By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — The ultimate practitioner of the transfer portal is at it again, and this time Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman is looking a year ahead at what presumably will be his third season in Fayetteville in 2021-22.
Musselman’s coaching staff has reached out to Yale junior and ’19-20 Ivy League Co-Player of the Year Paul Atkinson, Jr., according to his father, Paul Atkinson, Sr.
“Yes, he has,” Atkinson, Sr., confirmed on Tuesday when asked if his son had heard from Hog coaches. “He is graduating from Yale in May and will be a grad transfer in the 2021-22 season.”
Atkinson, Jr., will have immediate playing eligibility in ’21-22 at whichever school he chooses. The ’20-21 Ivy League basketball season remains in doubt as Harvard is reportedly likely to not participate due to the coronavirus pandemic with other Ivy League schools rumored to be ready to follow suit.
ESPN’s Jeff Borzello on Tuesday evening was the first to report a list of schools that have already contacted Atkinson, Jr., a throng of programs that includes Arkansas as well as Duke, Miami, Florida, USC, Stanford, Notre Dame, Gonzaga, Maryland, Texas, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Wake Forest, Cincinnati, and Georgia.
As a junior in ’19-20, Atkinson, Jr., started 28 of 30 games and averaged 17.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.2 steals in 31.8 minutes while shooting a sizzling 63.0% from the field (206-of-327 field goals), including 30.8% from 3 (4-of-13), and 67.1% from the free throw line (112-of-167) on a Yale team that finished 23-7 overall and 11-3 in conference play that was good for first place in the Ivy League.
Last season, Atkinson, Jr., scored 20 or more points 12 times and recorded 7 double-doubles in points and rebounds. He had 14 points and 10 rebounds in a 64-57 loss at Oklahoma State on Nov. 17, and he had 12 points and 8 rebounds in a 58-56 loss at Penn State on Nov. 23.
Yale was playing in the Ivy League postseason tournament in early March when its semifinals matchup against Penn was canceled due to the pandemic.
Atkinson, Jr., started in 59 of 91 games played spanning his three years at Yale, racking up career totals of 1,090 points, 512 rebounds, and 106 assists. He made 412 of his 638 field goal attempts for a career shooting percentage of 64.6%.
Musselman has signed 8 college transfers in approximately 18 months on the job at Arkansas, or 9 if counting walk-on grad-transfer Brandon Kimble. And there’s a 10th as Musselman also has a pledge from Little Rock Trojans junior-transfer Kamani Johnson (6-7 forward, Brooklyn native), who committed to the Hogs last week (Tuesday, Oct. 13) and will transfer to Arkansas at the end of the current fall semester with eligibility to play with the Razorbacks beginning in the ’20-21 season.
In addition to Johnson, Arkansas has two more commitments for the 2021 class in high school senior Chance Moore (6-5 wing, McEachern School in Georgia, ESPN national No. 44 / 4-star prospect) and junior college sophomore Akol Mawein (6-9 combo forward, Navarro College in Texas, national No. 3 juco prospect according to 247Sports.com).
Atkinson has a traditional low-post game with a variety of moves (including an effective drop-step and up-and-under pivot moves) to get to a high-percentage shot, and facing up away from the basket he’s a good enough ball-handler going either left or right to get to the cup. Footwork and finishing ability with either hand are attributes.