The Arkansas basketball program recently signed the No. 5 class in the nation — its highest ranked class since 2004, when it signed three blue chip players*, plus five-star Al Jefferson.
Now, the Hogs have a chance to finish even higher — closer to their 1995 class** which many services rated No. 1 at the time.
Frank Anselem, a 6’10” four-star center with a 7’5” wingspan, this week cut Kentucky for his final six finalists, leaving Arkansas along with Seton Hall, San Diego State, Syracuse and Western Kentucky.
Anselem’s travel coach Julius Smith said Kentucky, the presumed frontrunner, was cut after the Wildcats signed Wake Forest transfer Oliver Sarr, a 7-foot Frenchman who’s looking to receive a waiver form the NCAA in order to play next season.
Anselem is a raw, athletic and rangy power player at nearly 220 pounds who would initially provide the Hogs with depth behind Connor Vanover, the projected starting center on the 2020-21 team. He would most likely battle with Abayomi Iyiola and Reggie Chaney for playing time.
“Coach Muss, he’s a pretty good coach… I’ve been on contact with the coaching staff a lot,” Anselem told The Front Office. “I did a virtual tour with them and it was pretty good.”
When it comes to Western Kentucky, Anselem lists Charles Bassey, a fellow Nigerian center who helped WKU defeat Arkansas two years in a row, as a big reason. Bassey texts Anselem nearly daily.
Right now, it appears Syracuse and San Diego State have the momentum in signing Anselem. Recruiting analyst Adam Zagoria reported Anselem had Zoom calls this past week with Seton Hall and Syracuse, with one source saying those two schools are “gaining the most momentum.”
On top of that, Anselem also talks often with San Diego State.
However, after Zagoria reported this, Seton Hall signed the 6’9″, 230 pound Jeff Ngandu, which makes the chances of landing there less likely.
Still, in today’s musical chairs roster climate, almost anything is possible. The Hogs, for instance, currently have all 13 scholarships on the 2020-21 team filled (with Mason Jones leaving). An extra scholarship, however, could still open up if Isaiah Joe joins Jones in going pro or if a current player leaves the team.
See highlights of Arkansas’ new freshmen studs here:
Consider this your warning for the 2020 recruiting class ??? pic.twitter.com/WKfm3NPXfy— Arkansas Razorbacks Basketball (@RazorbackMBB) April 30, 2020
Originally from Nigeria, Anselem has only played basketball for five years. The Arkansas program has had success in developing a very similar player, Moses Kingsley, in the recent past — although none of those coaches are still on staff in the Eric Musselman era. Mike Anderson’s assistant Melvin Watkins did much of Kingsley’s mentoring.
“Athletic center with outstanding frame,” 247Sports analyst Josh Gershon writes of Anselem. “Good size, wide shoulders and very long arms. Strong kid but not maxed out. Still raw on offense but physical tools give him very high upside. Has budding elbow jumper and hook shot but footwork and post moves can improve. Has chance to be high level rebounder and rim protector given size, length and athleticism. Still inconsistent but upside is very high. Projects as high major starter with professional upside dependent on development of skill.”
You can see Anselem’s upside in the video below. Check out the destruction he wreaks on the rim at the 4:00 mark:
In 2019-2020, as a junior, Anselem averaged 10.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game against elite competition playing for California-based Prolific Prep, which went 31-3.
Why are we only now hearing about him?
Frank Anselem wasn’t part of the class of 2020 until mid-April, when he reclassified from the class of 2021. He did this in part because the NCAA extended the late signing period for hoops prospects until August.
Before Anselm reclassified, he was an LSU commit — which indicates he sees the value of playing in the SEC.
He decided to reopen his decision making after reclassifying and is now looking for the best fit starting in 2020-21. That’s why he took a virtual tour of Arkansas in early May.
“Anselem, the No. 85 overall prospect and No. 15 center in the 247Sports Composite Rankings, is considered the top-ranked available frontcourt prospect expected to play college basketball. Makur Maker (No. 12) and Kai Sotto (No. 62) are the lone available big men ranked ahead of Anselem in the rankings, though both are expected to explore their professional options.”-KSR’s Jack Pilgrim
Although the Hogs are coming on strong in recruiting circles under Eric Musselman, Kentucky appears to be the frontrunner early on — if only because the Kentucky-based reporters are the ones who have spoken to him the most so far.
Based on the The Front Office interview on May 8, it does it appear that Syracuse and San Diego State are the frontrunners based on how long Anselem talks about both schools.
The below originally published on May 1, 2020
Kentucky fans rag on Anselem
“Anybody would have 100 percent interest in Kentucky,” Anselem told Larry Vaught. “You can’t mess around with them. It’s a great school with great history.”
While Kentucky does have an opening for a big man because it’s losing Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery to the NBA Draft, it’s also reloading with the nation’s No. 1 ranked class, which features two 6’9” power forwards. Plus, Kentucky is in the Top 5 for Moussa Cisse, a five-star class of 2021 big man who’s a prime target to reclassify to class of 2020.
Anselem is not in the mold of the uber-talented one-and-dones Kentucky fans have gotten used to. In fact, he projects to need at least three more years to develop the kind of offensive skills and shooting that would translate to the NBA.
Recruiting Anselem, who has a No. 85 composite ranking, “reeks of desperation,” one fan, bucsrule8872, wrote on a Rivals message board.
“I just hope Cal sees something that every scout in the business failed to see.”
Anselem wouldn’t start right away at either Arkansas or Kentucky, but he should get more playing time at Arkansas in his first season if the Wildcats add another big man or two in the coming weeks.
When will Anselem make his decision?
Anselem said The Front Office that he’s looking to make his decision some time this week, before the May 16 weekend.
Watch Arkansas basketball reporter Kevin McPherson break down Anselem after his virtual visit at the 3:22 mark below:
*In 2004, then Arkansas coach Stan Heath signed the nation’s No. 4 class, according to 247 Sports. That included four-star players Charles Thomas, Steven Hill and Darian Townes.
The crown jewel, however, was Top 3 national player Al Jefferson. Jefferson ended up skipping college and bolting straight into the NBA.
**Coming back-to-back national title game appearances, Nolan Richardson signed a 1995 group ranked by some outlets as the nation’s No. 1 class. It featured prep players like Pat Bradley, Derek Hood (a McDonald’s All-American) and Kareem Poole (who did not make it to the UA because of academic ineligibility.) A lot of the prime-time talent came from the junior college ranks, with signees like Marcus Saxon, Sunday Adebayo and the nation’s top JUCO player — Jesse Pate.
Penalties stemming from an investigation into this class are a big reason why things unraveled for Richardson at the UA, causing the blow up which led to his firing in 2002.
“The NCAA did not tear it apart. Frank [Broyles] tore it apart,” writes longtime Hog reporter Clay Henry. “The UA self imposed penalties as part of its own willingness to take the hit on a weak investigation that turned up as nothing happened wrong. Nolan had to turn Adebayo and Pate loose.”
“Adebayo later was ruled able to return and given a rare extra year to play. Pate had signed to play professionally almost immediately and could not return. This ordeal soured Nolan. No doubt it was the root of some problems that bubbled out later. Marcus Saxon did not make it to school because of questions about his transcript, but he did play elsewhere with no problem.”
Pate averaged more than 13 points a game in one season at Arkansas before he was ruled ineligible for academic issues. He died in 2015 from a spinal meningitis infection.
Read more about Arkansas basketball recruiting in our latest: