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Musselman's scouting report on grad transfers Vance Jackson, Jalen Tate

Jalen Tate and Vance Jackson are joining the Razorbacks as graduate transfers for the 2020-21 season.
Jalen Tate and Vance Jackson are joining the Razorbacks as graduate transfers for the 2020-21 season. (USA TODAY Sports)

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In addition to bringing in a top-10 recruiting class, Eric Musselman also - as he frequently does - dipped into the portal for a pair of graduate transfers this offseason.

After contacting numerous potential transfers, the Arkansas coach zeroed in on and landed former top-100 recruit Vance Jackson from New Mexico and all-conference performer Jalen Tate from Northern Kentucky.

Both of them officially signed with the Razorbacks on Wednesday, the first day of the coronavirus-altered signing period, making it legal for Musselman to talk about and give a scouting report of sorts on each player.

Jackson, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward, was the first transfer to jump on board. Ranked the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016, he began his career at UConn before transferring to New Mexico.

In two seasons with the Lobos, Jackson averaged 12.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals while displaying the skillset Musselman likes in his players.

“Versatility is the first thing that comes to mind with Vance,” Musselman said. “He can play the 4, he can play the 3, he can play the 5, he can play the 2, and…you are who you can guard. He has the ability offensively and defensively to really play four positions on the floor.”

Despite the fact that he would have been the tallest eligible player on Arkansas’ roster last season, Jackson also has guard aspects to his game. Musselman specifically pointed out that he’s made 157 three-pointers in his collegiate career, shooting them at a 35.4 percent clip.

He can stretch the floor with that shooting ability, as well as his passing, but is also “capable of a double-double on any given night,” Musselman said.

Tate is a 6-foot-6 point guard who has spent his entire career at Northern Kentucky. A hand injury ended his freshman season after just eight games, which allowed him to receive a medical redshirt in 2016-17 and still have a year of eligibility remaining after playing the last three years.

Although he’s averaged 13.8 points on 51.5 percent shooting over his last two seasons, Tate has developed a reputation as a tenacious defender. He was a member of the Horizon League’s All-Defensive Team each of his three full seasons and was named the Defensive Player of the Year this season.

With the Razorbacks’ top defender, Jimmy Whitt Jr., being a senior this season, Musselman said he believes Tate’s skillset is needed for next year’s team.

“(He’s) somebody that we felt, losing Jimmy Whitt’s ability to guard the best player on the other team - whether it’s a 1, 2 or 3 - Jalen now allows us to do that,” Musselman said. “He’s a very good rebounder for his position, so I think he also gives us great flexibility, just as Jimmy Whitt did, and just like Caleb and Cody Martin did for us at Nevada.”

Musselman also praised both transfers for the professionalism and maturity they showed during the process. He was pleased that both players were extremely excited to join the Razorbacks, as well.

Both players were asking Arkansas’ coaching staff for their paperwork several days before they could actually receive it Wednesday. Once they got it, it was a pretty quick turnaround. Jackson even sent in his about the time Musselman - who’s known as an early riser - was getting out of bed, despite being back home in California and two hours behind Fayetteville.

“They’ve shown leadership throughout the process on how they deal with us,” Musselman said. “They pick up the phone every time we call them. Both guys return every text message. We’ve had in-depth conversations about not only basketball, but life as well.”

Coming from mid-major programs, there is always a question about how well they’ll translate into the SEC. For every Whitt, there are several players like Jeantal Cylla, who struggled to get on the court in his lone season at Arkansas.

However, Musselman said he and his staff try to project how each transfer would fit in their program - whether it’s just as a roster guy or a rotation player or even a starter. He wouldn’t reveal their exact projections for Jackson and Tate, but he sounded optimistic they’ll be contributors next season.

“We certainly feel that they are talented and guys that could both start, for sure,” Musselman said. “Having said that, everything is done in training camps and jobs are won when guys compete against each other, but both those guys have been starters throughout their careers.”

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