For the second time this month, an Arkansas basketball player who previously indicated he’d return to the team is heading to the transfer portal. This time it was Derrian Ford, who announced his plans to leave Thursday morning.
The Magnolia product played sparingly as a freshman, but announced on April 9 — with a short video clip of him riding a horse — that he was “riding back to Fayetteville for 2023-2024” and included a #YEAR2 hashtag.
Less than three weeks later, though, Ford posted an all-too-familiar message thanking the fans, his teammates and the coaching staff.
“Arkansas will always be my home and hold a special place in my heart,” Ford wrote. “After much prayer and consultation with God, my family and the coaching staff, I have made the decision to enter the transfer portal. This is not the end; only the beginning for me.”
The move is reminiscent of fellow freshman Barry Dunning Jr., who posted a photo of himself inside Bud Walton Arena with the caption “HOME” on April 8 only to pop up in the transfer portal six days later.
Their departures leave the Razorbacks with only four returning players from last year’s team — pending the final decisions of Davonte Davis and Jordan Walsh, both of whom have declared for the NBA Draft while maintaining their collegiate eligibility.
Assuming Walsh stays in the draft, Joseph Pinion would be the only remaining player from Arkansas’ heralded 2022 signing class that ranked No. 2 nationally. In addition to the transfers of Ford and Dunning, Nick Smith Jr. and Anthony Black are projected lottery picks and have already declared for the NBA Draft.
Pinion is joined by Trevon Brazile and Jalen Graham as Arkansas basketball players who’ve publicly revealed their intention to return, while Makhi Mitchell has yet to announce anything and is assumed to be coming back, despite his twin brother entering the transfer portal.
Derrian Ford’s Last Interview Before Entering the Transfer Portal
Despite appearing in only 21 games and scoring just 15 points in 80 total minutes as a freshman, Derrian Ford was a fan-favorite because of his illustrious high school career in the Natural State, winning three state titles at Magnolia.
As a former four-star and top-100 recruit, many Arkansas basketball fans hoped he would make a jump as a sophomore and eventually evolve into a contributor. That interest made him a logical guest on The Zone, a midday radio show on 103.7 The Buzz in central Arkansas.
In what was his final interview as a member of the Razorbacks, Ford described his freshman year as a “learning experience” and said he was glad for it. He also added that he’s already been hard at work trying to improve his game for next season.
Confidence and point guard skills — primarily passing and shooting — are his primary focuses this summer. Defense isn’t as big of an issue for Ford, but he did acknowledge that he could continue working on his knowledge of being in the right spots in certain coverages.
Improvement would have certainly been necessary because Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman has reloaded the backcourt via the transfer portal, including bringing in a trio of experienced guards capable of handling the ball and initiating the offense in Keyon Menifield Jr. from Washington, El Ellis from Louisville and Tramon Mark from Houston. Ford said he was ready to embrace the challenge, though.
“We’re just going to have to see who’s going to out-work each other and we’re going to compete,” Ford said. “I’m ready to do that every day because I know the expectations that we have to have from last year — that wasn’t the expectations we wanted to meet. You have to compete every day and I want to out-work everybody, so that’s the mindset I have to come in with.”
That said, Ford definitely made it a point to focus on the present rather than the future during his 11-minute conversation with hosts Justin Acri and Wess Moore.
“There’s not a timeline,” Ford said when asked if he knew of a set time for when he’d know what the team would look like next fall. “All I can think about is today. … As far as right now, I’m just in school and getting ready to workout.”
That answer echoed what Ford said earlier in the interview about how he handled the sporadic minutes that Musselman is known for giving the players outside of the top six or seven in his rotation.
“I just take it a day at a time,” Ford said. “You never know. … (Only) the Lord knows what will happen the next two years, so I just try to take it a day at a time and live in the moment. I’m starting to learn that more — I want to live in the moment because you never know how fast life can take you away, so I’m just trying to enjoy the day to day.”
The careful way he worded those answers seems to indicate Ford might have already known such an announcement was imminent or, at the very least, that it was still possible, as the current transfer portal window is open until May 11 and Musselman is actively pursuing more transfers.
Sure enough, it was less than 24 hours after his interview on The Buzz that Derrian Ford announced he was entering the transfer portal.
Listen to the full Derrian Ford interview here:
2023-24 Arkansas Basketball Roster
The departure of Derrian Ford once again gets the Razorbacks back down to the 13-man scholarship limit for next year’s roster, but that assumes the return of both Davonte Davis and Jordan Walsh.
At this point, it seems highly unlikely that both will come back and it wouldn’t be surprising if both of them remain in the NBA Draft.
If that’s the case and neither of them returns for next season, that would open up two more scholarships for Eric Musselman to add to what is already a loaded transfer class.
The five-man group from the portal is ranked No. 2 nationally by On3 and No. 3 by 247Sports, so another splash or two could vault the Razorbacks up to the top spot.
Here’s a breakdown of the Arkansas basketball roster as it currently stands…
- Davonte Davis — senior
- Jordan Walsh — sophomore
- Jalen Graham — super senior
- Makhi Mitchell — super senior (yet to officially announce decision)
- Trevon Brazile — redshirt sophomore
- Joseph Pinion — sophomore
- Jeremiah Davenport — super senior (transfer from Cincinnati)
- *El Ellis — super senior (transfer from Louisville)
- *Tramon Mark — redshirt junior (transfer from Houston)
- Khalif Battle — redshirt junior (transfer from Temple)
- Keyon Menifield Jr. — sophomore (transfer from Washington)
- Layden Blocker — freshman (2023 signee)
- Baye Fall — freshman (2023 signee)
*also testing NBA Draft waters
- Kamani Johnson — exhausted eligibility
- Nick Smith Jr. — declared for NBA Draft
- Anthony Black — declared for NBA Draft
- Ricky Council IV — declared for NBA Draft
- Makhel Mitchell — entered transfer portal
- Barry Dunning Jr. — entered transfer portal
- Derrian Ford — entering transfer portal
More coverage of Arkansas basketball and the transfer portal from BoAS…