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:
4-star Dunning is feeling Hogs’ love
ESPN 4-star prospect Barry Dunning has a multitude of reasons for wanting to officially visit the University of Arkansas this week.
The reason that sticks out most is Coach Eric Musselman and his staff’s constant communication.
“I’m not going to a lie, since they first offered me they’ve been showing me love,” Dunning said. “Coach Musselman and the whole coaching staff, we’ve been keeping a good relationship throughout the whole quarantine, the summer and these winter months and spring months, and they’ve been pushing a visit for the longest.
"I feel like the official visit is the best way to show our relationship.”
Dunning, 6-6, 185 pounds, of Mobile (Ala.) McGill-Toolen Catholic, is ESPN’s No. 17 small forward, the No. 59 overall prospect for the 2022 class and the No. 1 prospect in Alabama. He and his parents are scheduled to arrive in Fayetteville on Wednesday for their visit.
“I just want to experience the life of an Arkansas basketball player,” Dunning said. “Seeing how the guys on the team go through their everyday schedule on the college campus. I want to see how practice runs. How the coaches set up their practices. How they’re teaching their players.”
With plans on majoring in sports medicine, Dunning also wants to see the academic side of Arkansas.
“How they’re helping the players,” Dunning said. “How their players are liking the university and how the players like their classes. What type of classes they’re in.”
The Arkansas fan base is also attractive.
“From what I’ve seen this past year, especially in the NCAA Tournament, Arkansas is a big basketball state,” Dunning said. “That’s one thing that really caught my attention. Just the love for the game there. I want to feel and experience that.”
He said Musselman, director of basketball operations Anthony Ruta and other staff members have sent him videos of the fan support.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy. They really love basketball up there.’ So I’m just like, man, that’s incredible,” Dunning said.
When Arkansas defeated Oral Roberts 72-70 to advance to the Elite Eight, Dunning was impressed with the enthusiasm of Musselman and fans.
“They were getting on the bus, and Coach Musselman was outside the bus and he was getting the fans riled up and the fans were just as crazy as him,” Dunning said. “I was like, man, that just has to be an amazing feeling right there. You don’t see that a lot everywhere,”
Dunning wants a school that can help him get to the NBA while helping him grow as a person.
“Teach me everyday lessons,” Dunning said. “One big thing that Coach Musselman does is pre-game speeches. Even though it’s about basketball, he’s trying to tell his players that basketball teaches life lessons and that really stood out to me.”
He praised Ruta for informing him about Arkansas’ plan to help him brand himself for when athletes are able to profit off their name, image and likeness. Dunning also enjoys his other talks with Ruta.
“Anthony Ruta is an amazing person,” Dunning said. “He will send me 70s music to get me pumped for the game and talk basketball all day.”
He plans to officially visit Memphis in two weeks and is working on a date to visit Ole Miss in June. As of now, those are his only other visits this summer.
Dunning has said he wanted to make a decision on Jan. 13, his mother’s birthday, but that might be moved up.
“My commitment day might be a little bit earlier than that, but right now it’s Jan. 13,” he said.
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