After another run to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, the Arkansas basketball season officially came to an end with a loss to UConn in the Sweet 16 on Thursday.
If history is any indication, Eric Musselman won’t waste any time before starting to construct his roster for next season. A wizard with the transfer portal, there will likely be another crop of newcomers joining the Razorbacks this offseason.
However, only one current player — Kamani Johnson — is officially out of eligibility. With two five-star signees in Baye Fall and Layden Blocker, at least some roster turnover will have to happen to make room for the second of those two freshmen.
To import transfers, which Musselman will almost assuredly do, more players will have to leave, either for the NBA Draft or to enter the transfer portal themselves.
Here’s a rundown of all 12 scholarship players with remaining eligibility, as well as a case for why each could return to Arkansas basketball and why each could leave the team…
(NOTE: Players are listed by average minutes played this season, from most to least.)
Significant Contributors for Arkansas Basketball
STATS: 36 G/36 GS, 34.8 minutes, 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.1 steals
Why He Could Return: We won’t waste your time — it ain’t happening.
Why He Could Leave: A potential top-10 pick, Anthony Black will almost certainly be declaring for the 2023 NBA Draft. He lived up to the hype that came with being a five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American, starting every game and playing more minutes than any other freshman in UA history. Sure, there are aspects of his game that could stand to improve, such as his 3-point shot and propensity for turnovers, but Black showed plenty to become a lottery pick and a rare one-and-done for the Razorbacks. ESPN’s latest mock draft projects him as the No. 10 overall pick.
Ricky Council IV
STATS: 36 G/29 GS, 34.1 minutes, 16.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals
Why He Could Return: After being the AAC Sixth Man of the Year at Wichita State last year, Ricky Council IV was primarily a starter for the Razorbacks and did a nice job of filling a lead scoring role they desperately needed with Nick Smith Jr. missing much of the season. However, his efficiency fell off quite a bit in SEC play. After shooting 51.6% in the first 12 games, Council shot just 38.6% from the field over the final 24 games. He also shot just 27.0% from beyond the arc and could stand to improve his defense.
Why He Could Leave: Council has elite athleticism that can translate to the NBA, as seen with some of his high-flying dunks. Throw in his 6-foot-6 frame and he should get drafted somewhere, even with his efficiency struggles. ESPN has him going No. 41 overall, which is the middle of the second round, but some mocks have him sneaking into the first round. Even though there are areas of his game that could improve, there’s also a chance his stock is as high as it’s going to get and it might make sense to strike while the iron is hot.
STATS: 35 G/31 GS, 33.1 minutes, 10.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.4 steals
Why He Could Return: If there was any question, the Razorbacks’ first two games in the NCAA Tournament proved that Davonte Davis was the heart and soul of the 2022-23 team. He did whatever Arkansas needed — scoring, distributing, rebounding, defense, etc. — throughout the season and, following the Kansas win, Eric Musselman said he felt like Davis was his son. He brought leadership to a team with only two returning players and could do the same next season. It’s also worth noting that Davis is an in-state product and playing for the Razorbacks means a lot to him — not to mention he has been pretty active with NIL opportunities.
Why He Could Leave: There aren’t any mock drafts that include him, but Davis would almost certainly have an opportunity to play professionally somewhere. On top of being a shutdown defender, he became an excellent 3-point shooter about midway through the season, making 41.2% of his 4.6 attempts over the final 21 games. That would presumably make him a desirable addition for a team overseas or in the G League. He’s also been in college for three years and may be ready to move on.
STATS: 9 G/0 GS, 27.0 minutes, 11.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 steals
Why He Could Return: Trevon Brazile going down with a torn ACL in the ninth game of the season not only had long-lasting ripple effects for the Razorbacks, but also for himself when it comes to the NBA Draft. He was just starting to creep into the back end of the first round in several mocks when he got hurt and was positioned to possibly climb even higher. Now, however, Brazile isn’t included in most two-round mocks. Plus, his timeline seems to indicate a return to school would be in his best interest, as he probably won’t be able to do much – or be remotely close to full strength – at the NBA Scouting Combine and wouldn’t be cleared to play in the NBA Summer League. Brazile would be ready in time for the college season, though, and could reassert himself as a first-rounder if he returns.
Why He Could Leave: Assuming he comes back fine from the injury, Brazile has an NBA skill set. He’s 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-2.5 wingspan and a 42.5-inch vertical. Couple that elite athleticism with an ability to shoot 3s and he is exactly the kind of player NBA teams are looking for. If he showed enough for a team to take a chance on him in the second round, it might still be worth it to go pro. Daniel Gafford, Isaiah Joe and Jaylin Williams have proven you can still make a large impact in the NBA as a second-round pick.
Nick Smith Jr.
STATS: 17 G/14 GS, 25.9 minutes, 12.5 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists
Why He Could Return: Despite making several “I’ll be ready next year” comments to reporters in the locker room after the loss to UConn, it is extremely unlikely Nick Smith Jr. returns for a second year with the Razorbacks.
Why He Could Leave: Bobby Portis made similar comments after his final game and still entered the draft, and he was considered a mid-first-round pick. Even with his struggles in the NCAA Tournament and injury concerns, Smith will almost certainly be a lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Most mock drafts still have him going in the top 10, but even if he slips to No. 14, he’d still be guaranteed to make about $8 million based on last year’s contracts. Sure, Smith could theoretically come back and assert himself as a top-3 pick, which is where he was projected coming into the season and would potentially double his guaranteed money, but his knee injury could also flare up and cause him to fall even further. It’s a risk most players won’t, and probably shouldn’t, take.
STATS: 36 G/22 GS, 24.5 minutes, 7.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals
Why He Could Return: Inconsistency was the story of Jordan Walsh’s freshman season. He had flashes of brilliance, but also struggled to stay on the floor because of foul trouble for large stretches of the year. Walsh seemed to lack the confidence to shoot the ball at times and made only 27.8% of his 3-pointers. The few times he shot with confidence, though, that rate seemed to increase. If he can clean up his foul issues while continuing to play lockdown defense and gain more confidence offensively, Walsh has a great chance to evolve into the first-round pick he was projected to be coming out of high school as a five-star recruit.
Why He Could Leave: Walsh played arguably his best basketball in the NCAA Tournament, even if his stat lines didn’t exactly jump off the page. He was an incredible plus-34 in 60 minutes against Illinois and Kansas, showcasing his value to winning in multiple ways. His frame (6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan) and athleticism (46-inch vertical) already make him a desirable prospect for NBA teams, so his play down the stretch may have shown enough for him to climb into the second round and — as mentioned with Brazile — recent Razorbacks like Gafford, Joe and Williams prove second-rounders can carve out a role in the NBA.
STATS: 36 G/31 GS, 20.2 minutes, 7.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.4 blocks
Why He Could Return: For much of the season, Makhi Mitchell was the Razorbacks’ starting big man. He wasn’t a huge scoring threat, but he had very good footwork down low and Arkansas liked to go to him early in games for a big stretch of the year. His biggest impact, though, was interior defense and rebounding. After two years of playing at Rhode Island, Mitchell might enjoy playing a second year on the big stage that Arkansas can provide. On the flip side, the Razorbacks might benefit from having a veteran presence in the front court to help incoming five-star freshman Baye Fall and whomever else they add in the transfer portal.
Why He Could Leave: Mitchell is a true senior at his third school, after starting out at Maryland and transferring to Rhode Island. The only reason he’s able to return is because of the eligibility relief granted by the NCAA in response to the pandemic. However, four years in college may be more than enough and he could opt to move on. He’s not an NBA prospect, but he would certainly have a chance to make money playing professionally overseas. Unless he got a degree from Arkansas and can become a graduate transfer, transferring a third time is unlikely because the NCAA is allegedly going to clamp down on multiple-transfer players. If he returns, Mitchell might not maintain his starting role depending on the health of Brazile and who else Musselman adds, so he may not be interested in taking on a backup role as a fifth-year super senior.
Role Players for Arkansas Basketball
STATS: 30 G/9 GS, 12.8 minutes, 3.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.5 blocks
Why He Could Return: Considering they’ve stuck together at every other stop of their career, from Maryland to Rhode Island to Arkansas, Makhel Mitchell would likely stick around if his twin brother, Makhi, also chooses to return. On top of that, he would be another rim protector in the front court, as he averaged 4.7 blocks per 40 minutes. That could make him a situational weapon on the bench for the Razorbacks.
Why He Could Leave: If his brother ends up taking on a backup role, that’d put Makhel Mitchell at third on the depth chart at best. Playing even fewer minutes as a fifth-year super senior might not interest him, so he could opt to move on, as well. His size would likely give him an opportunity to play professionally somewhere overseas.
STATS: 31 G/0 GS, 9.4 minutes, 5.2 points, 2.3 rebounds
Why He Could Return: Some of it came in garbage time, but a case could be made that Jalen Graham was Arkansas’ best offensive player. In fact, his 22.1 points per 40 minutes were the best mark on the team, ahead of both Nick Smith Jr. (19.5) and Ricky Council IV (18.9). In certain matchups, Graham was particularly lethal – highlighted by a 26-point effort against Florida. In a vacuum, that kind of scoring ability could have a role on next year’s team. Plus, the new NCAA rules that cut down on second (and more) transfers could leave him no choice but to return.
Why He Could Leave: Unfortunately for Graham, this isn’t football and he has to also play defense. That was a constant struggle for the big man. There were also times he didn’t rebound or defend the rim to the level Musselman expected. All of that led to Graham constantly staying in Musselman’s doghouse. Even after games he played well, the veteran coach would almost always circle back to the areas in which he struggled during postgame press conferences. It would surprise no one if he chooses to move on. However, like the Mitchells, he’d likely need to graduate from Arkansas in order to gain immediate eligibility if he chooses to transfer for a second time.
STATS: 26 G/0 GS, 5.7 minutes, 2.4 points, 0.6 rebounds
Why He Could Return: Joseph Pinion possesses a skill that very few players have during the Eric Musselman era, as he is lethal shooting from beyond the arc. Despite never really getting consistent playing time, he knocked down 38.2% of his 3-point attempts as a freshman. He’s also an in-state product, coming to Arkansas from Morrilton, so he seems like a perfect example of someone who sticks around and continues to develop over several years. If he can improve his defense and expand his game beyond being just a shooter, he could be dangerous in the future.
Why He Could Leave: Professional basketball isn’t in the picture for Joseph Pinion at this point, but the transfer portal looms as a destination for players unhappy with their playing time or looking for another opportunity. If he takes that route, he’d be immediately eligible elsewhere – and would probably be heavily pursued because of his shooting ability.
Bench Players for Arkansas Basketball
STATS: 21 G/0 GS, 3.8 minutes, 0.7 points, 0.5 rebounds
Why He Could Return: A four-star recruit out of Magnolia, Ford is another in-state recruit who grew up cheering for the Razorbacks. Again, that would seemingly make him a candidate to stick around and develop over several years. The few times he did get in, Ford always hustled – regardless of the score – and was aggressive, so he has the mentality you’re looking for. It’s also worth noting that he was the first of three lesser-used freshmen to come off the bench in the blowout loss to UConn.
Why He Could Leave: Ford was at the very end of the bench for Arkansas, rarely playing any meaningful minutes as a freshman. If he doesn’t feel like there’s a clear path to more playing time next year, he could decide to enter the transfer portal and find somewhere else with more available minutes. After all, he was heavily recruited coming out of high school, picking up offers from the likes of Baylor, LSU and many others.
Barry Dunning Jr.
STATS: 16 G/1 GS, 3.2 minutes, 0.3 points, 0.2 rebounds
Why He Could Return: Early in the season, it looked like Barry Dunning Jr. was the closest of the three lesser-used freshmen to real playing time. He played meaningful minutes at the Maui Invitational and then started the Razorbacks’ first game back, against Troy, but stayed in the game for just one minute. The coaches clearly liked what they had seen from him at practice and in limited action, so that could be something they build on his sophomore year.
Why He Could Leave: As the season progressed, though, Dunning hardly ever saw the floor. He appeared in only five SEC games, playing eight total minutes — far fewer than Pinion (14 games, 98 minutes) and Ford (11 games, 35 minutes). He was also the last healthy scholarship player off the bench in the blowout against UConn, checking in about two minutes after Pinion and Ford and only a minute before the walk-ons. It would not be surprising if he opted to enter the transfer portal and pursue playing time elsewhere.
Arkansas Basketball Roster and Remaining Eligibility
Here is a rundown of the 2022-23 Arkansas basketball roster and how many years each player has left after this season…
- Anthony Black: 3
- Trevon Brazile: 2 (3, if he gets a medical redshirt for this year
- Ricky Council IV: 2
- Davonte Davis: 2
- Barry Dunning Jr.: 3
- Derrian Ford: 3
- Jalen Graham: 1
- Kamani Johnson: 0
- Makhel Mitchell: 1
- Makhi Mitchell: 1
- Joseph Pinion: 3
- Nick Smith Jr.: 3
- Jordan Walsh: 3
More coverage of Arkansas basketball from BoAS…