The transfer portal has been a major factor for the Arkansas basketball program since Eric Musselman was hired and is now widely used across the entire sport.
Several natives of the Natural State used the portal to try to better their situations this offseason and four such players were even contacted by the Razorbacks, but as fate would have it, none ultimately ended up in Fayetteville.
Kel’el Ware was the highest profile of that group as a former five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American. He was viewed by many as a one-and-done prospect, but his freshman year at Oregon didn’t go as he had hoped.
Rather than declare for the NBA Draft like some expected, the North Little Rock product opted to hit the transfer portal. Although Arkansas reached out, Ware’s first and only visit was to Indiana and he committed to the Big Ten program shortly after.
The player who probably came the closest to returning home was coveted North Texas transfer Tylor Perry. The former Springdale Har-Ber standout actually took an official visit to Fayetteville and was seriously considering the Razorbacks, but they ended up landing El Ellis from Louisville instead.
Perry has yet to announce his next stop, but he has a top four of Florida, Kansas State, Ole Miss and Texas Tech and will reveal his decision next Tuesday.
The other two players contacted by the Razorbacks in the transfer portal will be playing in the Natural State next season — just not in Fayetteville.
Central Arkansas standout Camren Hunter unofficially visited Arkansas soon after hitting the portal and included the Hogs in his top five, but was never offered. Although the Bryant native committed to Butler over Missouri, Loyola-Chicago and St. Louis, he ultimately backed off the pledge and announced a return to UCA.
After a few standout seasons at Tarleton State, Searcy native Freddy Hicks also visited Arkansas — as well as SMU — before signing with Arkansas State.
Another Arkansas native worth keeping an eye on is Collin Moore, who entered the transfer portal earlier this week after enjoying a breakout third season at Georgia State. Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Colorado and several others have reportedly already reached out to the former North Little Rock standout.
The Resurgence of Arkansas Basketball
Fans of the game at the highest level have been treated to several Arkansans showing out in this year’s NBA Playoffs, but the resurgence of basketball in the state has also been reflected across the college game.
On top of Nick Smith Jr. (Sylvan Hills/North Little Rock) being a projected lottery pick and Davonte Davis (Jacksonville) cementing his legacy as a March Madness legend, the Razorbacks also had Joseph Pinion (Morrilton) and Derrian Ford (Magnolia) on this past year’s team.
Not only has Arkansas benefited from the Natural State pipeline of players, but so have teams across the country at the Division I level, from high-major teams all the way down to low-major teams.
Best of Arkansas Sports counted eight different Arkansans who earned all-conference honors at their respective Division I schools this season.
That number includes Tylor Perry, who played his senior year of high school in Spiro, Okla., after beginning his career at Springdale Har-Ber, and Connor Vanover, who is not included in the list below because we touched on him in our piece looking at how Arkansas basketball transfers performed this past season.
Other Arkansans on that former Razorbacks list include Ethan Henderson (Texas A&M/Little Rock Parkview), Justice Hill (LSU/Little Rock Christian), KK Robinson (Texas A&M/Bryant) and Desi Sills (Kansas State/Jonesboro).
Between those players, the Razorbacks and the players below, you could probably construct a pretty solid collegiate all-star team made up of Arkansans.
Native Arkansans Across College Basketball
Tyree Appleby — Wake Forest
High School: Jacksonville
Stats: 33 G/33 GS, 18.8 points (42.7% FG, 36.0% 3PT, 82.0% FT), 3.5 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.8 steals
No Arkansan had a more productive season than Tyree Appleby, who has climbed from star at the mid-major level (Cleveland State) to solid contributor at a high-major (Florida) to full-blown star in one of the most prestigious conferences in college basketball.
He scored in double figures in all but two games this year and really picked it up down the stretch, averaging 21.1 points over his final 11 games. That included a massive 35-point, 11-assist, 7-rebound performance against North Carolina, as well as two dominant games in the ACC Tournament: a 15-point, 12-assist double-double in a win over Syracuse and 24-point outburst in a loss to Miami (Fla.), which eventually reached the Final Four.
After leading the ACC in both scoring and assists, plus finishing third in steals, Appleby was not only a first-team All-ACC selection, but was named the ACC Player of the Year by the AP.
Kevin Cross — Tulane
High School: Little Rock Mills
Stats: 30 G/30 GS, 14.8 points (47.0% FG, 29.4% 3PT, 83.2% FT), 6.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists
In his third year at Tulane after spending one year at Nebraska, Kevin Cross put together an all-around season in which he earned third-team All-AAC accolades.
His overall numbers were very good, but the 6-foot-8 forward took it up a notch down the stretch, averaging 15.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists over his final 10 games. That includes a monster double-double against Wichita State in the AAC Tournament, when he scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
He has declared for the 2023 NBA Draft, but is maintaining his collegiate eligibility, leaving the door open to a potential return to the Green Wave as a super senior.
Shaun Doss Jr. — UAPB
High School: Marion
Stats: 31 G/31 GS, 17.7 points (41.4% FG, 33.0% 3PT, 82.4% FT), 4.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.5 steals
A prolific scorer, Shaun Doss Jr. just completed his sixth year of college basketball. He signed with Iowa Western C.C. out of Marion in the Class of 2017, but spent only one year in JUCO before returning home to play at UAPB. After three seasons with the Golden Lions, Doss hit the transfer portal and landed at SIU-Edwardsville – where he spent just one year before returning to UAPB.
In his final season, Doss led the SWAC in scoring by a wide margin (2.5 points) and actually averaged 20.3 points over his final 12 games – including 32- and 30-point outbursts against Jackson State and Grambling, respectively.
That helped him earn first-team All-SWAC honors and land a spot in the HBCU All-Star Game, which was played the Sunday between the Final Four and National Championship in Houston. He scored 13 points in that event.
Allen Flanigan — Auburn
High School: Little Rock Parkview
Stats: 34 G/19 GS, 10.1 points (44.2% FG, 33.3% 3PT, 75.8% FT), 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists
Over the previous two seasons, Allen Flanigan was a mainstay in Auburn’s starting lineup. That changed at the start of this year, as he came off the bench and got off to a slow start. However, about midway through the season, Flanigan regained his starting spot and ended up starting the final 18 games.
He averaged 11.3 points over that stretch and ended the year playing arguably his best basketball. In the Tigers’ near upset of Alabama, he had 17 points and 8 rebounds. When they knocked off Tennessee to close the regular season, he had 16 points. Against his home state school, Flanigan dropped 15 points in a loss to Arkansas at the SEC Tournament. In the Big Dance, he notched a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) in a first-round win over Iowa and was a rebound shy of doing the same thing against Houston in the second round.
Having already played four years at Auburn, Flanigan is set to graduate and will then weigh his options — which includes returning as a super senior.
Freddy Hicks — Tarleton State / Arkansas State
High School: Searcy
Stats: 23 G/23 GS, 16.2 points (43.7% FG, 34.0% 3PT, 75.3% FT), 6.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals
In his first season at Tarleton State two years ago, Freddy Hicks was named the WAC Freshman of the Year. He’s steadily gotten better since then and is coming off a junior season in which he earned second-team All-WAC accolades.
Hicks put up good numbers throughout the season, but ended the year with his best performance yet – albeit in a loss. Playing Radford in the first round of the CBI, he put up 30 points and 11 rebounds to notch his first double-double since his freshman year, plus added four steals. That came a few months after he finished one rebound shy of a 30-point double-double in a loss to Drake, which made the NCAA Tournament.
Camren Hunter — Central Arkansas
High School: Bryant
Stats: 30 G/30 GS, 16.9 points (42.3% FG, 31.1% 3PT, 78.6% FT), 5.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals
One of five Arkansas natives on UCA’s roster this past season, Camren Hunter followed up his ASUN Freshman of the Year campaign with a sophomore season in which he earned third-team All-ASUN honors.
Hunter reached double figures in scoring in all but three games, with a season-low of 8 points against TCU. However, he had a 19-point, 5-rebound and 5-steal performance at Oral Roberts and followed it up with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists at Oklahoma. His biggest game, though, came against North Alabama when he posted a triple-double (20 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists) while also notching 4 steals and 1 block.
Issac McBride — Oral Roberts
High School: Baptist Prep
Stats: 35 G/35 GS, 11.8 points (47.8% FG, 40.8% 3PT, 83.6% FT), 2.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists
Originally signing with Kansas, Issac McBride never suited up for the Jayhawks before transferring to Vanderbilt. He spent just one season in the SEC before hitting the transfer portal again and landing at Oral Roberts – where he was reunited with former high school teammate Connor Vanover.
Together, along with All-American Max Abmas, they helped the Golden Eagles go undefeated in the Summit League, which had happened only once before in the 41-year history of the conference. Known as a sharpshooter, McBride had two games in which he knocked down 5 of 6 attempts from beyond the arc, including a 21-point effort at North Dakota State.
His season ended with an 8-point effort against Duke in the NCAA Tournament, but that came after he landed on the All-Summit League second team.
Chris Moore — Auburn
High School: West Memphis
Stats: 31 G/16 GS, 3.5 points (49.3% FG, 71.4% FT), 2.1 rebounds
The only member of the famed 2020 in-state class who didn’t choose to stay home, Chris Moore played sparingly over his first two seasons at Auburn before becoming a “glue guy” in Year 3. He actually started the first 16 games of the season before suffering a shoulder injury that sidelined him for three games.
When he returned to the court, Moore came off the bench and his playing time dwindled. He did have five rebounds in 25 minutes in the near-upset of Alabama, but then played only 9 total minutes over the last four games of the season, scoring just 1 point. Although he hurt his shoulder again in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Moore played through it. He was recently honored by Auburn with the program’s Male Inspiration award.
Collin Moore — Georgia State / undecided
High School: North Little Rock
Stats: 13 G/11 GS, 14.2 points (48.0% FG, 35.7% 3PT, 68.7% FT), 4.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 2.0 steals
Following his standout career at North Little Rock, Collin Moore did a post-grad year at Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kan. He eventually signed with Georgia State, but wasn’t really a significant contributor his first two seasons and then a thumb injury caused him to miss the first 18 games of this season.
When he finally returned to action on Jan. 19, Moore quickly established himself as a starter and arguably the best player on a bad team. The Panthers went just 1-12 in games he played, but he put up great numbers. Over the final six games, in particular, he averaged 18.7 points – including a 25-point effort in a loss to Texas State at the Sun Belt Tournament.
Tylor Perry — North Texas / undecided
High School: Springdale Har-Ber
Stats: 36 G/36 GS, 17.3 points (43.7% FG, 41.3% 3PT, 87.2% FT), 3.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.3 steals
He claims Fort Coffee, Okla., as his hometown on his North Texas bio and played his senior year at Spiro, Okla., but Tylor Perry played most of his high school career at Springdale Har-Ber in Northwest Arkansas and has had success at every stop since.
He was the NJCAA DI National Tournament MVP in his second season at Coffeyville C.C. and then signed with North Texas, where he was named the C-USA Sixth Man of the Year in 2021-22 and C-USA Player of the Year this past season. He earned first-team All-CUSA honors both years.
Perry’s tenure with the Mean Green concluded with an NIT title that capped a 31-7 season and landed head coach Grant McCasland the head coaching job at Texas Tech, which is one of his four finalists as a transfer destination. He is a hot commodity in the portal because of his scoring prowess, which was on full display in the NIT, as he averaged 20.6 points over the five games and took home MVP honors.
Kel’el Ware — Oregon / Indiana
High School: North Little Rock
Stats: 35 G/4 GS, 6.6 points (45.7% FG, 27.3% 3PT, 71.2% FT), 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 blocks
Arkansas basketball landed a trio of five-star recruits in the 2022 class, including North Little Rock’s Nick Smith Jr., but his high school teammate spurned the Razorbacks, as Kel’el Ware chose Oregon instead. As mentioned above, his freshman year didn’t go as anyone expected.
There were some early glimpses of his potential, including when he averaged 16.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in three games against UConn, Michigan State and Villanova at the Phil Knight Invitational in November, but his playing time dwindled.
Before a 10-point, 6-rebound, 3-steal effort in 19 minutes against Cal on March 2, Ware had a three-game stretch in which he went scoreless and played only nine total minutes. He ended up getting 15-plus minutes in the Ducks’ last four games, including three in the NIT. Highlighted by an 11-point performance against UCF, Ware averaged 7.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in about 17 minutes over that final stretch.
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