FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas basketball’s annual Red-White game got off to an unfortunate start Wednesday night.
About 45 minutes before tipoff, the White team’s Khalif Battle gingerly walked off the Barnhill Arena court during pregame warmups. When he reemerged, the Temple transfer was in street clothes and on crutches, with his right foot in a boot.
Head coach Eric Musselman gave a positive update after the scrimmage, revealing the early indication is that it’s not a serious injury.
“They took him for a preliminary look over at the football facility,” Musselman said. “At that point, there was no determination there was anything, no break or anything.”
He added that multiple doctors got a look at it, both at the football facility and in the basketball locker room, and more X-rays would be done Thursday.
It’s worth noting that Battle missed all but seven games of the 2021-22 season at Temple because of a broken fifth metatarsal, but that was in his left foot.
If he has to miss any extended period of time because of the injury, it would be a significant blow to the Razorbacks, as he was expected to provide them with a scoring punch in either a starting role or off the bench this season.
Over the last three seasons with the Owls, Battle averaged 17.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in 32.0 minutes. He’s coming off a season in which he was one of the best free throw shooters in the country (89.8%) and also shot 35.0% from long distance.
That made him one of the most desirable transfers in the country, with On3 ranking him as the 10th-best overall player in the portal this cycle.
Arkansas basketball fans are hoping this isn’t a repeat of last year, when heralded freshman Nick Smith Jr. missed about half of the season because of “right knee management” and star sophomore Trevon Brazile tore his ACL just nine games into the year.
Smith’s absence forced players like Anthony Black, Davonte Davis and Ricky Council IV to take on even larger roles than expected. Coupled with the loss of Brazile, the Razorbacks’ shooting suffered and they finished the year ranked 315th nationally in 3-point percentage at 31.3%.
That is an area Battle is expected to help with this season, but even without him – and Brazile – Wednesday night, Arkansas went 14 of 28 (50%) from long range. It was led by Jeremiah Davenport (5 of 8), Joseph Pinion (3 of 4) and Davis (2 of 3).
Trevon Brazile Timeline for Arkansas Basketball
Speaking of Trevon Brazile, he is still on track to play in Arkansas’ season opener against Alcorn State on Nov. 6.
In fact, the former Missouri transfer could be available to play in the Razorbacks’ two exhibition games — against Division II foe UT Tyler (Oct. 20) and Purdue (Oct. 28).
That would be the case if Arkansas follows the 2.5-week timeline Eric Musselman told reporters last Thursday, but he reiterated after the Red-White game that Brazile wouldn’t be rushed back.
“I want TB in March,” Musselman said. “I mean, we want him to get his rhythm and all that. He’s done an awesome job. He’s been cleared. He’s been with his rehab guy. They’ve done all the testing. Everything is great. Probably could’ve played tonight, three minutes a half, but why?”
Musselman added that he’s done some live 3-on-3 after practice in addition to drill work during practice, and that he would continue to go through 3-on-3 as he builds up confidence in the knee.
“Offensively, when a player is coming back from an injury like that, that’s not really an issue,” Musselman said. “The issue is, ‘I’m guarding you or you or you and I got to react.’ So that’s why we want to take our time.”
Prior to going down with the injury, Brazile was playing himself into potential first-round conversation for this past summer’s NBA Draft. Not including the game he got hurt, in which he played only nine minutes, he was averaging 13.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks across eight games.
Listed at 6-foot-10 and 220 pounds, Brazile also has a 42.5-inch vertical and a wing span of 7-foot-2.5. That size and athleticism made him a walking highlight reel, which included one of the Dunks of the Year in college basketball.
He could step outside and knock down a 3-pointer as well, helping the team’s spacing. Indeed, last season, he proved to be perhaps the team’s most reliant three-point shooter in the early part of last season.
When Brazile does fully return to action, he’ll certainly be a key cog in Arkansas’ pursuit of a fourth straight appearance in the Sweet 16.
Even without Trevon Brazile and Khalif Battle, two of the team’s best shooters, the Razorbacks still made half of their 28 three-point attempts in the Red-White game. Get more insight here:
Latest Arkansas Basketball Commit
With Thursday’s commitment of 4-star Isaiah Elohim from southern California, Eric Musselman has definitively re-established the Razorbacks as a national brand.
Eight of the Razorbacks’ recent ESPN top-100 signees have hailed from the Natural State, while Anthony Black, Jordan Walsh and Jalen Shelley have seemingly established a pipeline into the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Even Chance Moore (Georgia) and Barry Dunning Jr. (Alabama) came to Arkansas from the SEC footprint.
However, Baye Fall in the most recent class and now Isaiah Elohim in the current cycle illustrate Musselman’s ability to recruit players from anywhere in the country. No longer is Arkansas limited to homegrown or regional talent, which is why missing out on a player like Annor Boateng from Little Rock Central isn’t the death knell it might have been under previous regimes.
Make sure to read more about Musselman’s latest recruiting coup and its place in the bigger picture here:
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