HawgBeat - Examining Eric Musselman's recruiting philosophy, history
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Examining Eric Musselman's recruiting philosophy, history

FAYETTEVILLE — One of Eric Musselman’s first tasks as Arkansas’ head coach is to fill what appears will be at least three scholarships for the upcoming season.

That number could rise if the Razorbacks experience turnover similar to when Chad Morris took over the football team, but with only 13 scholarships in men’s basketball, there isn’t quite as much wiggle room.

To get an idea of how Musselman will go about filling the available spots and flipping Arkansas’ roster, one can look to his time at Nevada.

The most obvious and publicized aspect of his recruiting is the willingness to bring in transfers.

Nevada’s entire starting five last season consisted of fifth-year seniors who began their careers at other DI schools. Musselman also had five other transfers, meaning 10 of the Wolf Pack’s 13 scholarship players transferred in.

Including the two midyear transfers Nevada added this season, he brought in 17 Division I transfers. Had he remained at Nevada, Musselman likely would have signed four more to fill the holes left by graduating players, according to local media reports.

Most of them came from mid- to low-major programs where they had a lot of success, but a handful of them were high-major transfers. The Martin twins - Cody and Caleb - left North Carolina State, Kendall Stephens came from Purdue, Darien Williams was at St. John’s, Hallice Cooke had stints at Oregon State and Iowa State, and Shamiel Stevenson left Pittsburgh.

However, he also still signed traditional recruits out of high school and the junior college ranks. Musselman signed 12 of them, to be exact, with only three of them being JUCO transfers.

Four of those signees never made it to campus for various reasons.

Kenny Wooten signed with the Wolf Pack before reclassifying and eventually becoming a nationally-ranked recruit who ended up at Oregon. The other three included players one who ultimately went to junior college, one who was let out of his NLI when an assistant coach left and one who transferred halfway through a redshirt year.

The top recruit Musselman signed as the head coach at Nevada was undoubtedly last year when he landed Jordan Brown, a five-star prospect and McDonald’s All-American who turned down multiple blue-bloods.

A few other players he signed include:

~2019 SF Eric Parrish, a versatile 6-foot-6 player who began was successful at Akron before transferring to Bossier Parish C.C. in Louisiana

~2018 PF K.J. Hymes, a three-star prospect who had offers from multiple high-major offers coming out of Hillcrest Academy, a big-name prep school

~2016 SG Josh Hall, a 6-foot-6 four-star prospect who turned down Arizona, Houston, Oklahoma State, Texas and others

~2016 PG Devearl Ramsey, a four-star prospect and No. 117 overall player in his class who turned down Florida State, Michigan, North Carolina State, Texas and others

~2015 PG Lindsey Drew, a three-star prospect previously committed to Arizona State and the younger brother of former UCLA standout Larry Drew II

It’s also worth mentioning that Musselman played a key role in putting together LSU’s fantastic 2015 signing class. Although future No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Ben Simmons was already committed when he took the job, he helped the Tigers sign Antonio Blakeney (5-star, No. 13 overall) and Brandon Sampson (4-star, No. 42 overall).

Musselman’s philosophy with recruiting was probably best summed up by ESPN’s Jeff Borzello in his profile of the coach that published in January.

“Musselman tried to act like a general manager, treating his 13 scholarships like NBA roster spots,” Borzello wrote. “In other words, he did not use a scholarship just to get a body on the roster.”

That is a stark contrast to former Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson. A common critique during his eight-year tenure was his inability to completely fill out his roster with SEC-level talent.

Although Anderson signed standouts like Bobby Portis, Moses Kingsley, Daniel Gafford and several others, he also signed roster fill-ins like Lorenzo Jenkins (7 career minutes, transferred to Colorado State), Brachen Hazen (42 career minutes, transferred to Ball State), DeQuavious Wagner (163 career minutes, transferred to DII Angelo State) and Ibby Ali (has yet to play for Arkansas).

One reason Musselman is so open to transfers is because “there’s just less unknown,” he told NevadaSportsNet last November.

“I’ve said it 100 times, the college basketball landscape has changed,” Musselman said. “The days of everybody recruiting high school players, it’s just not that way. …

“The time I spent as an assistant coach, as I looked at the programs I was with, the 13 scholarships are really valuable and programs and teams that make a mistake in recruiting, it’s really hard to get your way out of that.”

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