Latest Hog Hooper’s Allegiance No Longer in Question Given Bobby Petrino Ties

Jalen Shelley, Bobby Petrino, Arkansas basketball, Arkansas recruiting
photo credit: Instagram/jalenshelley10 / Nick Wenger

Arkansas basketball landed its first commitment in the 2024 class when Jalen Shelley announced his pledge Monday afternoon.

The four-star small forward at Link Academy in Branson, Mo., made his decision shortly after taking an official visit to Fayetteville, choosing the Razorbacks over a slew of options.

In July, Shelley announced a top eight that featured Arkansas, as well as Colorado, Houston, Louisville, LSU, Marquette, Ohio State and Texas A&M. That eliminated the likes of Alabama, Creighton, Kansas State, Iowa, Oklahoma State, TCU, Tennessee, Texas and others that also extended offers.

It is yet another big pickup for Eric Musselman, as Shelley is a top-70 overall prospect in the 2024 class across all major recruiting services. He’s ranked as high as No. 35 by Rivals, which is knocking on the door of five-star status, and as low as No. 67 by 247Sports.

ESPN has him at No. 43 overall, which continues Musselman’s impressive run of ESPN top-100 recruits. In fact, every high school prospect he’s signed at Arkansas has been inside the top 100, meaning he is now 14 for 14.

There’s a chance Shelley rises in the rankings between now and when they’re finalized, though, because he’s playing his senior season at Link Academy, a prep school that plays a national schedule against some of the top programs in the country.

Prior to that move, he won a state championship at Prestonwood Christian in Plano, Texas, which competes in the largest classification of non-public schools (TAPPS Class 6A) in the Lone Star State.

Shelley dropped a team-high 17 points in the title game, capping a season in which he averaged 18.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists and earned second-team all-area honors from The Dallas Morning News.

He actually began his high school career at Frisco Lone Star, where he also played wide receiver on the same football team as current Arkansas freshman cornerback Jaylon Braxton.

Jalen Shelley’s Impressive Bloodlines

One major difference between Jalen Shelley’s first and second visits to Fayetteville is that his allegiance was no longer in question this past weekend.

That wasn’t the case when he was in town for his unofficial visit last September because it coincided with Arkansas’ football game against Missouri State, which featured his older brother as the starting quarterback for Bobby Petrino.

Jason Shelley – who began his career at Utah and was the MVFC Offensive Player of the Year in 2021 – nearly led the Bears to a shocking upset, as they led by 10 early in the fourth quarter before falling 38-27. He threw for 357 yards and one touchdown, plus added another score and 62 non-sack rushing yards.

They aren’t the only athletes in the family, though.

Their sister, Calesha, played Division I softball at Bethune-Cookman, where she was an All-MEAC outfielder.

Their father, Jason Sr., was a standout wide receiver at Central State – a small school in Ohio that competed in NAIA at the time and is now a Division II program – before embarking on a professional career that included stops in NFL Europe, the XFL and Arena Football.

Arkansas Basketball Developing Pair of Pipelines

Nolan Richardson likely would not have had as much success with Arkansas basketball as he did without the recruiting pipeline he developed just across the Mississippi River.

He landed the likes of Corey Beck, Arlyn Bowers, Todd Day, Ron Huery and Dwight Stewart from Memphis – a group that includes two national champions (Beck and Stewart) and the school’s all-time leading scorer (Day).

The “Home of the Blues” hasn’t yielded talent like that for the Razorbacks in a long time, but Eric Musselman appears to be trying to build a similar pipeline in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

That area has long been a vital recruiting ground for Arkansas football, but doesn’t have the same reputation on the hardwood. Richardson did nab a pair of players from there in the 1988 class who turned out pretty good – Oliver Miller and Lenzie Howell – and, more recently, Mason Jones was an SEC Player of the Year who hailed from the DFW area.

Musselman took it up a notch last year, though, when he signed a pair of five-star recruits from the metroplex – both of whom went on to be drafted this summer as one-and-dones.

Anthony Black won a state championship at Duncanville, while Jordan Walsh won a state title as a freshman at Oak Cliff Faith Family before transferring to Link Academy.

The Razorbacks tried to grab another five-star player out of Duncanville in the most recent cycle, but Ron Holland first chose Texas and then opted for the G League route the second time around.

A day before Jalen Shelley’s commitment, Amier Ali – another four-star prospect in the 2024 class – included Arkansas in his top five along with Alabama, Arizona State, Kansas and Kentucky. He began his high school career at Spring Creek Academy in Plano, Texas, but has bounced around to different academies since then.

Landing Shelley also gave Musselman and the Razorbacks a second pledge from Link Academy. As mentioned above, that’s where Walsh finished his career. The relatively young program regularly produces blue-chip recruits.

Establishing relationships in both places – the metroplex and Link – could pay dividends for Arkansas basketball in years to come.


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