By Otis Kirk
Many felt when Eric Musselman was hired away from Nevada he would need to stop recruiting transfers instead relying on the high school ranks.
The truth is Musselman will use the high school ranks much more at Arkansas than he did at Nevada. There’s probably more prospects in the Class of 2020 inside Arkansas than Musselman had to choose from in four years at Nevada. He was asked about recruiting more from the high school ranks at his introductory press conference on Monday.
“I think so without a doubt.” Musselman said. “There hasn’t been a high school player within driving distance where I was at my prior stop that we recruited heavily except for a couple of guys that we did get. For sure at Nevada transfers have been a big part of our success there, but people don’t talk enough about the freshmen that we did bring in, Lindsey Drew and Cameron Oliver, in our first recruiting class really what started the foundation. Two incoming freshmen that were Pac 12 commits that came and played for us.
“Then last year we got a McDonald’s All-American in Jordan Brown. Nevada had not had a McDonald’s All-American. He was the first five-star on campus other than a local player Luke Babbitt several years before. We feel like, I haven’t been a head coach in college for 20 years, but to have a McDonald’s All-American and two Pac 12 commits, you know, we did recruit to high school. And we certainly feel that this state has an incredible amount of talent. Some excellent coaches in this state. We look forward to recruiting this state as heavily as we possibly can.”
The truth is the graduate transfer rule has changed recruiting in not just basketball, but football as well. While schools such as Kentucky and Duke rely on the one-and-done prospects in basketball, the graduate transfer offers some of the same similarities for a school such as Arkansas. Even Kentucky’s John Calipari is using the graduate transfer possibilities some.
Texas Tech’s Chris Beard added some talented transfers to his team prior to this past season and it helped carry them to the NCAA Championship Game. When a school adds a transfer most of the time they know exactly what they are getting. Someone who has proven in 2-3 years in college what he can do at that level.
Mike Neighbors has added transfers from Oklahoma, Florida State and TCU since taking over from Jimmy Dykes. In just his second season Neighbors had the Razorbacks on the verge of making the NCAA Tournament. Chelsea Dungee came over from Oklahoma and was his best player this season.
Chad Morris has signed two graduate transfers to play quarterback for his 2019 squad and is still searching for a linebacker and possibly defensive back as well. He has added a running back from Arizona State, a kicker from Texas-San Antonio and could be adding a big-time lineman as regular transfers who have to sit out a year.
So while Musselman needs to recruits the high schools hard he also needs to continue to look for transfers who can complement what is already in place. That is how it is done now. The graduate transfer has changed college sports and those who take advantage of the rule will likely get rewarded.