UA recruiting notebook: Another Top 50 in ’21 has Hogs among finalists, more

Local Sports

By Kevin McPherson

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Razorbacks find themselves on another Top 10 list for a prized 2021 recruit as high-flying Alex Fudge on Friday announced the frontrunners for his services.

Fudge (6-8, 180, combo forward, Jacksonville, Fla., composite national No. 45 / 4-star prospect) has the Hogs on his list that includes LSU, Florida, Texas A&M, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Southern Cal, Georgia Tech, and Central Florida.

Fudge — 60% of his list is comprised of SEC teams — likes the effort that second-year Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman and his staff have put forth in recruiting him.

“They do a great job of keeping in touch with me, coach [Corey] Williams, coach [Eric] Musselman,” Fudge told Jacob Polacheck of Zagsblog.com. “They call, make sure that I’m good, make sure that they’re still in the picture. Recruitment-wise, they’re doing their job. They’re doing what they’re supposed to. I feel like my development could take off of over there.”

Arkansas offered Fudge a scholarship in late May, which was around the time Musselman and his staff began hosting the first of several virtual meetings with the talented Floridian.

Fudge is lean and long (he has plus-wingspan) with a quick, explosive first step that combined with his elite bounce makes him one of the best slashers and above-the-rim, open-court finishers in the nation. Fudge’s perimeter shooting is emerging as he employs simple catch-and-shoot and one-dribble-and-shoot craft. He’s also a reliable rim-protector because he tracks the ball instinctively and closes quickly from out of his area. His versatility and potential defensively is likely what has Musselman excited about his upside at the high-major level.

After signing the nation’s 5th-ranked high school class in 2020 according to ESPN, Musselman in August won the pledges of two highly regarded 2021 prospects — Chance Moore (6-5 wing / small forward, McEachern School in Georgia, ESPN national No. 44 / 4-star prospect) and Akol Mawein (6-9 combo forward, Australian playing junior college at Navarro College in Texas, national No. 3 juco prospect according to 247Sports.com).

The Razorbacks remain in the hunt for several more Top 100 recruits in the 2021 class, including Trey Alexander (6-4 combo guard, Heritage Hall in Oklahoma), Johnathan Lawson (6-6 combo guard, Memphis Wooddale), and Kaleb Washington (6-7 small forward / wing, Mableton, Ga.) 

As Arkansas’ scholarship numbers stand now, the Hogs will have a minimum of four available spots following the 2020-21 season. Moore and Mawein both plan to sign during the mid-November early period, and if they do that will leave two more vacancies to fill.

Graphic by Tipton Edits

* Speaking of Akol Mawein: The Aussie who spent his junior and senior seasons of high school playing in Little Rock at Southwest Christian Academy before landing at Navarro College juco in Texas has always had his loyalty pinned to David Patrick, and when the latter left his head coaching gig at California-Riverside on July 1 to join Musselman at Arkansas it took only a week for Mawein to withdraw his commitment from Riverside before ultimately pledging to the Hogs in August (our Hogville.net commitment story with highlights is linked here … https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=717008.0).

On Wednesday, Pig Trail Nation caught up with Mawein (6-9 combo forward, juco national No. 3 prospect according to 247Sports) for an insightful Zoom interview (see below), during which he discussed his relationships with Patrick and Musselman, his recall of playing with and against current Hogs freshmen Davonte Davis and Jaylin Williams when he lived in Arkansas, his self-evaluation regarding what he brings to the floor, the key to his significant leap in production (17.8 points and just under 39% shooting from 3) in the last 15 games of his freshman season at Navarro, and his timeframe for signing his letter of intent with the Hogs.

* Top 50 for trio of Hog offers: 2022 in-state Arkansas targets Nick Smith, Jr.Derrian Ford, and Kel’el Ware are now ranked in the national Top 50 after Rivals.com updated its prospect rankings on Thursday.

Smith (6-4 combo guard, Sylvan Hills) moved up 16 spots to No. 29 (a 4-star prospect) as he moves closer to 5-star status. Smith had a big August performing at various grassroots hoops events, and he recently (but prior to Rivals’ update) weighed in with his self-assessment.

“I feel like I showed that I’m a Top 20 guy in the country, hands down,” Smith said in early September. “Met up with some Top 20 guys and proved to all of them I belong.”

Ford (6-4 combo guard, Magnolia) was slotted at No. 38 (a 4-str prospect). He had a busy week taking part in virtual meetings with the entire coaching staffs at Ole Miss and Florida.

Ware (6-11 forward / center, North Little Rock) shot up 21 spots to No. 42 (a 4-star prospect). Last weekend, Ware averaged a double-double (15.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks) in three games while playing in a grassroots event in Little Rock.

* Another high-major program pursuing Little Rock sophomore: 2023 Arkansas offer Bryson Warren (6-2 combo guard, Little Rock Central) picked up a scholarship offer from Georgetown on Thursday, bringing the number of his high-major offers to 7: the Hogs, Hoyas, Auburn, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, and Oklahoma State. In four games last weekend playing up on the 17U level at a grassroots event in Little Rock, Warren averaged 17.0 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.3 rebounds.

* Virtual visits: As the coronavirus pandemic continues to riddle college sports with daunting challenges, the NCAA Division 1 Council on Wednesday met and voted to extend the current recruiting dead period to Jan. 1, 2021, which means a continued prohibition of on- and off-campus visits. The ongoing NCAA-mandated dead period began in March. Arkansas and most other college programs have utilized virtual tours, Zoom meetings, and Facetime calls in lieu of on-location recruiting visits.

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