LITTLE ROCK — After 14 months of the recruiting dead period which meant no on-campus visitors, Head Hog Eric Musselman and the Arkansas Razorbacks made a big splash early in the week with THE VISIT as they welcomed in the highly regarded in-state trio of Kel’el Ware, Derrian Ford, and Joseph Pinion who converged on Fayetteville at the same time for their first on-campus visits of the spring and summer.
Ware (7-0 forward / center, North Little Rock, national No. 29 / 4-star prospect according to 247Sports.com) and Ford (6-4 combo guard, Magnolia, composite national No. 38 / 4-star prospect) arrived on Tuesday to begin their official visits, then Hog commit Pinion (6-6 wing, Morrilton, national No. 114 / 4-star prospect according to Rivals.com) joined them on Wednesday on an unofficial visit.
Between meetings and meals with coaches, attending practice at the performance center, interacting with current players, touring parts of the campus, and much more, the trio saw firsthand what phone calls and Zoom virtual meetings could not as thoroughly convey spanning the past year.
“Amazing” was the word both Ford and Pinion immediately used to describe their experiences.
“It was amazing,” Ford said during a Wednesday night interview. “I learned a lot about the campus. I also feel that I built an even better relationship with the coaching staff.”
Pinion gave his visit recap Wednesday night as well.
“It was amazing, I enjoyed every second of it,” Pinion said, who pledged to the Hogs months ago.
Ware talked Thursday morning about his takeaways.
“It was a great visit,” Ware said. “They told me how they would use me. They run a lot of 5-out and they could use me in that because I can shoot the 3 and finish at the rim with dunks. I also liked the campus, it was nice.”
Pinion is hopeful both Ware and Ford will join him on the Muss Bus in the near future.
“I’m hoping we have a good chance,” he said. “I think they both enjoyed it. I didn’t even have to give much of a (recruiting) pitch, the coaches did a great job and they saw how successful last year’s team was.”
As for what stood out the most to them, “watching practice” was Ford’s answer, Pinion said it was “how organized everything was,” and Ware said he liked practice because it was “fast-paced, being able to do a lot in the limited time that they have.”
Ford said Musselman specifically talked about the development and impact of last season’s freshmen class.
“He talked about how they developed so much from the beginning of the season to the end,” Ford recalled.
Musselman, his staff, and Hog fans would love to secure another national Top 5 high school recruiting class, which Musselman accomplished in 2020 with four Top 100 in-staters — Moses Moody, Davonte “Devo” Davis, KK Robinson, and Jaylin Williams — forming a rookie quartet that combined to help give Arkansas arguably its greatest freshman-class season in school history in 2020-21 (you can read all the details about that group’s impact on the Razorbacks’ final national Top 10 ranking and NCAA tournament Elite Eight run here in my Hogville.net article published on Monday: https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=730186.0).
A source told Hogville.net on Wednesday that Ford “wants to make a few more visits” to other programs. Ware will do the same and has an official visit to Texas set up later in June. Both Ford and Ware are headed to the prestigious Pangos All American Camp in Las Vegas, which runs Sunday through Tuesday (June 6-8) in Las Vegas.
Another priority 2022 in-state target, Nick Smith, Jr., took an official visit to Alabama this week, and he has upcoming visits to Georgetown, Auburn, and Kansas this summer with an official visit to Arkansas set for Oct. 15-17. Smith also is planning to come up to Arkansas for unofficial visit opportunities prior to October.
As Ware, Ford, and Pinion were wrapping up their visits on Wednesday night, 2022 Hog target Barry Dunning (6-6 small forward / wing, McGill-Toolen in Mobile, Ala., composite national No. 43 / 4-star prospect) arrived on campus for his OV, and a source has since told Hogville.net that Dunning’s visit is already going well and that he would be a good fit in the basketball culture at Arkansas.
The Hogs will also welcome in 2023 Layden Blocker (6-2 point guard, Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas, Little Rock native, national No. 57 / 4-star prospect according to 247Sports.com) for an unofficial visit on Saturday (June 5).
“I am just looking forward to see the campus, meet the coaches, and get a feel of the school and basketball program,” Blocker said in a recent interview.
That marks a total of 5 visitors in the first week of June, and Arkansas will be busy with at least 5 more visitors planning to come in from June 22 through July 1 …
* 2022 Ramel Lloyd, Jr. (6-6 combo guard, Sierra Canyon in California, composite national No. 67 / 4-star prospect) will take an official visit to Arkansas on June 22-24.
* 2022 Jordan Walsh (6-7 combo forward, Faith Family Academy in Texas, ESPN national No. 32 / 4-star prospect ) will take an official visit to Arkansas on June 24-26.
* 2022 Kijani Wright (6-9 forward, Windward School in California, composite national No. 11 / 5-star prospect) will take an official visit to Arkansas on June 27-29.
* 2022 Richard “Pop Pop” Isaacs (6-2 point guard, Wasatch Academy in Utah, composite national No. 23 / 4-star prospect) will take a visit to Arkansas on June 30.
* 2022 Zuby Ejiofor (6-9 forward, Garland, Texas, national No. 37 / 4-star prospect) will take an unofficial visit to Arkansas on July 1.