Iyiola, now at Hofstra, admired by both benches

Arkansas forward Abayomi Iyiola warms up Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, before the start of the first half of play against Florida in Bud Walton Arena.

FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas forward Jaylin Williams is looking forward to battling for rebounds and matching up inside against his former teammate, Abayomi Iyiola, when the Razorbacks play Hofstra on Saturday night.

“Baybe’s my guy,” said Wiliams, using Iyiola’s nickname. “Can’t wait to see him. Can’t wait to play against him.

“I’m pretty sure me and him are going to have a good time playing against each other.”

Iyiola, a 6-9 senior, spent two years at Arkansas after transferring from Stetson, but he played in just one game — for the final two minutes of the Razorbacks’ 101-73 victory at South Carolina last season.

First Iyiola, who averaged 10.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game as a sophomore at Stetson, had to sit out and redshirt the 2019-20 season in accordance with what at the time were the NCAA rules on transfers.

Then in the summer of 2020, Iyiola tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and spent several months going through rehabilitation after surgery.

After missing all but one game in two seasons and with Arkansas’ roster loaded with experienced players, it was clear Iyiola needed to transfer again to get back on the court.

When Iyiola went into the transfer portal, Razorbacks Coach Eric Musselman gave him a glowing recommendation after getting a call from Hofstra Coach Speedy Claxton.

“Muss loved the guy and thought Baybe was a good player and worked hard,” Claxton said. “He just got caught in a numbers crunch at Arkansas.”

Iyiola has played in seven games, including five starts, with the Pride (6-5) and is averaging 7.1 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds in 18.3 minutes this season.

“Baybe has been a huge get from the portal,” Claxton said. “We love him here.”

Iyiola had 6 points and 11 rebounds in an 83-65 overtime loss at Houston to open the season, 12 and 7 in a 73-63 victory at Duquesne and 6 and 10 in an 82-74 loss at Iona.

After missing four games because of covid-19 protocols and playing four minutes in his first game back when Hofstra beat Princeton 82-77, Iyiola has returned to playing a bigger role the past three games. He had 12 points and 14 rebounds in the Pride’s 102-51 victory over NCAA Division III John Jay College last Sunday.

“I’m really happy to watch him and see the success he’s had,” Musselman said. “Incredible young man. Worked really, really hard. Had a great attitude while he was here.

“Certainly Coach Claxton and I spoke about Baybe. Everybody on our staff spoke highly of him.”

Iyiola didn’t realize Hofstra was playing the Razorbacks until after he transferred.

“When I told him last summer that we were playing Arkansas, he was like, ‘Oh my God, Coach. I cannot wait,’ ” Claxton said. “So he’s extremely pumped.

“To his credit, he keeps getting better and better and better week after week after week. Baybe is really trending the right way.”

Claxton said Iyiola hasn’t experienced issues with his knee.

“He hasn’t complained about it at all,” Claxton said. “He still wears that big, ol’ brace, but he’s fine.

”The way our offense is, it doesn’t call for him to pick and pop, even though that’s something he’s capable of doing and he’s comfortable doing.

“We need him to roll to the basket and put pressure on the rim. We need the defense to account for him going to the basket, so that will free up our three-point shooters.”

Williams, a 6-10 sophomore, said he and Iyiola spent a lot of time together last year and became friends.

“He’s going to be that energizer guy, that junkyard dog that gets all the loose balls, dives on the ground,” Williams said. “He’s going to play hard, throw elbows, box out, all that stuff.

“So I’m just ready to play against Baybe, ready to play against my guy.”