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.
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Arkansas basketball lands another 2021 commitment
A basketball sits in a rack at Bud Walton Arena in this undated photo.
Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman has secured his second 2021 commitment with the pledge of a junior college forward.
Akol Mawein, 6-10, 220 pounds, of Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, was committed to now-Arkansas associate head coach David Patrick and the University of California-Riverside prior to Patrick assuming his new position with the Razorbacks on July 1. He reopened his recruitment July 8.
Before attending Navarro, Mawein played at Southwest Christian Academy in Little Rock as a junior and senior. He also played for the Woodz Elite program on the Nike EYBL circuit.
His relationship with Patrick and seeing how the Arkansas fan base supported the program played big roles in his decision to pledge to the Razorbacks.
“Being in Arkansas for two years meant a lot to me as a basketball player,” Mawein said. “It really showed what true fans looked like and how the fans interact with their home team, especially in a state like Arkansas with the fans they have there is insane.”
“On top of that, I have someone I know with David Patrick being one of the coaches there, so I’ll be able to be comfortable and be able to play at a big school at the same time. It’s just amazing. It fits perfect.”
Mawein’s path to Arkansas hasn’t been easy. He and his family moved from Sudan to Egypt and then to Australia for a better life before he made his way to the United States. Seeing his dream of playing at the high Division I level about to be reality is surreal.
“I just put my head down and started working and I could see it coming closer and closer,” Mawein said. “For my dream to play at a high level really coming together is amazing. It’s amazing.”
He averaged 13.5 points, 5 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game as a freshman for Navarro while shooting 47.5 percent from the floor, 32.8 percent beyond the 3-point line and 62.4 percent from the free throw line.
Mawein has two cousins from Australia with connections to Patrick. Kouat Noi played forward for Patrick when he was an assistant at TCU, and forward Duop Reath signed with LSU before Patrick left for Fort Worth.
Patrick, who grew up in Australia, has known Mawein since he was a sophomore at Montverde Academy in Florida.
“He’s looked out for me,” Mawein said. “All those years, we’ve built a relationship. He’s just a great person."
Mawein said his family and older brother Biing are still coming to grips with him committing to Arkansas and having the chance to play on one of the biggest stages in college basketball.
“My family is in shock, especially my older brother,” Mawein said. “We spoke about playing in one of the highest leagues. He told me he’s in shock, too. It’s something my family is new to. Being immigrants coming from a different country and especially myself, too, and living in four countries my whole life, it’s just amazing. To be able to play at one of the highest levels of basketball is amazing.”
He described how Musselman and Patrick want to utilize his talents.
“Coach Muss and Coach Patrick was telling me they want me to play more like a stretch-forward and a point-forward type of position,” Mawein said. “They really want me to get the ball and push it transition and be able to score in the half court on all three levels.”
Navarro Coach Grant McMillan recently called Mawein “extremely versatile”.
“AK was kind of like our No. 1 option on offense,” McMillan said. “He can really put the ball in the basket. He’s like a mismatch nightmare on our level. Too quick for bigs to guard, and is long and tall. He pretty much has a huge advantage on any wing in our league. He has an unbelievable first step.
“He was one of the best freshmen in our conference, and he’s destined to be one of the higher-ranked guys in the country at our level.”
Arkansas landed the pledge of ESPN 4-star prospect Chance Moore on Saturday.
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