By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman made up ground quickly with his whirlwind recruitment of what turned out to be a Top 5 nationally ranked high school class in 2020, but don’t expect the Razorbacks to repeat that all-out sprint in winning early-period commitments for the class of 2021. At least not in terms of having necessary, meaningful talent evaluation in time to sew up pledges by November, which was how it played out last year.
With no top-shelf, shoe-circuit events or games whatsoever this spring and summer due to the coronavirus pandemic — and that includes elite camps where the best of the best prospects come together for coaches to watch in competitive formats — there have only been sparse examples of grassroots competition throughout the country, and those have been a mix of Division 1, D2, D3, and NAIA-caliber prospects which alone makes recruiting evaluations tougher than ever.
Combine that with the NCAA’s ongoing indefinite recruiting dead period which means no live-eval periods for coaches to watch prospects in person, and all that’s left are awkward attempts to watch and evaluate players via the live-streaming of the aforementioned off-circuit events — a viewing process that is often choppy, glitchy, and grainy.
Point is, recruiting could be a much more deliberate and selective process in 2021 for Arkansas. It’s not the pace that passengers (a.k.a. fans) on the Muss Bus are accustomed to, but it’s just the reality of the situation for now.
And if it’s impacting the recruiting efforts in Fayetteville, it’s likely also affecting coaching staffs at D1 programs across the country.
“We (college coaches) don’t want to make mistakes in the 2021 class,” a source told Hogville.net over the weekend. “Scholarships are too valuable.”
As for the Hogs, Musselman has at least three scholarships coming open for the 2021 class via the departures of three grad-transfers. Roster attrition in college basketball these days goes beyond graduating seniors, so fans can likely expect 2-3 more openings by the spring of 2021 just based on the averages of roster losses in D1 hoops across the country (i.e. player transfers and/or players leaving early for professional opportunities).
Musselman’s highly regarded 2020 class — the foursome of Moses Moody, Khalen “KK” Robinson”, Jaylin Williams, and Davonte “Devo” Davis — was completely onboard as Hog pledges by November 2019 as Davis signed early while the other three committed early before signing in April.
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Trio of 2021 national Top 100 Arkansas targets are still in play: The Hoop Hogs remain thick in the mix for seniors Chance Moore, James White, and Michael James.
Moore (6-5 shooting guard, McEachern School, Powder Springs, Ga., ESPN national No. 44 / 4-star prospect) told Hogville.net on Sunday that he plans to visit Fayetteville with his Dad over the weekend of August 8-9. Well, due to the aforementioned NCAA recruiting dead period indefinitely prohibiting all on- and -off campus visits (that goes for both official and unofficial visits), Moore’s trip to Northwest Arkansas will not equate to a visit in the traditional sense.
“Not a visit,” Moore clarified. “Just going to check out the town.”
Moore picked up his Hog offer in late May, coming roughly a week following his virtual tour with Arkansas coaches, whom he holds in high regard.
“Love the coaching staff,” Moore said. “I’ve pretty much met everyone on Zoom and they have showed me their facilities and stuff. Seems like Coach Muss is building a good program.”
Moore reportedly also holds offers from LSU, Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Wake Forest, Xavier, Rutgers, and Iona.
Moore said his grassroots team finished 2-1 over the weekend playing in the Super 6 event, and he said he finished with games of 20 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal (game one); 15 points (game two); and 22 points and 7 rebounds (game three).
Moore also told Hogville.net that he does not plan to release a list of “top” or “final” schools in the future, and that he is not certain of a timeframe for a commitment.
White (6-5 shooting guard / wing, Conyers, Ga., composite national No. 98 / 4-star prospect) has had an interesting month.
His Arkansas recruitment took off in mid-June resulting in an early July offer from the Hogs followed by White including the UA in his Top 12 schools that he released on July 12, which was his birthday. Then, just 11 days after releasing his list White confirmed with Hogville.net that he was opening his recruitment back up.
“Absolutely,” White answered when asked if Arkansas was still in the picture for his services.
James (6-6 small forward / wing, Orlando, Fla., national No. 88 / 4-star prospect according to 247Sports.com) included Arkansas among his Top 8 schools that he announced on Tuesday (July 21), a list that includes the Hogs, Louisville, Alabama, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Cincinnati, and South Florida.