and trends to their benefit.
Musselman or for that matter Texas Tech coach Chris Beard using transfers to bolster or even improve their roster on a yearly basis is no different than Kentucky coach John Calipari taking advantage of the one-and-done rule. It’s smart if a coach can make it work for him, and Musselman has shown he can at Nevada.
As he explained when he first arrived and reiterated in his recent round of interviews, taking a proven transfer adds more value and provides less risk than taking a chance on a high school player, who doesn’t project to be high-level college talent.
In other words, a coach can watch film of potential transfer playing against Division I talent and see exactly what he would be getting. With a high school senior, particularly one on the margins, a coach doesn’t know how he will develop and how long it will take. A graduate transfer brings a level of experience to a program that a freshman just can’t match.
Isaiah Moss / Photo: @imoss38
The right transfer in the right situation adds instant value.
Of course, if Arkansas fans will think about it, they already know this from experience. Some of the best players in Razorback history transferred in from a junior colleges or other Division I programs since the Eddie Sutton era and past.
Every Razorback Final Four team of the modern era had transfers that played key roles whether it was Ron Brewer on the 1978 team, Lenzie Howell on the 1990 squad or Corey Beck, Dwight Stewart, Roger Crawford and Al Dillard on the 1994 team, and Stewart and Beck again in 1995.
What would Razorback basketball be without transfers like Darrell Walker, Alvin Robertson, Joe Kleine, Tim Scott, Keith Wilson, Isaiah “Butch” Morris, Nick Davis and from more recent days Jabril Durham, Dusty Hannahs, Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford?
The Razorbacks’ best basketball coaches and teams have relied on transfers to solidify their squads dating back to the mid 1970s.
Connor Vanover / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com
Now, if Musselman were only recruiting transfers that might be a worry, but as he explained, his plan is to recruit top high school talent, and then supplement it with transfers that fit his Pace and Space system.
Within two days of being on the job, Musselman extended offers to freshmen Moses Moody, a 6-5 guard from Little Rock who is playing at Monteverde Academy in Fla.; Chris Moore, a 6-7 power forward from West Memphis; Jailyn Williams, a 6-10 center from Fort Smith Northside; Kyree Walker, a 6-5 wing from Hillcrest Hoops Phoenix, Ariz.; and Dalen Terry, a 6-6 guard from from Hillcrest Hoops Phoenix, Ariz. for the 2019-2020 signing period. So Musselman’s not ignoring high school seniors.
With the best high school talent for 2019 season already signed last November, it only made sense for Musselman to fill those spots with transfers.
As a Hog fan, I’m glad our new coach is wisely using the current rules to garner the best value out of his recruiting efforts.