Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy, has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, and has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Musselman keeps eye on size
Arkansas forward Connor Vanover (23) takes a shot Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, as forward Abayomi Iyiola walks behind during practice in the Eddie Sutton Gymnasium inside the Basketball Performance Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Just because he now has a full 13 basketball scholarship roster doesn’t mean Arkansas coach Eric Musselman must choose to play them all.
He implied the choosing really isn’t even up to him.
“I’m not going to determine rotations,” Musselman said. “The players are.”
Even with last season’s limited numbers, the players mostly determined how much they played by how well they performed in games and practice.
Arkansas’ then brand-new coach opened the season with senior graduate transfer Jeantal Cylla the first forward off the bench.
Sophomore forward Ethan Henderson seemed the not ready for prime time player still glued to the bench as he was his 2018-19 freshman season under Mike Anderson.
By season’s end Cylla played sparingly.
Henderson started six of the final seven games starring against Tennessee and LSU.
Musselman vows one aspect won’t change. Mistakes will be played through even with more options for a quick hook.
“The one thing I’ve learned through experience is you’ve got to let players play through their mistakes,” Musselman said.
It does seem he’ll sub more to alleviate fatigue than last season.
“I certainly think there were times last year where a guy could have used a quick blow to catch his breath and come back in,” Musselman said. “So I think that’ll change a little bit now. That maximum effort is really going to have to be demanded on every single possession.”
In 2018-19, now-graduated forward Adrio Bailey usually stood the tallest starter at 6-6. At 6-8, returning junior Henderson and Reggie Chaney, earlier this week submitting his name to the NCAA transfer portal, were the tallest on the roster.
Recruiting has changed all that. Connor Vanover, the 7-3 center redshirted last season transferring as a University of California sophomore, activates this season. So do JD Notae, 6-2 a shooter, and 6-8 forward Abayomi Iyiola, redshirted last season at Arkansas as transfers.
New height comes from touted 6-9 incoming freshman forward Jaylin Williams of Fort Smith Northside, 6-9 instantly-eligible graduate-transfer forward Vance Jackson via the University of New Mexico, and 6-7 instantly-eligible graduate-transfer forward Justin Smith via Indiana University.
Even if superb 3-shooting guard Isaiah Joe, working out with the Razorbacks but now with until August still to ponder turning pro, returns, all this new size seems to bode for more inside offense and less threes.
“Yes we do have more size,” Musselman said. “ We are bigger. We are going to be stronger. But Connor Vanover’s strength is shooting the three. Vance Jackson’s strength is shooting the three. Jaylin Williams can make a three.”
Obviously Joe hits threes. So do returning junior starting guard Desi Sills, Notae and Jalen Tate, the via Northern Kentucky University immediately eligible graduate transfer guard. Touted incoming freshmen guards Moses Moody and KK Robinson can hit threes, too.
“So I don’t necessarily think that we’re going to change who we are,” Musselman said.
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