Musselman: Roster 'probably set' for 2019-20

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Eric Musselman speaks at a press conference after his introduction as the new head coach of men's basketball at the University of Arkansas by Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek Monday, April 8, 2019 in Bud Walton Arena on the campus in Fayetteville. During the previous four seasons, Musselman coached the University of Nevada in Reno to a 110-34 record.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Eric Musselman speaks at a press conference after his introduction as the new head coach of men's basketball at the University of Arkansas by Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek Monday, April 8, 2019 in Bud Walton Arena on the campus in Fayetteville. During the previous four seasons, Musselman coached the University of Nevada in Reno to a 110-34 record.

FORT SMITH — Movement and shuffling on the Arkansas roster has been the norm since Eric Musselman was hired to replace Mike Anderson as men's basketball coach in April.

Five players have committed to join the Razorbacks and two others - guard Justice Hill and forward Ibby Ali - transferred to Salt Lake (Utah) Community College and Tulane, respectively, this summer.

Former Iowa guard Isaiah Moss also committed to Arkansas on May 15, but later decommitted and pledged to Kansas on June 10. Khalil Garland, who did not play in two seasons with the Razorbacks due to an undisclosed medical condition, transitioned to a student assistant coach role this offseason as well.

At a stop on the #OneRazorback Road Show on Tuesday, Musselman said Arkansas' roster for the upcoming season is "probably set."

"Having said that, some of it is in your control and some of it’s not in your control," he said. "We feel like school is starting here in a few weeks and, like I said, we’ve had really good player development stuff in the offseason. I’m looking forward to the guys coming back to school."

The Razorbacks' first-year coach added that he has never been part of a program in which so many players stayed on campus during the summer months rather than return home.

"I’ve been shocked," Musselman said. "We have a pretty decent break. We’ve got 5-6 guys still here working on their game."

On the docket

Slowly, but surely, Arkansas' nonconference basketball schedule for the upcoming season is being pieced together.

Eight dates have been learned through schedule releases by the Razorbacks' opponents. Arkansas is scheduled to host Rice in a Nov. 5 season opener, as well as home games against North Texas (Nov. 12), Montana (Nov. 16), Texas Southern (Nov. 19), Tulsa (Dec. 14) and TCU in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Jan. 25.

The Razorbacks have scheduled road games at Georgia Tech on Nov. 25 and Western Kentucky on Dec. 7. Arkansas is under contract to play a game at Indiana, but a date has not been announced for that game.

Musselman said the Razorbacks' three true road games will be difficult, as will matchups with other well-coached mid-major programs.

"We’re playing teams that can beat you if you’re not ready to play and you take them for granted," he added. "I think the schedule puts us in a position that you try to put yourself in come nonconference. It’s going to be challenging enough, and then you add TCU.

"We’ve got some good games."

Waiver wire

Of the five transfers added to Arkansas' roster this offseason, only Little Rock native Connor Vanover, a 7-3 forward who averaged 7.5 points and three rebounds per game as a freshman at California, has applied for a waiver for immediate eligibility.

"Either way it’s a positive," Musselman said. "If he can play, great. If he sits the year, it’ll be great from a player development standpoint and we can continue to work on a lot of stuff like weight lifting and adding weight to his game, and working on skill development as well."

Former Jacksonville University guard JD Notae (6-2, 185) and forward Abayomi Iyiola (6-9, 210), who transferred from Stetson on Aug. 5, will spend the 2019-20 season in player development.

Graduate transfers Jeantal Cylla and Jimmy Whitt are eligible and expected to contribute this season. Whitt played the 2015-16 season with the Razorbacks and averaged 6.1 points per game before transferring to SMU.

Small ball

As of now, Arkansas does not have a player eligible for the upcoming season taller than 6-8, according to the Razorbacks' updated roster.

Musselman said Tuesday that defensive rebounding is a bit of a concern entering the school year. Even with Daniel Gafford last season, Arkansas allowed opponents to rebound 34.8 percent of their misses, according to KenPom analytics. That figure placed Arkansas 347th out of 353 programs nationally.

At the same time, Musselman's last team at Nevada ranked 36th nationally in that category at 24.8 percent.

"When I wake up at 3 a.m. my wife asks me if I’m going to the bathroom, and I’m like, ‘No, I’m trying to figure out how we’re going to get defensive rebounds,'" Musselman said laughing. "We’ll do a lot of rebounding drills. You can only get so good at doing rebounding drills in practice."

Musselman added that Whitt, who transferred to Arkansas on May 27, is a "really good rebounder" for his position, and he is hopeful Cylla, previously at UNC-Wilmington, will rebound at a higher rate than he did with the Seahawks and at Florida Atlantic.

"That’s going to be really important," Musselman said. "Guys like Adrio (Bailey) have to rebound the basketball, and obviously Reggie (Chaney) is going to have to rebound the ball, too. We’re going to have to do it collectively.

"Mason (Jones) is a good rebounder for his position. He’s going to have to rebound a little bit better than he did last year as well."

Focused Joe

If there is a ball bouncing in the Basketball Performance Center late at night or on a weekend, there is a good chance rising sophomore Isaiah Joe is in the building fine-tuning his jumpshot.

Joe, a Fort Smith native who broke Arkansas' single-season record for 3-pointers made with 113 as a freshman, has been locked in this summer, Musselman said.

"I think Isaiah has done a phenomenal job of working on his ball handling," he added, "and he’s done a great job in the weight room. He’s really focused."

Joe, though, is not the only player getting in work on his own. Musselman estimated 7-8 guys have done so throughout the summer.

"That's really what we wanted to try to see," he said. "If you just come do your four hours for eight weeks in the summer, and the summer is the biggest time you try to improve your game, you’re probably not going to improve too much."

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