Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He is the host of Recruiting Thursday, a weekly radio show that airs from 7 to 8 p.m. on 92.1 FM in Fayetteville; 93.7 FM in Little Rock; 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home; and 106.9 FM in Arkadelphia.
The Recruiting Guy:
Musselman nurtures link with five-star guard
New Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman waves to fans after landing at Drake Field on Sunday, April 7, 2019, in Fayetteville.
University of Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman started his relationship with five-star guard Nimari Burnett while at Nevada, but he hopes the relationship ends with Burnett in Fayetteville.
Burnett, 6-4, 185 pounds, of Napa (Calif.) Prolific Prep has more than 20 scholarship offers from schools such as Arkansas, UCLA, Southern Cal, Ohio State, Stanford, Auburn, Louisville, Arizona State and others.
He said Musselman started communicating with him last summer. Their talks are personal and often veer away from basketball.
"It's general conversations and catching up with each other and seeing how each other is doing," Burnett said. "During the school season, we communicated like twice to three times a week."
Musselman's NBA background is intriguing to Burnett.
"It's a place I want to get to the NBA, and him having experience of coaching on that level is a great attraction," Burnett said.
He said he has high interest in Arkansas.
"Coach is a really good coach," Burnett said. "Coming from Nevada, we built a relationship, and he carried it over to Arkansas and looking forward to building another relationship, but at a different place."
ESPN ranks Burnett as the No. 6 shooting guard and No. 21 overall prospect for the Class of 2020.
Burnett averaged 21.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.5 steals a game as a junior.
Burnett moved to California from Chicago two years ago.
He played for Mac Irvin Fire in spring and summer basketball before playing for California-based Team Why Not this year.
Mac Irvin Fire CEO Mike Irvin knew Burnett was special the first time he saw him.
"We had Nimari since he was a kid," Irvin said. "He was always a guy you knew was going to be a top-level kid from the sixth grade on. He just had all the tools. He always worked hard. He was always better than a lot of the kids no matter what age."
Burnett's love for the game aids his improvement.
"He watches the game, studies that game," Irvin said. "He's always going to be one of those elite kids."
Managing communication with college coaches and figuring out who he's seriously interested in are challenges.
"I'm just taking my time on it and having a clear mind about everything and looking at every school and whether it's the right fit or not," Burnett said.
Contact with college coaches is a daily thing.
"Collectively through texts and calls, it's an hour or two," Burnett said.
He is looking to narrow his list during his senior year.
"I don''t know the timetable exactly, but that's the plan to narrow things down," he said.
He described his strengths on the floor.
"I see myself as a point guard that shoots the ball, high IQ and can do multiple things on the floor, versatile," Burnett said. "Can play up to three positions and impact the game defensively as well."
Burnett, who has a 3.9 grade-point average, is interested in majoring in sports business.
"Anything involving sports and business. I would like to do sports management," he said.
Graduate transfer guard Jaire Grayer is expected to arrive in Fayetteville today for the start of his official visit.
Grayer, 6-5, 200, played in only eight games because of a foot injury and averaged 8.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists as a senior at George Mason.
A Flint, Mich., native, he started 32 of 33 games and averaged 12.3 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 35 percent from beyond the three-point line as a junior.
If he receives a medical hardship waiver, he'll be granted a fifth year of eligibility. If that does not happen, he will not be able to compete for any program next season.
Email Richard Davenport
Sports on 05/12/2019
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