The Rare NBA Draft Feat Anthony Black Has Helped Put Arkansas On Cusp of Achieving

Anthony Black, Arkansas basketball, NBA Draft
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

It was never really in question, but Anthony Black finally revealed his plans for next season by declaring for the 2023 NBA Draft on Wednesday, officially becoming another one-and-done for the Arkansas basketball program.

The 6-foot-7 point guard and former five-star recruit announced his decision in a segment on ESPN’s “NBA Today” show, joining teammates Nick Smith Jr. and Ricky Council IV in forgoing his remaining collegiate eligibility.

Despite the Razorbacks falling short of sky-high preseason expectations, Black played a key role in helping them still reach the Sweet 16 for a third straight year by putting together one of the best freshman campaigns in school history.

During his announcement on ESPN, Black thanked Eric Musselman and the rest of the Arkansas basketball staff while giving them a simple, yet glowing compliment that — along with his development this season and looming NBA Draft selection — could pay dividends down the road when it comes to recruiting future players.

“I trusted them with my college decision and they delivered on everything they told me,” Black said.

Statistically, he enjoyed a rare level of all-around success with the Razorbacks, averaging 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.1 steals in 34.9 minutes this year. Black is just the eighth freshman to put up those numbers in 30 years and the first to do so in a decade, according to Sports Reference:

  • Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart (2012-13): 15.4 pts., 5.8 reb., 4.2 ast., 3.0 stl.
  • Ohio’s D.J. Cooper (2009-10): 13.5 pts., 5.4 reb., 5.9 ast., 2.5 stl.
  • Memphis’ Tyreke Evans (2008-09): 17.1 pts., 5.4 reb., 3.9 ast., 2.1 stl.
  • Arizona State’s James Harden (2007-08): 17.8 pts., 5.3 reb., 3.2 ast., 2.1 stl.
  • Arkansas’ Ronnie Brewer (2003-04): 12.2 pts., 5.5 reb., 3.4 ast., 2.0 stl.
  • UConn’s Caron Butler (2000-01): 15.3 pts., 7.6 reb., 3.1 ast., 2.2 stl.
  • Ohio State’s Michael Redd (1997-98): 21.9 pts., 6.5 reb., 3.0 ast., 2.0 stl.

At Arkansas, Black broke the school record for steals by a freshman with 74, a mark previously held by Kareem Reed (65 in 1995-96), and finished with one of the 10 best freshman seasons in terms of points (460 — 7th), rebounds (182 — 7th) and assists (141 — 3rd), as well, according to HogStats.

He will now wait to hear his name called in the NBA Draft, which is scheduled for June 22 in New York.

Anthony Black in NBA Mock Drafts

A five-star recruit coming out of Duncanville High School in Texas, Anthony Black was viewed as a potential first-round pick, but it was far from a consensus.

After his lone season with the Razorbacks, though, he asserted himself as not only a first-round lock, but a one-and-done lottery pick. In fact, most projections currently have him going in the top 10.

ESPN’s latest mock draft, which was released earlier this week, projects him eighth overall to the Washington Wizards.

“His eye for playmaking will help drive a successful offense, and he’s a smart, active and switchable defender,” ESPN’s Jeremy Woo wrote. “Considering how many organizations are emphasizing positional size, skill and feel in building lineups, Black looks like a perfect fit for the modern league.”

The Wizards seem to be a trendy pick for the team that selects Black, as Bleacher Report and The Ringer each had them taking him seventh overall in their projections released on April 4.

From an Arkansas perspective, that’d mean joining forces with Daniel Gafford, an El Dorado native who played two seasons with the Razorbacks before going pro in 2019. It makes sense from a broader NBA perspective, too, because he could be the answer to Washington’s revolving door at point guard since John Wall left in 2020.

Woo wrote that he was a “tailor-made fit” for the Wizards, while The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor described him as someone who “enhances star teammates by instantly processing plays while thriving in any role.”

If he ends up being selected in the top 10, Anthony Black would be just the seventh player in UA history to do so in the modern NBA Draft era and first to do so in more than two decades:

  • Joe Johnson — 2001 — No. 10 (Celtics)
  • Todd Day — 1992 — No. 8 (Bucks)
  • Joe Kleine — 1985 — No. 6 (Kings)
  • Alvin Robertson — 1984 — No. 7 (Spurs)
  • Sidney Moncrief — 1979 — No. 5 (Bucks)
  • Ron Brewer — 1978 — No. 7 (Trailblazers)

Something that could potentially keep Anthony Black out of the Top 10 are concerns not only about his outside shooting, but also about his ability to create offense for himself if he doesn’t get all the way to the rack. “He’s big and shifty, but right now he’s quite ineffective trying to score off the bounce,” NBA Draft analyst Christopher Kline wrote. “If he can’t get to the rim the odds of a successful scoring possession tank hard. His mechanics aren’t seamless and he will have to work hard if he wants to elevate beyond his high-level role player projections.”

Potential History for Arkansas Basketball

The 2023 NBA Draft is shaping up to be historical for the Arkansas basketball program.

Not only could Anthony Black join an exclusive list of top-10 picks, but teammates Nick Smith Jr. and Ricky Council IV are widely projected to have their names called, as well. The Razorbacks are also still waiting on a decision by Jordan Walsh, who could be another one-and-done.

Smith was once viewed as a potential top-five pick, but an injury-plagued and inconsistent freshman season at Arkansas has led to him slipping in mock drafts. He’s a first-round prospect, but could fall out of the lottery. However, The Ringer (No. 11), ESPN (No. 12) and Bleacher Report (No. 13) still have him among the top 14.

Arkansas has never had a pair of lottery picks in the same draft and it is trying to become the first team to accomplish the feat since Florida State in 2020.

ESPN has Council and Walsh going in the second round, but their athleticism could help vault them into late first round conversations during the pre-draft process — assuming Walsh goes through it.

Over the past decade, only four programs have had at least three first-round picks in the same draft: Duke (four times), Kentucky (twice), Villanova and UCLA. Despite the significant uptick in talent and coaching across the board in the SEC, no SEC West team has recently achieved this feat.

Even if Walsh and Council go in the second round — again assuming Walsh declares, which he has yet to do so — Arkansas would be in rare air with four total draft picks. Only Duke (three times), Kentucky (twice) and Villanova have done that in the past 10 years.

The only time the Razorbacks have ever had an NBA Draft anything like this was in 1992, when Todd Day was a lottery pick (No. 8, Bucks), Oliver Miller (No. 22, Suns) and Lee Mayberry (No. 23, Bucks) also went in the first round, and Isaiah Morris (No. 37, Heat) was a second-rounder.

Regardless of how many and where players get selected, Arkansas will certainly extend its streak to five consecutive NBA Drafts with at least one player taken. That is currently tied with Auburn and LSU for the fourth-longest active streak in Division I:

  1. Kentucky: 15 years
  2. Duke: 14 years
  3. USC: 5 years
  4. Arkansas, Auburn, LSU: 4 years

The only time Arkansas has had a streak of at least five consecutive years with a player taken in the NBA Draft was 1978-85. However, that eight-year streak includes two years in which the Razorbacks’ lone picks were taken outside of the top 100 picks, as the draft used to be much longer than its current two-round format.

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