Rebuilding once was an ugly word for college basketball programs. It’s what first-year coaches did or what programs were forced to do after a large senior class exited, perhaps along with an early NBA entry.
Rebuilding was something neither coaches nor fans enjoyed. It was to be avoided, like Covid-19.
With the transfer portal and the graduate-transfer rule in play that’s an antiquated way of thinking about the churn that happens every spring in college basketball.
College athletics aren’t static. It evolves, and the coaches who don’t shift with the sport get left behind.
Few coaches understand this evolution in the college game as well as Arkansas coach Eric Musselman or use it to their advantage like he does.
Musselman doesn’t just use the transfer portal, he embraces it as way of improving his team’s chances for success on a yearly basis.
What Musselman and other coaches like newly hired Texas coach Chris Beard glammed onto before many of their cohorts is that high-level transfers who have already performed well at the college level are safer bets to build and supplement your program with than mid-level freshmen recruits.
Why take a risk on an unproven and possibly immature commodity, when there is a proven one available?
Basically, the idea is if a high-school recruit isn’t a high-level performer — a four- or five-star type recruit based on the coach’s judgement — then it’s better to seek out a proven performer in the transfer portal who has shown what he can do at the college level than to offer a scholarship to a what amounts to a project.
Photo by Madisen Martinez / GoYotes.com
The old idea of taking a talent and tearing him down and building him back up like Eddie Sutton once did even with his best players just isn’t workable in today’s game.
A player with NBA potential will be out the door after his freshman or sophomore season before that type of maturation process can truly come to fruition.
Musselman, who is used to molding teams together in fairly quick fashion from his experience in the NBA and its developmental leagues, has proven he can draw out talent from a player who will listen to him, talent greater than what anyone imagined.
Mason Jones, Jimmy Whitt, and Justin Smith were all talented performers before playing for Musselman, but their games not only grew but virtually exploded in just one season under Muss.
He has truly earned the reputation as the graduate-transfer whisperer.
I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing how he works with grad-transfers Au’Diese Toney and Chris Lykes, who are transferring to Arkansas from ACC squads Pittsburgh and Miami respectively.
While writing this story, word broke from UA Sports Information that Muss added two-time All Summit League performer Stanley Umude, who played at South Dakota.
“We are excited to welcome Stanley to the Razorback family,” Musselman said. “He brings great versatility and was extremely well-coached at South Dakota by Todd Lee. He has a lot of experience and has a winning background. We feel the addition of Stanley and Au’Diese (Toney) on the wings will give us the ability to play position-less basketball.”
Umude ranked ninth in the nation in scoring (21.6 points), 32nd in free throws made (115) and 38th in defensive rebounds (6.48 average), according to UA SID.
He scored 1,520 points in his career to rank 11th on the Coyotes’ all-time list while pulling down 549 rebounds (24th in USD history) with 183 assists, 91 blocked shots (8th in USD history) and 55 steals.
Umude had a career field-goal percentage of .47 percent, including .34.2 percent from 3-point range, and he shot .748 from the free throw line. Umude recorded 13 career double-doubles, including five in each of the last two years.
Musselman could add another transfer or freshman to next year’s squad,
depending on whether Moses Moody does put his name into the NBA Draft as many expect. Update: Moody declared for the draft Friday afternoon.
So, Hog fans will continue to need a roster at the beginning of each season with Musselman as coach. As we saw this year with the Hogs’ appearance in the Elite Eight, that something to look forward to rather than fear.