LITTLE ROCK — Someone once proudly made the claim “California knows how to party,” but the notion that a west coast contingency would bring their good vibes east to Fayetteville seemed more like wishful thinking than reality. That is, until Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Eric Musselman and his staff made it so by bringing three prized California high school recruits onto campus in the final full week of June.
The California love started late Monday night when the highest rated prospect to visit Arkansas in years — Kijani Wright (6-9, 230, forward / center, Windward School in Los Angeles, national No. 8 / 5-star prospect according to 247Sports.com) — arrived in Fayetteville to begin his official visit.
Then it was Ramel Lloyd, Jr. (6-6 combo guard, Sierra Canyon in Calif., composite national No. 67 / 4-star prospect) who made it to campus on Tuesday night to join the left-coast-themed visit festivities. A third official visitor arrived around noon on Thursday, Jordan Walsh (6-7 small forward / wing, composite national No. 58 / 4-star prospect), is technically a DeSoto, Texas, native but will play his upcoming season at Southern California Academy in Castaic, Calif.
Wright — he has Arkansas in his final 7 schools that includes Southern Cal, Stanford, Texas, Kansas, Florida State, and Michigan State — wrapped up his OV after having his photo shoot with Musselman on Wednesday afternoon, and he said he came away believing he would fit in as a Hog.
“I think after visiting Arkansas my perception of them has changed for the better,” said Wright, who was accompanied on his visit by his mother as well as his godfather and 16U Compton Magic coach Doug Joseph. “I didn’t know if I would like the idea of going to school where it isn’t a city like L.A. Coach Muss, the rest of the staff, and the players made me think differently and so now I could see myself going to Arkansas.”
Wright has already taken official visits to USC and Texas, and he plans to take two more OVs — to Kansas and Stanford, although dates remain undetermined — before making his decision.
“It (a commitment) will be prior to the start of my senior season,” Wright said.
Wright reportedly has considered forgoing college for professional basketball opportunities, including the NBA G-League and the Overtime Elite league, but a source said at this stage he’s most likely to go to college as a projected NBA Draft lottery pick a year later.
Wright attended two Arkansas practices inside the basketball performance center during his visit (Tuesday and Wednesday), and his godfather — the aforementioned Doug Joseph — shared a couple of takeaways that stood out to him while watching practice.
“The organization, the efficiency,” Joseph said.
Wright is big, strong, and sturdy, but he’s not stiff and has soft hands. He can play facing up on the perimeter with shooting range out to the three-point line, or in the paint with his back to the basket as he displays a variety of decisive moves capped off by soft-touch finishes. He’s a solid rebounder and rim-protector as well, displaying agility, good footwork, and good instincts around the basket.
He played for Team USA in the 2019 FIBA U16 Americas Championships, averaging 4.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 16.8 minutes in the 6 games.
If Arkansas were to eventually gain a commitment and sign Wright, it wouldn’t be the first time the Razorbacks landed a 5-star caliber big man from California. In the 1993 recruiting class under Naismith Hall of Fame head coach Nolan Richardson, the Hogs convinced McDonald’s All American and The Sporting News’ national No. 1 prospect Darnell Robinson (6-10 forward / center, Oakland, Calif.) to join the program. Robinson would help the Hogs advance to two national title games (includes Arkansas winning the 1993-94 national championship when he was a freshman) followed by a Sweet 16 appearance in his final college season as a junior (’95-96).
Joining Wright at Arkansas practice on Wednesday was Lloyd, who recently visited Oregon, Georgetown, and Nebraska and has expressed intentions to announce his college commitment on Sunday, June 27.
Lloyd didn’t mince words when talking about his early impressions from his visit.
“Great, love it here,” he said. “Practice was great, system fits my game very well. Could see myself thriving in it for sure.”
Lloyd was also impressed with Arkansas’s coaches while expressing a desire to return to Fayetteville.
“Love the staff and the atmosphere,” Lloyd said. “Hoping to come to a game during season.”
After initially including Arkansas in his Top 8 schools, Lloyd announced in late April that he was re-opening his recruitment and eliminating his “cut list of 8 schools.” However, at the time he told Hogville.net that Arkansas remained among his top choices and would get an official visit.
Lloyd is also a California native and played his first season at renowned independent school Sierra Canyon as a junior in ’20-21. A big, versatile guard, Lloyd has true three-level scoring ability.
Walsh will be playing his first season at Southern California Academy as a senior in ’21-22, but he told Hogville.net that he’s “played before” in California. Regardless, he’s proud of being a Texan.
“I was born and raised in Texas,” he said. “Texas is still home.”
Coming off an impressive showing at Pangos All American camp earlier in June, Walsh took his first official visit to TCU. His OV to Arkansas was his second stop with upcoming visits also planned to Oklahoma, Auburn, and Georgia.
His flight into Northwest Arkansas touched down around noon on Thursday, and tough he was wide open in terms of what he would be looking forward to most he ended up impressed with the coaching staff.
“Everything to be honest, meeting the coaches” Walsh said before his visit, then mid-visit he added, “I like it a lot. The coaches are NBA and everything they do is NBA. The energy is crazy.”
Walsh, who listed Arkansas among his Top 10 schools in recent months, is reasonably close to announcing his college choice.
“End of the summer,” he said of his timeframe for making a commitment.
Walsh has plus-arm-length, he’s bouncy and explosive, and he’s a skilled shooter from distance whose game screams 3-and-D potential down the road as a professional.