HawgBeat - Best class ever? How the Hogs' 2022 group compares to past recruiting hauls
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Best class ever? How the Hogs' 2022 group compares to past recruiting hauls

Nick Smith Jr. is the centerpiece of Arkansas' 2022 recruiting class.
Nick Smith Jr. is the centerpiece of Arkansas' 2022 recruiting class. (Nick Wenger)

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Arkansas added a commitment from Rivals four-star prospect Jordan Walsh on Wednesday. He chose the Razorbacks over the likes of Texas, Kansas, Oregon and Memphis, among others, giving Arkansas one of the top recruiting classes in the country.

The Rivals recruiting database has player rankings dating back to 2002. Since then, the Razorbacks have had a handful of recruiting class that could even come close to the caliber of this year’s group.

2003

Stan Heath came in to replace legendary head coach Nolan Richardson and started off with a strong showing on the recruiting trail. His first full class consisted of a five-star (Olu Famutimi), a four-star (Ronnie Brewer) and a three-star prospect (Vincent Hunter) in the Rivals150.

Famutimi was ranked 16th nationally, though he didn’t reach his full potential in college due to an injury suffered late in his high school career. Brewer was ranked 29th nationally, while Hunter was ranked 135th, meaning the average player rank for the 2003 class was 60th nationally.

As far as raw rankings go, this class could go down as one of the greatest, but context and performance should be factored in. Brewer was a lottery pick after three years in the program in which he averaged 15.7 points and 5.0 rebounds, while Famutimi left after his sophomore year to pursue an NBA career that never really got started. Brewer finished 16th on the program’s all-time scoring list, right behind his father, with 1,416 total points.

Famutimi’s impact was less than expected as he averaged just 8.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game as a Razorback. Hunter was the lone player to stay for all four years and averaged a modest 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds.

2004

Heath followed up his impressive 2003 class with an even better 2004 class, though the crown jewel of the class went straight to the NBA and never made it to campus.

Al Jefferson was a five-star recruit and ranked fourth nationally on Rivals, helping the Razorbacks sign one of the top classes of the year. Because he never made it to campus, though, he cannot be considered part of the class for the purposes of this article.

The remainder of the class was still strong, with two four-star recruits (Charles Thomas and Steven Hill) and a three-star (Darian Townes). Thomas and Hill were ranked 49th and 37th in the class, respectively, while Townes was outside of the top 150.

Thomas was a regular starter all four years as a Razorback, averaging 8.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game on his career. He’s a member of the 1,000-point club, scoring 1,149 in his career, ranking 27th in program history.

Townes exceeded his ranking, averaging 10.0 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, though he only started 39 of his 132 career games. He is also a member of the 1,000-point club with 1,318, which ranks 19th in program history.

Hill was the highest ranked of the trio, and although he didn’t have the scoring impact the others did, he was a defensive power. He was named to the SEC All-Defensive Team and named SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. Hill finished his career with the second-most blocks in program history, 318, behind Oliver Miller’s 345.

The 2004 class could’ve gone down as one of the best in program history had Jefferson made it to campus, but instead it features two high-ranking commits and three solid role players for the program for four years.

2011

Signing the loaded 2011 class wasn’t enough to save John Pelphrey’s job. After solidifying the commitments of the major in-state players from the Arkansas Wings program, Pelphrey was fired and the university hired Mike Anderson to take over the basketball program.

That group consisted of five-star BJ Young, two four-stars (Ky Madden and Hunter Mickelson) and two three-stars (Devonta Abron and Aaron Ross).

Young ranked 25th in the country and stayed in the program for only two years before trying to go pro. The spindly guard was explosive offensively, averaging 15.2 points per game to go along with 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He was just shy of scoring 1,000 points in two seasons, which would’ve been an incredible feat, but managed to score 958 points regardless.

Of the other four players in that class, only three would ever make it to campus and only Ky Madden would remain at Arkansas four years. Madden was a polarizing player for the early Mike Anderson era, but his career was one of the more productive in the 21st century. He averaged 8.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game in four years, totaling 1,106 points for 31st-most in program history. He also finished with the fifth-most assists in program history with 370.

Outside of Madden and Young, though, the 2011 class left a lot to be desired. Mickelson displayed great potential in averaging 5.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in his first two years for the Razorbacks, but then transferred to Kansas to finish his career.

Devonta Abron was similar to Mickelson. He averaged 5.7 points and 4.2 rebounds as a freshman, but transferred to TCU where he maintained a similar level of success.

Aaron Ross never made it to campus, instead going to Texas Tech where he was a major contributor his junior and senior years.

The 2011 class is one of the best as far as rankings go – each player was in the Rivals150 and the average player ranking was 81.6, or rounded up to 82. Madden was 32nd behind Young, Mickelson was 100th, Abron 108th and Ross 143rd. Looking back, though, only two of those signees were significant contributors to the program.

2013

Despite consisting of only two players, the 2013 class provided some of the most success as an entire class in the rankings era, while also being highly ranked.

Bobby Portis became a hometown hero when the five-star, 15th-ranked player chose to stay home and play for the Razorbacks. Moses Kingsely was a major four-star prospect ranked 63rd in the nation, giving the class an average player ranking of 39th.

Granted, the elevated number is due to the fact that there are only two players, but those two players also went on to have some of the best careers for big men in recent memory at the University of Arkansas.

Portis was a Parade All-American out of high school, landed on the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2014 and was SEC Player of the Year and named to the All-SEC team in 2015. Additionally, he was a first-round draft pick by the Chicago Bulls. In his two years at Arkansas, Portis averaged 15.0 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

He joined the rare few in UA history to join the 1,000-point club in just two seasons, totaling 1,047 points. That ranks 41st overall. In Portis’ sophomore year, he also managed to grab the third-most rebounds in a single season in program history with 321.

Moses Kingsley had a different impact for the Hogs, as he stayed for all four years and wasn’t drafted, but was a defensive force and grew into a scoring threat. Kingsley was a two-time selection to the All-SEC team and a two-time All-SEC Defense selection, as he averaged 8.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game over his career.

The 6-foot-10 forward made huge leaps in his game for his junior and senior seasons. In those two years he averaged 13.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. On his career, Kingsley finished 25th in overall scoring with 1,200 points, sixth all-time in rebounds with 768, and third all-time in blocks with 256.

Even though there were only two players in the 2013 class, it had some of the most production as a class in recent memory and high-ranking talent out of high school.

2020

Eric Musselman’s first full class at Arkansas featured four in-state four-star recruits. That class is still building its legacy, but the argument can be made that it was one of the best in program history based on their roles as freshmen, their rankings out of high school, the team success of their freshman year and producing the first ever one-and-done player for the Razorbacks.

Moses Moody was the highest-ranked prospect in the class, coming in at 56th nationally. Many experts thought that Moody should’ve been ranked higher, and his performance as a freshman solidified that notion. He started all 32 games as a true freshman and averaged 16.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists. The Little Rock native was a first-team All-SEC selection and named the SEC Freshman of the Year. Because of his success, Moody was drafted 14th overall in the NBA Draft to the Golden State Warriors.

Davonte Davis was the lowest-ranked player in the class, coming in at 129th nationally, but was the second-most impactful freshman for the Razorbacks last year. For the season, he averaged 8.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists, but over the final 21 games of the season, he made 16 starts and averaged 10.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He played his best ball of the year in the NCAA Tournament, where he made his name known on the national stage.

Jaylin Williams was the second-highest ranked player from this class, coming in at 59th overall. Similar to Davis, Williams had a strong showing as a freshman, but the latter half of the season secured him as a mainstay in the rotation moving forward. While he averaged a respectable 3.7 points and 4.7 rebounds as a true freshman, over the final nine games of the season, Williams made three starts and averaged 5.4 points and 5.9 rebounds.

KK Robinson came in with a great deal of hype and a lot of expectations after being ranked 65th in the class, but his freshman season was hindered with an injury. He appeared in only 11 games, but even in a majority of those he was not fully healthy. Robinson is expected to be a major part of the team this upcoming season.

While most of this group is still on campus, they have already established themselves as one of the best classes in recent memory. With the average player-ranking in the class coming in at 77.25, or rounded to 77th, this class has played above its ranking so far.

2022

As it stands, the current recruiting class is on pace to rival the 2020 class. Complete with a five-star, two four-stars and two three-stars in the Rivals150, the class already has high expectations.

Rivals rankings aren’t finalized, with more updates in the coming months, but for now Nick Smith Jr. ranks 16th nationally, Jordan Walsh 31st, Derrian Ford 58th, Joseph Pinion 125th and Barry Dunning 131st.

If those numbers stand, the average player rank in the class would be 72.2, or 72nd. That would be five full rankings ahead of the heralded 2020 class, and - outside of the two-man class of 2013 - it would be the best average player ranking since the 2003 class.

Recency bias could definitely play a part, but at least as far as the rankings-era goes, the 2022 class looks to be the best when also accounting for anticipated production. For all intents and purposes, no one expects Smith or Walsh to under-perform to the level of Famutimi, so long as they stay healthy. While the Parade All-American had a respectable couple of years on the Hill, it was not at the level expected of the 16th overall player.

Smith and Walsh could potentially start and be major contributors from the day they arrive on campus, while the other recruits are talented enough to also find their way onto the floor early. Looking at future production and anticipated production, though, it is important to consider the fact that five freshmen in a single class have a hard time all contributing.

Obviously this piece doesn’t include the classes like 1975 with Ron Brewer and Sidney Moncrief, the 1988 class with Todd Day, Lee Mayberry and Oliver Miller, or the 1992 class with Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman. This only includes rankings-era classes. And in the rankings-era, the 2022 group could go down as the best in program history.