Photo credits: 247 Sports
With four freshmen, two grad transfers, and three eligible traditional transfers, the Razorbacks basketball team will have nine new players on roster this year.
There is a healthy mixture of young potential, experienced role players, and talented players needing a new environment. Based on skillset, talent level, position, stats, and other factors, this list will predict and rank the most impactful newcomers for next year’s roster.
1. Moses Moody
Yes, the incoming freshman has high billing to live up to. He is already listed on multiple 2021 NBA Draft boards, and his 6-6 frame gives him the perfect size to make an immediate impact at his position. Moody has great ballhandling skills, is one of the best shooters in the 2020 class, and is a willing and competent defender who can generate steals and take charges. The talent is obvious and the potential seemingly endless. He should thrive in Musselman’s “pace and space” system, particularly with the other weapons around him.
2. Vance Jackson
One of the most versatile players on the roster, Jackson has the ability to play point-forward at 6-9. He started his career at UCONN, then transferred to New Mexico where he averaged 12 points and 6 rebounds over two seasons despite a plethora of distractions/disciplinary issues plaguing the team. If Jackson gets his mind right, buys in to the coaches and his teammates, and plays at the level he is capable of, he could be an All-SEC performer.
3. J.D. Notae
Dating back to last season, Notae received high praise from his coaches and his teammates. He has looked every bit the part of a scoring SEC guard behind closed doors. That reputation will have to transition to the court and television in the coming months in order for him to have such an impact as this list indicates. Notae averaged 15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals a game in two seasons at Jacksonville.
4. Justin Smith
The 6-7 graduate transfer forward from Indiana announced his commitment today, giving the Razorbacks fourteen scholarship players. Smith is a versatile defender who brings size and athleticism. According to Indiana Rivals reporter Alec Lasley, Smith is a very good offensive rebounder and can guard all positions on the floor. He could flourish in the open court and in transition, but won’t help spread the floor with his lack of shooting and ballhandling. Smith could start alongside Jackson in the post for the Razorbacks.
5. Jalen Tate
The second grad-transfer addition, Tate is almost identical to Jimmy Whitt from last season. He would likely fill the same role Whitt played last year, being a senior leader who can play any position except the five on both ends of the court. His outside shot isn’t as bad as his percentages would indicate due to an injury, but he also won’t be expected to score as much as Whitt. Tate is an elite defender and athletic slasher who will help in depth, leadership, and can score if need-be.
6. KK Robinson
Robinson saw a late boost in his recruiting rankings just a couple weeks ago, shooting all the way up to 38th in the 247 rankings and 63rd on Rivals. He has incredible speed with the ball and can score at all levels. He’s thrived playing against tough competition on the EYBL circuit and at Oak Hill. Robinson will be the shortest guard on the team at 5-11, but has the skillset and intangibles to push for playing time as a true freshman.
7. Devo Davis
Davis and Robinson are in the same boat here, but for different reasons. Davis is a big guard at 6-4 and more of a “true” point guard than Robinson. He can score at all levels, but needs some work on his outside jumpshot. Also a great defender and finisher through contact, Davis will be pushing for playing time as a true freshman as well.
8. Connor Vanover
The Arkansas native transferred home after signing with Cal out of high school. He was expected to receive a waiver last year, but the NCAA denied the initial request and an appeal. At 7-3, Vanover will be the tallest player in Razorback history. His final eleven games at Cal his freshman year, Vanover averaged 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks a game, shooting 38% from the three-point line. Vanover would provide mismatches and spacing on the offensive end of the floor, but could potentially be a defensive liability. Coach Musselman has said the team might have to switch on screens with Vanover in on defense. With the addition of Justin Smith, Vanover might see less playing time with Smith being much more versatile and more suited to Musselman’s defense.
9. Jaylin Williams
The two newcomers who have games most-geared towards the NBA are Moody and Williams. Williams comes in so low on immediate impact because he is still pretty raw, and the addition of Vance Jackson takes playing time away from him. Before Jackson signed, it was very possible Vanover and Williams could start at the post positions together. Williams is an athletic big man with decent ballhandling skills and the ability to spread the floor. He’s also a shotblocker, and can put the ball on the floor to score. I would not be the least bit surprised if he starts at some point in the season, or at least develops into a sixth man role. He has the ideal skillset.
10. Abayomi Iyiola
The Stetson transfer has an uphill battle to climb for playing time. He would’ve been a nice piece for last year’s team that had very little frontcourt depth, but the eligible talent in the frontcourt has improved drastically in the past year. Coach Musselman has commented on Iyiola’s work ethic and tenacity. It is possible he works his way on to the floor for some minutes, but it would be difficult.