Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He appears weekly on The Red Zone w/ JB on 92.1 FM Fayetteville, The Morning Rush w/ Tye & Tommy on 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home, 99.5 FM in Fayetteville and The Zone w/ Justin & Wess on 103.7 FM in Little Rock.
The Recruiting Guy:
Musselman applies NBA experiences
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman speaks Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe)
The University of Arkansas basketball program’s ability to run like a professional organization is because of the experience of Coach Eric Musselman and his staff’s NBA backgrounds but also by continually visiting teams in the league each year.
Last week, Musselman and his staff hit the road visiting NBA training camps to keep up on the ever-evolving game played at the highest level.
Special assistant to the head coach Matt Lopez, assistant director of operations Caleb Cline and recruiting coordinator Ronnie Brewer Jr. visited the Oklahoma City Thunder, while director of basketball operations and director of recruiting Michael Musselman and assistant director of recruiting and scouting Blake Wetherington visited the Memphis Grizzlies.
Assistant coach Keith Smart also traveled to New York to visit with the Knicks.
Coach Eric Musselman and most of the staff were the only college staff in Dallas to see the Mavericks work out on Monday.
“We do it every year just to see what NBA teams are emphasizing, what different organizations are emphasizing on the offensive and defensive ends,” Michael Musselman said. “It changes each year. It changes because of analytics and changes because of the way the game changes year in and year out, so for us it’s important to stay on top of new NBA terminology, concepts. Just gathering drills, gathering, teaching points, different things like that.”
Arkansas have incorporated numerous things learned during past trips to NBA franchises.
“Adding new drills that helps us improve pick-and-roll coverages, adding sets, adding transition offenses, different things like that,” Musselman said. “We’ve taken some transition offense teaching points from the [Milwaukee] Bucks and implemented them. That was a study we did summers ago. We’ve implemented a lot from the Memphis Grizzlies already and we got a lot of good stuff from Mavericks that we’re going to implement in terms of just terminology. Things they stress like getting to the corners, the importance of taking away corner threes, middle drives.”
Eric Musselman has had an open-door policy for other coaches to learn from him and his staff during his coaching career. The open-door policy, along with the staff’s connections with NBA teams, have helped the Hogs in getting to visit organizations on the next level.
“Some coaches have a more open practice policy, and that’s something Coach has maintained to this day,” Michael Musselman said. “He thinks it important to grow the game. No matter if you’re women’s middle-school coach or NBA coach you’re usually allowed into our gym just to study the game and grow the game.”
The Hogs’ recruiting strategy includes selling Arkansas’ 52 years of NBA experience among the staff. It’s that experience that prospects often mention during the recruiting process that attracts them to the Razorbacks.
“The NBA experience on staff and the NBA connections obviously that translates partially into putting players in the pros,” Musselman said. “Running our program like an NBA organization is something we really stress in recruiting, so we find it important each year to touch up on new terminology, and touch up on new concepts, and continue to build our program, and keep it like an NBA organization, and stay on top of how the NBA game is growing and evolving each year. Because our goal is to send all of our players to that level, and we want them to be more prepared than any other rookie when they do get there.”
Former players under Eric Musselman often comment on how their experiences at Nevada and Arkansas have prepared them for the NBA. Former Hog guard Stanley Umude signed with the Detroit Pistons last week and quickly noticed he was ahead of other new players.
“He’s going through the Pistons training camp and he’s coming back and saying coach, ‘We’re doing a lot of the same drills we did in practice, and we’re using some of the same terminology, and they’re stressing a lot of the same things we stressed here,’ ” Michael Musselman said. “So he feels like he has a leg up already on all the new guys there. At the end of the day, besides winning, that’s our goal.”
Visiting with NBA teams gives the Razorbacks a leg up on the competition.
“There’s a lot of schools that just read things in articles, watch games on TV and watch NBA game film but we’re a lot different, our coaches have been on the sidelines, in the draft rooms, in the war rooms, so they have first hand experience,” Musselman said. “Then our entire staff getting out and doing these type of things, seeing four, five, six different NBA training camps and just observing, it’s all first-hand stuff. We’re talking to the head coaches, we’re talking to the staffs.”
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