How an Unlocked “Boogie” Fland Projects to Do Damage in Hogs’ Backcourt

Boogie Fland, Arkansas basketball
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

After John Calipari sent shockwaves through the sports world by becoming the next Arkansas basketball coach, he had to piece together a roster. That included flipping three high-profile recruits from Kentucky – the most notable being Johnuel “Boogie” Fland.

The 6-foot-2 combo guard was the highest rated recruit for the Wildcats before taking his talents to Fayetteville to become the Hogs’ highest rated recruit in this cycle.

Calipari has arguably the most impressive track record for turning recruits into NBA stars of any coach in college basketball history, and that resume is even more incredible when looking only at his success rate among guards.

Names like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Devin Booker, Jamal Murray, De’Aaron Fox and Tyler Herro are just a few of his more notable NBA guards. Fland has the skill set and potential required to add his name to this list, but his (likely) lone season at Arkansas will be very telling on how his professional career unfolds.

Boogie Fland Scouting Report

Standing at 6-foot-2, Boogie Fland is caught somewhere between a point guard and a shooting guard. His skillset and highlight reels would indicate he’s more comfortable as a score-first player – which is perfectly fine so long as he continues to round out his game in some capacity.

While he’s naturally more of an off-ball player, he’s gotten a tighter handle on the ball throughout high school that should have defenders worried about their ankle stability, as well as a smooth shooting stroke that is arguably his best asset. More often than not, Fland is a dangerous 3-point shooter, though his overall percentage dropped some at times due to sheer volume and occasionally settling for tougher looks simply because he knows he’s capable of making them.

This isn’t uncommon or a cause for concern for a young guard like Fland. Being asked to carry the load offensively and operating as a perimeter scorer in high school – especially when a player has a skillset like Fland’s at his disposal – usually means lower percentages than what they’re actually capable of. But make no mistake, this is an elite scorer capable of hurting defenses with his offensive talent.

Moving into the collegiate – and eventually professional – game, though, Fland will need to continue to grow as a passer and playmaker. He averaged 3.6 assists per game in high school, which isn’t too shabby for a high-profile guard, but it doesn’t scream lead playmaker right away at the next level.

However, while edited and chopped up practice clips shouldn’t be relied upon as the only source of intel or scouting, it was very interesting to see Fland slinging the ball all over the court to find shooters and lob threats during the short practice montage the official team account released a few days ago:

Again, this doesn’t mean Fland has suddenly become an elite passer or projects as the team’s leading facilitator, but it does provide a glimmer of hope that he can and will settle into his role as a lead guard. One key to his development will be pairing those playmaking chops with his elite scoring ability.

An even bigger key to unlocking his potential, however, comes on the defensive side of the court. He’s got the length and quickness to be a disruptive defender, but it’s often hard to know exactly how good a player will be on that side of the ball until he actually steps foot on a college court. That’s especially true of offensive-minded players like Fland.

He certainly has a playmaker’s mentality on defense, generating steals at a good rate in high school, but his ability to sit back and defend without giving ball handlers the opportunity to blow by him on steal attempts will be telling of his overall effectiveness on that side of the ball.

Boogie Fland Comparison

Best of Arkansas Sports recently compared all nine players in Arkansas’ core rotation to current NBA players. In this article, Fland drew the high-end comparison of another former Calipari guard product, Tyrese Maxey.

Maxey is an explosive guard who has developed into a well-above-average 3-point shooter during his time in the NBA. During college, he hit only 29% from long range on 3.6 attempts per game, but that number has bounced up significantly to 39.6% in the NBA, peaking at 43% during his third season in the league.

The comparison between these two guards comes from their below-the-rim style of explosive play. Often when someone calls a guard explosive, they’re referring to players like Ja Morant or a young Russell Westbrook. Maxey and Fland are neither of those players.

Their explosion comes in the form of ball handling, quick movements and attacking the paint for tough finishes – usually below the rim. That said, it was impressive and encouraging to see Fland baptize a defender at the rim in a recent practice clip shared on social media:

This comparison is obviously a lofty – though not unrealistic – goal for Fland to reach considering Maxey was just named Most Improved Player and made his first All-Star appearance this season before securing a five-year, $204 million contract extension.

A few other names that have similar skill sets as Fland include Washington’s Jordan Poole and Orlando’s Cole Anthony. Poole was a notable 3-point shooter from Day 1 at Michigan, shooting 37% from long range over his two-year career. He became somewhat of a highlight machine during his last two seasons with the Warriors, but saw a significant drop-off in overall production and efficiency when he was tasked as the lead ball handler on the Washington Wizards this season.

Sure, some of this has to do how bad the Wizards were as an overall team last year, but it’s also safe to say Poole might not be ready to be a lead guard on an NBA team at this moment. Fland can certainly outperform the bar Poole has set, but if he does struggle to improve as a lead playmaker, he could be on a similar path.

Anthony, on the other hand, is more on the athletic end of the spectrum amongst guards. He has shown off his leaping ability at both the collegiate and pro level with finishes around the rim, but he’s been a sub-35% long range shooter basically his whole career.

Shooting 34% from long range is respectable at the college level, though below average in the NBA. It’s possible that Fland could follow this path, too, as more of an inefficient scoring option, but his potential certainly indicates he can be better.

Role with Arkansas Basketball

Despite the high ranking and lofty expectations, it’s far from a given that Boogie Fland will actually be the lead ball handler in this offense. In fact, it’s not even certain that he’s in the starting lineup.

Last season, the John Calipari-led Wildcats had two lottery picks (Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham) at their disposal in the backcourt, and neither one of them were full-time starters. Some of this had to do with how good DJ Wagner was to start the season. It also ties into defensive deficiencies when playing alongside each other, but who’s to say a similar issue doesn’t crop up with Fland?

While he has the tools to be a better defender than both Sheppard and Dillingham, the very player that started over both of these former Wildcats followed Calipari to Arkansas and has a really good chance at earning the starting role again.

Wagner was the No. 4 player in the 2023 ESPN 100, and though he struggled with consistency on offense, his defensive and playmaking abilities earned him a starting spot in a loaded backcourt. It’s not unreasonable to pencil him in as the favorite to start at point guard for the Hogs, this time as a sophomore with a full year of experience under his belt.

Could Fland start alongside Wagner? Anything is possible, but the other starting guard position is likely to be filled by Florida Atlantic transfer Johnell Davis. After four years of experience with the Owls that included a Final Four run, Davis was considered one of the best transfers on the market in this portal cycle. It would be a shock to most in the college basketball world if he didn’t start.

This leaves Fland with a few different paths to playing time this season. The first might be the most likely: be such a lethal offensive force that he still earns a lion’s share of the minutes in the backcourt even if he comes off the bench.

It’s not uncommon for freshmen to have an adjustment period to the collegiate game, but Fland can easily slot in as the “instant offense” guard that Calipari has deployed numerous times in the past, including both Sheppard and Dillingham last season and even guys like Devin Booker when he was at Kentucky.

The second path would be for Fland to become notably valuable on both sides of the ball, not just as a threat to score. If he takes a step forward as a playmaker and fully buys in as a defender, Calipari will have little reason not to start him.

Then the decision falls on Calipari regarding whether he wants to start all three guards – which would admittedly be a small lineup given the other options on this team – or replace one of Wagner and Davis with Fland in the starting group.

Regardless of where Fland is at the opening tip of each game, the Hogs only have nine high-profile guys to fill out their rotation at the moment. They’ve added a few lower-level recruits to fill out a few of their open roster spots, but Calipari is relatively limited in his options at every position.

If the worst-case scenario happens and Boogie Fland isn’t quite as good as he’s projected to be, he’ll still have every opportunity to prove himself as one of the only three ball-handling guards on the roster next season.

In the best-case scenario, he’s the starting point guard with a chance to lead the team in assists, steals and perhaps even points if the cards fall his way. That certainly is a taller task with guys like Davis and Karter Knox also on the roster.

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