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, Hogs hope to land top '24 recruit
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman looks on, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, during the second half of the Razorbacks’ 84-65 win over the Florida Gators at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman signed Nick Smith Jr., the No. 1 prospect in the nation in the 2022 class, and he and his staff hope to do the same with guard Tre Johnson, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the 2024 class.
Smith was rated the No. 1 recruit by 247 Sports while all four major recruiting services agree Johnson is the No. 1 prospect nationally.
The last consensus No. 1 prospect was small forward RJ Barrett in 2018. Barrett currently plays for the New York Knicks.
Johnson’s father, Richard, who was a standout guard at Baylor and Midwestern State in the late 1990s, said he and his son are well educated about the Razorbacks.
“We know a lot about the program and how Coach Musselman has been doing down there,” Richard Johnson said. “Of course, you had a few Dallas kids there with Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh. Just seeing the development and how he plays the freshmen out there, he’s going to put the best guys out on the court, so we’re definitely interested in that.”
Johnson, 6-5, 180 pounds, of Dallas Lake Highlands, has officially visited Baylor, Texas, Kansas, and Kentucky while eyeing one to Fayetteville.
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“Hopefully, we can get down probably not this summer, but probably early in the school year and come down on a visit and probably catch a football game or something like that before we make a decision,” Richard Johnson said.
The younger Johnson is looking to make his college decision sometime before November so he can focus on his senior season.
“Just want to go and see the fans and how they support and get behind the program,” said Richard Johnson of an Arkansas trip. “You know when a program has a good thing going. Just want to see how that vibe is. Being around the coaching staff and see how they are with the players and the relationships they have with those guys.”
Arkansas recruiting coordinator Ronnie Brewer and Musselman send information and communicate with Johnson.
“The success he’s had kind gives me a good feel on [the program],” Richard Johnson said of Musselman. “Just letting those guys play and letting them play through mistakes and everything, stuff like that. He’s not against the one-and-done.
“All those boxes are checked for us as far as the basketball stuff.”
The Arkansas coaches were courtside during the first two Nike EYBL sessions this spring to watch the top prospect play for the 17-under Houston Hoops.
“If it’s not Muss, it’s somebody from the coaching staff,” Richard Johnson said. “They always have somebody at the games.”
ESPN national recruiting director Paul Biancardi said Tre Johnson established himself as the nation’s top prospect early on.
“When you look at him, he kind of fits the mold of what a 2 guard looks like,” Biancardi said. “He has terrific positional size, understands how to create his own shot and make the spot up shot. He has a quick first step to the basket with fluid movement. In my mind, he’s a natural scorer.
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“You always want to be great at what you’re good at, and his forte is putting the ball in the basket. His shot preparation is advanced for his age. On the catch his body balance, elevation and clean release, aide his shooting prowess.”
In Musselman’s four years at Arkansas, nine Razorbacks have been invited to the NBA combine, including four in the one later this month. Musselman and his staff’s 52 years of NBA experience is also a selling point for the Hogs.
A winning culture, style of play, player-coach relationships and a history of producing one-and-done players will factor into the younger Johnson’s college decision.
“Muss has been in the NBA, so he does a lot of NBA stuff,” Richard Johnson said. “That’s going to be big for us because that’s the next level that we’re looking to try and make it to.”
The younger Johnson was a MaxPreps National Player of the Year finalist after averaging 21.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists while shooting 53% from the field, 41% beyond the three-point line from and 91% at the free throw line.
He led the Wildcats to a 34-3 record and the Class 6A state title as a junior while surpassing 2,000 career points. Johnson is a proud father but is mindful of what comes with his son’s high-profile status.
“You have a target on your back,” Richard Johnson said. “Just keeping that fire and still playing with that edge and chip on your shoulder. Kind of have that never-satisfied attitude, and that’s what I try instill in Tre, but it is fun and it’s exciting.”
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