Arkansas basketball is roaring on all fronts right now, as evidenced by the major high school recruits either committing to play for Eric Musselman or at least considering the Hogs as one of their college destination finalists.
The news of two top 10 players committing to the Razorbacks this October has sent fans into a tizzy. First, there was Nick Smith Jr., the 6-3 guard out of North Little Rock, AR. He’s a consensus 5-star recruit ranked #6 in the nation by ESPN.
His addition propelled the Hogs to the #3 recruiting class in the nation for 2022. Then Jordan Walsh, a fellow 5-star recruit and #7 ranked player on ESPN, also committed to the Razorbacks last week. Now Arkansas is slotted as the #2 recruiting class in the nation.
Perhaps the biggest remaining undecided Razorback target is a 6-7 guard/forward out of Duncanville High school in Texas, 5-star guard Anthony Black. This high school senior is ranked 19th nationally by 247Sports and 26th by ESPN. He missed out on being an ESPN 5-star recruit by one grade point – Black is graded an 89, and ESPN considers a grade of 90 to be a 5-star recruit.
However, he’s comfortably in the 5-star range by 247Sports’ standards.
Anthony Black’s Official Visit to Arkansas
Black took an official visit to The Hill over the weekend of September 17-19. Black and his mother were impressed with the Razorbacks’ hospitality off the court and NBA-like atmosphere on the court. Black stated that his mother “really enjoyed meeting the coaches and the hospitality was good. She just enjoyed meeting the staff…and seeing how family-like they are.”
He also noted, “They were showing me how they compare to the NBA style-of-play-wise and offense-wise, and they were telling me they know what it takes to get there…Coach Muss knows about the NBA and knows what it takes to get you there,” and important selling point for any elite recruit.
This is aided by the 70+ years of NBA experience Musselman now has on his coaching staff, including three seasons as an NBA head coach himself and six more as an NBA assistant.
Others with NBA coaching and/or playing experience include assistants Clay Moser and Keith Smart, as well as Ronnie Brewer Jr., Arkansas recruiting Coordinator and Razorback legend.
Any Razorback fan knows the passion Arkansas has for the Hogs, and out-of-state recruits like Black are quickly learning for themselves. “[The staff] were saying how Arkansas doesn’t have any professional teams, so the college is really the professional team.”
“The fans are crazy and they would have my back.”
Joining an Elite Class of 2022
Getting to the next level is the ultimate goal for high school recruits, but winning at each level is what truly provides the national spotlight. Black could potentially join two other 5-star players and what is already the #2 overall 2022 class and one of the greatest in Razorback basketball history.
It’s inevitable for doubt to creep in when getting too many star players on one team. A popular saying is that “there’s only one ball,” meaning each player can only contribute so much with so many other stars around them demanding touches.
This shouldn’t be an issue with the way Musselman runs his team, on and off the court. He tailors his game plan to the talent on his roster and shows a willingness to adapt to different situations. Adding more talent won’t take away that ability. In fact, it should increase the possibilities at his disposal.
Anthony Black Player Breakdown
Black is a score-first guard with a deadly combination of length and speed. At 6-7, he makes his living in the paint, scoring around and occasionally over defenders. Black displays a lethal first step to go along with a plethora of dribble moves he uses to break down defenders.
You can see it right off the bat in the first highlight here:
Additionally, Black’s killer crossover is usually all he needs to get half a step on his defender and get into the lane for a layup or floater attempt.
Anthony Black’s ability to create driving lanes for himself is impressive, and it’s amplified by his complete arsenal of finishing moves. He can euro-step, hit awkward shots like contested reverses and finger rolls (a la George Gervin), finish through contact, rise for dunks, and occasionally find the open man when one too many help defenders step in his path.
He’s also got a smooth jump shot that makes him a respectable spot up 3-point shooter. Black doesn’t often pull up out of dribble moves to take jump shots, but rather uses his speed and bag of tricks to get by defenders and into the paint. His long-range shots generally come off of his teammates’ driving and kicking or the offense moving the ball well.
It should also be noted that Black has a high off-ball IQ. Though his dribble moves and quickness allow him to blow by defenders, he takes it into his own hands to make himself available in the paint even when he doesn’t have the ball.
Posting up mismatches, cutting back door, or just finding the open hole in a zone are all things Black does well.
Just because Black prefers to score doesn’t mean that he can’t pass – he displays a high level of basketball IQ and knows when and how to find open teammates – he’s just exceptional at making the most of his own scoring opportunities. Still, over this past spring and summer, he averaged over 20 points and 8 assists per game with the 3D Empire on the grassroots basketball circuit.
Black’s biggest weakness is his on-ball defense. Black is not a bad defender in the slightest, and he already has the length to already be a pesky defender, but not the strength or footwork to be a consistent on-ball defender yet.
His basketball IQ and length allows him to often get into position to make plays on the ball and in passing lanes, but he doesn’t keep consistently shut down ball handlers with his physical tools. Whether this is a lack of ability, understanding of the footwork required, or a general lack of want-to remains to be seen.
Arkansas Recruiting and Anthony Black
Black was the headliner at a recent event hosted by Coach Musselman called Muss Bus Mania. He’s been an under-the-radar target for the Hogs for quite some time, and they seem to be taking an all-in approach now that they’ve already locked down two other 5-star commits.
Black also attended the Coach Wootten Top 150 basketball camp with Jordan Walsh. The two have a good relationship that could play a factor into each other’s decision, though it’s not a guarantee that they’ll try to play together.
Regardless, the presence of Nick Smith Jr. and Jordan Walsh has Black considering the Hogs as one of his top college decisions. Indeed, at least one recruiting analyst already has predicted him to go to the Hogs.
Below is a Floridian named Ramone’s prediction:
Take this with a grain of salt given Ramone isn’t exactly a household name in recruiting (yet). Still, if he’s really gotten 55 of his 59 previous predictions correct, this is very good tea leaf reading for Hog fans.
Plenty of tough competition
Black holds over 20 offers, seven from powerhouse schools like Duke and Gonzaga. Duke currently holds the #1 overall recruiting class for 2022, and even the addition of Walsh and Black together wouldn’t propel the Hogs past the Blue Devils, though it would land them firmly at the #2 spot.
Black currently has four Crystal Ball predictions on 247Sports — three to Oklahoma State and one to Baylor, — though it appears those do not fully reflect his sentiments in the aftermath of the Arkansas visit. Some believe he may lean towards the recent success of Gonzaga.
Black has said that he will dive more deeply into his college decision after his official visit to Gonzaga, which occurred over the weekend of October 8-10 during Gonzaga’s Kraziness in the Kennel event, a red-white game of sorts that includes a 3-point contest and a dunk contest.
Black said of the event: “I knew it was a basketball school, but the culture, the people, the fans, everybody’s super invested in Gonzaga basketball. Just seeing it was crazy.” Of Gonzaga as a potentially collegiate home, Black says he “likes the culture and the way they play.”
“They play through their guards a lot, and they just have a winning culture and they’re going to win every year and go deep in the tournament. They just win and play super hard.”
Anthony Black Transfer Trouble
Anthony Black recently announced his transfer to state champion Duncanville High School from Coppell High School. Shortly after, the UIL ruled Black ineligible on the basis of transferring for athletic purposes. Black’s mom is currently in a relationship with Duncanville’s coach, and brought up allegations of domestic violence against Black’s father in a recent hearing regarding the high school transfer.
The governing body for Texas high school sports has yet to be swayed by any claims and holds firm on their ruling that Black is ineligible to play for Duncanville in his senior year. This could open the door for a transfer to a different school, a reclassification to enter college early or a direct jump to a professional league either in the US or overseas.
No decision or list has been released by Black or his family. This is an interesting development worth monitoring for schools currently recruiting Black.
Final Arkansas Recruiting Push
During Nick Smith Jr.’s recruiting process, he alluded to bringing more players with him to The Hill to compete for a championship. He said, “Coach Muss has it going, the football team has it going right now, just keep bringing that excitement to the state and have Arkansas on my back and bring some players on with me and try to make something happen.”
Smith has already succeeded in convincing Walsh to join him in Fayetteville, and it appears he’s not done yet. Here is a tweet Smith sent mere minutes after Walsh announced his commitment to the Hogs.
Later, Nick Smith Jr. talked to Best of Arkansas Sports about whether he’s helping to recruit Anthony Black or not. Read what he had to say here.
Musselman has made his case to Black with the Hogs style of play, NBA-like approach, family atmosphere, and ability to bring in the players required to be successful. Black has not yet set a date for his commitment, or even narrowed down his choices to a certain number of schools.
He has said he’ll get more serious about his decision once all of his official visits are over. That should be very soon.
So now we wait.
Author: Brandon Baker
Basketball Department Head at overtimeheroics.net
Twitter: @Panamaniac03 and @OTHArkansas
Facebook Page: Overtime Heroics Arkansas