Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America, and was awarded 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
What to expect from Houston transfer Tramon Mark
Houston guard Tramon Mark (12), right, drives around North Florida guard Jarius Hicklen during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Kevin M. Cox)
Arkansas basketball in recent seasons has put a target on its back nationally thanks to a pair of runs to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament and another trip to the Sweet 16.
The Razorbacks on Sunday added a talent from the NCAA transfer portal who has spent his college career in a similar situation. Tramon Mark, Arkansas’ second spring-time roster addition, committed to come to Fayetteville from Houston, which appeared in the Final Four, Elite Eight and Sweet 16 in his three seasons with the Cougars.
Mark spent every week at Houston inside the top 20 of The Associated Press Top 25 poll, including 21 weeks in the top 5.
Simply put, Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman nabbed a player with experience, plenty familiar with the stages Arkansas hopes to reach in 2023-24.
Mark, who wrapped up his redshirt sophomore season last month in a loss to Miami, was one of two Cougars to start all 37 games. He averaged 10.1 points on 39% from the field and 32.8% from three-point range, 4.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals in 29.5 minutes.
Mark was the lone Houston starter not named an all-league performer in a vote of the American Athletic Conference’s coaches in early March. But there is a lot to like about the 6-5 wing on both ends of the floor.
Offensively, Mark excels in the mid-range part of the floor. CBB Analytics shows he was 29 of 55 (52.7%) on two-point field goal attempts left of the lane last season, including 20 of 42 (47.6%) around the left elbow.
Mark shot 47% (31 of 66) on looks 10-15 feet from the rim. That field goal percentage placed him in the 78th percentile nationally. And it is why Cougars assistant coach Kellen Sampson referred to the wing as “Mid-range Mark.”
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The Dickinson, Texas, native made a name for himself in March during Houston’s 81-64 victory over Auburn. He scored a career-high 26 points against the Tigers, including 20 in the second half on 6 of 9 shooting. Mark feasted on the Auburn defense in isolation situations.
Mark is a challenge for defenders — even some of the best in the country — to handle 1-on-1, and he is confident he can get any shot he wants out of an iso. Marcus Sasser, the Cougars’ All-America guard who averaged 1.6 steals per game last season, told The Athletic last month his 1-on-1 games with Mark typically don’t go well.
“Can’t stay in front of him, man,” Sasser said. “I definitely lose more than I win against him. Y’all just don’t see it.”
According to a video posted to the College Basketball Scouting YouTube channel, Mark scored 0.85 points per possession in isolation last season. That figure landed in the 59th percentile. As a handler in ball-screen actions, he scored 0.94 PPP (83rd percentile).
“A terrific lefty midrange gunner, Mark can create shots with his shifty handle,” CJ Moore and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic wrote about Mark. “He also showcases some real potential as a passer and playmaker. Teams that take Mark, though, will need to be willing to accept the good with the bad.”
The bad with Mark is he shot 44.9% on all attempts in the lane in 2022-23, according to CBB Analytics. He finished 52.9% — 9.5% below Division I average — of his 51 shots at the rim.
Mark was also 3 of 27 shooting near the right elbow and 5 of 27 from deep on the left wing. The College Basketball Scouting video of Mark labels his shot selection as a weakness — 0.89 expected points per shot.
Interestingly, however, CBB Analytics shows Mark hit 36.3% of 91 three-point attempts released inside 25 feet. The key to him lifting efficiency may lie in weeding out deep threes (6 of 28) and long two-point looks (18 of 60).
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As Houston made its run to the Final Four in March 2021, Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson said Mark was an easy player to let play through mistakes. Last season he was No. 9 in the AAC in offensive rating (116.0), according to KenPom data.
“He’s had to learn college basketball,” Sampson added. “His favorite offense is give-and-go — give it to me and go to hell. That’s what he did in high school. Give it to me and I’ll go do my thing.
“But he was a willing, eager learner. I love Tramon.”
Additionally, Mark was a low-turnover player for the Cougars last season. KenPom data shows he posted a full-season turnover rate of 13.2% and league-only rate of 11.3%, which ranked fifth. Though not a high-usage wing, Mark turned in 26 games with one or zero turnovers.
Defensively, Mark was third in steals (39) and fourth in blocks (15) at Houston in 2022-23. And Sports Reference shows he posted a defensive rating of 91.3, which was third best among Cougars who played more than 500 minutes.
Mark was counted on game in and game out on a team that finished fifth nationally in defensive efficiency. He, too, was a plus on the backboards at times, grabbing five-plus rebounds in 12 games. Mark also had nine games with six-plus defensive rebounds after Jan. 11.
According to CBB Analytics, Mark had a defensive rebound rate of 16.5% in the Cougars’ last 10 games. For the season, it was 13.6%.
The Athletic ranked Mark as the No. 39 available transfer and On3.com placed him No. 45.
“Tramon has always had a fantastic attitude,” Kelvin Sampson said of Mark after a 23-point game against Oral Roberts in November. “He’s very coachable. When Tramon got here, if I had told him to run through a brick wall, he’d want to negotiate.
“Now, he’d say, ‘Can I get a running start?’”
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