LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman just reeled in a versatile guard in Northern Kentucky grad-transfer Jalen Tate, whose Friday commitment to the Razorbacks gives Musselman his second college transfer for the 2020 class and seventh overall since taking over the Hogs’ basketball program just over a year ago.
“I will be committing to the University of Arkansas!” Tate said in a Twitter release on Friday. “Let’s go Hogs! Proud to be a part of the family!”
In an interview with Hogville.net later Friday, Tate was excited about his new oppotunity at Arkansas.
“The coaching staff did a great job recruiting me,” Tate said. “They gave me a great understanding about the system and what they plan on doing next year, exactly what the team goals are. There’s a great group of guys coming back next year. You’ve got a few grad-transfers in one of the best recruiting classes, so I’m definitely excited about that.
“As far as the development piece, just playing in the best league in the country, you know going out competing at the highest level every single night and just giving my all for this great fanbase.”
Tate (6-6, 170, native of Pickerington, Ohio) chose Arkansas over his homestate schools in Cincinnati and Ohio State, as well as Gonzaga, Kansas State, Georgetown, Ohio, and Central Florida. He has one season of immediate playing eligibility in ’20-21.
Ranked No. 11 on college basketball analyst Jeff Goodman’s list of top grad-transfers, Tate joins recent Hog commit and New Mexico grad-transfer Vance Jackson (6-9 combo forward, native of Pasadena, Calif., ranked No. 19 on Goodman’s top grad-transfer list) to form the college-transfer portion of Musselman’s six-player 2020 recruiting class that is currently ranked No. 7 in the nation.
Tate started 20 of 22 games in 2019-20 and averaged 13.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.9 steals in 30.2 minutes while shooting 48.5% from the field (including 18.2% from 3) and 67.6% from the free thow line.
He did not play when Northern Kentucky lost at Arkansas, 66-60, on Nov. 30, as he missed a few games early in the season with a left hand injury.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Tate said of being on the NKU bench “You usually don’t see a crowd like that for a game versus a mid-major at home early in the season in November. Definitely that was memorable, and just the facilities as a whole. The history behind the school, I actually just found out that (BWA) is one of the Top 10 hardest places to play in the country.
“I definitely kept an eye out (on the Razorbacks) after we played there, was able to catch a couple of (UA) games — I love watching college basketball — and saw them a few times, so I remembered back to that when Coach Muss reached out to me.”
Tate is in the same boat with all prospects who are unable to take on-campus visits in person due to the current NCAA-imposed recruiting dead period in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but he said his online virtual tour of Arkansas “was amazing.”
Tate joins a backcourt that is a mix of two veteran Hogs (juniors Isaiah Joe and Desi Sills), a junior newcomer to the Hogs (J.D. Notae who sat out ’19-20 after transferring from Jacksonville), and three incoming freshmen (Moses Moody, Davonte Davis, and Khalen “KK” Robinson).
Tate’s height and length combined with his ability to post-up (mid- and low-post) and slash to the basket while making plays for himself and others allows him to play multiple positions and will help fill the void left by departing Hog guards Mason Jones and Jimmy Whitt, Jr., a duo that provided the bulk of Arkansas’s interior offense in ’19-20.
A two-time selection to the Horizon League All Defensive Team, Tate should help pick up where Whitt left off as a plus-defender in the Hogs’ backcourt, and as an overall fit on the roster his unselfishness sets up for a complementary role when on the floor while providing valuable mentorship to the Hogs’ talented young guards.
“A ton of versatility, being able to come off pick-and-rolls, and I think Coach Muss has a great system in place where it’s a lot of action to get guys in space,” Tate said of his fit in Musselman’s system. “Obviously playing in space and having a coach who will be able to utilize me in a number of different ways was important. Me being surrounded by the shooters we have — Vance Jackson, the 5-man who transferred in last year (Connor Vanover), Isaiah Joe if he comes back, and some of the younger guys they’ve got coming in. I think we’ve got a lot of talent coming in.
With the additions of Tate and Jackson, and based on current roster numbers and the expectation that three committed high school pledges will sign in the spring period as planned, Musselman and the Hogs are maxed out at 13 scholarships filled for the ’20-21 season.