It may have come up shot on the court, but there is still a chance some good can still come from Wednesday’s loss for Arkansas basketball.
The Razorbacks hosted a pair of five-star prospects in the 2024 class this week, with Ian Jackson and Dink Pate taking in the 84-69 loss to No. 4 Alabama inside Bud Walton Arena.
It was the final official visit for Jackson before he announces his decision, which should happen before Monday, his high school coach, Joe Lods, told Cats Illustrated.
Kentucky has long been viewed the favorite to land the consensus top-3 prospect from Cardinal Hayes in the Bronx, but the Wildcats’ recent struggles — including an embarrassing home loss to South Carolina — and John Calipari-to-Texas rumors have cast some doubt on that.
North Carolina and Arkansas, both of which he visited in the past week, seem to be the most likely schools to benefit if the New York product goes elsewhere.
“A coaching change or even the real threat of one couldn’t come at the worst possible time as it relates to the pursuit of the five-star guard, as it would almost certainly push Jackson, who hopes to make a decision relatively quickly, to Chapel Hill or elsewhere,” wrote Rivals’ basketball recruiting director Rob Cassidy this week.
The Wildcats did somewhat right the ship with a surprising upset win on the road at Tennessee and the Razorbacks are probably still a long shot in the race, but getting a taste of a raucous Bud Walton Arena atmosphere — even in a loss closer than the final score indicated — couldn’t have hurt their chances this close to his commitment date.
Jackson recently discussed his trip to Arkansas with Arkansas recruiting reporter Richard Davenport, the entirety of which can be read here, and pointed to the fans as a highlight.
“It was an environment that you rarely see,” Jackson told WholeHogSports. “I thought the whole game the energy level never died. The crowd was screaming all game, standing up all game, cheering all game. That’s what stood out.”
Beating out the likes of Kentucky and North Carolina to land a player the caliber of Jackson would be quite the feat for Musselman, who is already recruiting on a level that hasn’t been seen in Arkansas since at least the 1990s under Nolan Richardson.
Between the current freshmen (Class of 2022) and guys in the 2023 class, Musselman has signed five 247Sports Composite five-star recruits. That is more than Arkansas signed in the previous 19 classes combined.
Dink Pate, who is only a five-star recruit on Rivals and a four-star everywhere else, wouldn’t quite fall into that category at this point of the recruiting process. He checks in at No. 18 overall on Rivals, but No. 66 in the 247Sports Composite.
His trip to Fayetteville this week was an unofficial visit and he’s being pursued by the likes of Auburn, Alabama, Kansas, Texas, Rutgers, UCF and Georgetown.
Arkansas Basketball Named Finalist for Other Top 2024 Recruits
In addition to those two visitors, Arkansas basketball was also named a finalist for three other top recruits in the 2024 class.
One of those three players is five-star small forward Trentyn Flowers, who plays at Combine Academy in Charlotte, N.C. He is a consensus top-25 prospect and also included Alabama, Creighton, Louisville and North Carolina in his top five Wednesday afternoon.
The day before that, Labaron Philon and Elijah Moore placed the Razorbacks in their top six and top five, respectively.
Philon is a four-star point guard who’s averaging more than 40 points at Baker High School in Mobile, Ala. In their most recent update, On3 moved him up 22 spots to No. 34 overall in the class, while the 247Sports Composite has him at No. 39.
The cousin of former Arkansas defensive tackle Darius Philon and a friend of current Arkansas freshman Barry Dunning Jr., Philon is also considering Alabama, Auburn, Kansas, Ole Miss and Tennessee.
Moore is actually a high school teammate of Ian Jackson at Cardinal Hayes in the Bronx. Although the shooting guard is No. 100 in the 247Sports Composite, he’s ranked as high as No. 68 on Rivals. Known as a sharp-shooter, Moore also included Alabama, Miami (Fla.), Oklahoma State and Syracuse, the in-state school, on his list.
Shamar Easter Visiting
With the traditional National Signing Day quickly approaching, the Arkansas recruiting efforts are mostly focused on the transfer portal, but there is one big-time high school prospect still on the board.
Ashdown tight end Shamar Easter is the top in-state recruit in the class and was actually the first player to announce his pledge to the Razorbacks for 2023, doing so way back on Aug. 13, 2021, but he held off on making things official during the early signing period last month.
That decision was the result of tight ends coach Dowell Loggains leaving to become the offensive coordinator at South Carolina. He actually used an official visit to check out the Gamecocks, but still postponed his signing in order to meeting new Arkansas tight ends coach Morgan Turner.
That meeting will finally happen Sunday, when he takes an unofficial visit to Fayetteville. He can’t take an official visit because he already used his official visit over the summer.
Easter is a four-star recruit who is ranked 168th overall in the country by the 247Sports Composite.
Other Arkansas Recruiting Nuggets
- In addition to the prospects mentioned above, there are a couple of in-state recruits worth keeping an eye on in the 2024 class. Little Rock Central shooting guard Annor Boateng jumped up eight spots to No. 8 nationally in On3’s latest update, while Little Rock Parkview small forward Dallas Thomas moved up 10 spots to No. 66.
- Switching sports but keeping things in the Natural State, Class of 2024 Fort Smith Southside offensive lineman Kobe Branham picked up his first offer Thursday when Bobby Petrino offered him for Texas A&M. He is a 6-foot-6, 320-pound right guard for the Mavericks.
- According to Hogville’s Otis Kirk, Arkansas offensive line coach Cody Kennedy was set to be in the River Valley on Friday to see Branham and Greenwood offensive lineman Cody Taylor, who is a 2026 prospect who picked up offers from Kentucky and Ole Miss late last month.
- Another in-state player of note: 2024 defensive end Charleston Collins, who began his career at Pine Bluff before moving to Little Rock Mills this year, was in Fayetteville for an unofficial visit Saturday and had an opportunity to meet defensive coordinator Travis Williams.
- Arkansas is hosting a pair of transfers this weekend: linebacker Juwan Mitchell, who has spent time at Texas and most recently Tennessee, and wide receiver Tyrone Broden from Bowling Green.
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