When Missouri basketball landed the commitment of Annor Boateng — a five-star recruit and the No. 1 player in Arkansas — last Friday, the reaction from Arkansas’ neighbors to the north was predictable.
Riding high from the recruiting win and suddenly having the No. 1 class in the country for 2024 on 247Sports, fans of the Tigers took the opportunity to dunk on the Razorbacks.
One fan on a message board even went so far as to imply that second-year Missouri basketball coach Dennis Gates was well on his way to surpassing Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman.
“Muss is the old style car salesman coach, he was good but Gates is bringing mentor coaching back like old school but with the new school recruiting flair,” wrote the fan.
Another message board post perhaps best summed up how Missouri fans felt: “Beating Arkansas alone makes this great.”
It’s certainly a big-time pickup for Missouri, as the Little Rock Central product is ranked as high as No. 17 nationally by On3 and checks in as a 247Sports Composite five-star prospect — the fourth such player from the Natural State over the past decade.
Boateng’s decision to play for the Tigers over the likes of Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Indiana, Ohio State and others will add further intrigue to the Arkansas vs Missouri rivalry on the hardwood.
Mike Anderson may be gone, but Musselman plucked Trevon Brazile from the transfer portal last offseason and has helped transform him into a potential first-round pick. This offseason, it was Gates who went to the transfer portal to get a former Arkansas basketball player, bringing in Connor Vanover.
The two teams are permanent opponents in men’s basketball, meaning they play home-and-home every year. This season, the Razorbacks will travel to Columbia, Mo., on Jan. 31 and then welcome the Tigers to Bud Walton Arena on Feb. 24.
In-State Prospects in the Pipeline
Not only did Arkansas basketball miss out on Annor Boateng, but it also didn’t land the second-best in-state player in the class. Little Rock Parkview four-star Dallas Thomas committed to Clemson back in July.
The Razorbacks offered both players, but it’s hard to know exactly how hard each of them were pursued by Eric Musselman and his staff. They did host Boateng on an official visit over the summer, though.
Looking ahead at the classes beyond 2024, it appears Arkansas will have more opportunities to land elite in-state talent.
Musselman has already extended offers to a pair of top-50 players — Isaiah Sealy from Springdale and Terrion Burgess from Benton — in the 2025 class and the class after that looks like it’s even more loaded.
There are a trio of sophomores in the Natural State that the Razorbacks have offered who are each considered top-30 prospects on various recruiting websites.
Little Rock Christian’s JJ Andrews — the son of legendary Arkansas offensive lineman Shawn Andrews — is the headliner, as he’s ranked in the top 25 by On3 (No. 13), Rivals (No. 18) and 247Sports (No. 25). The Razorbacks offered him in May, hosted him on an unofficial visit in August and have been by his school multiple times this month.
On the same day it offered Andrews, Arkansas also offered Maumelle’s Jacob Lanier, who is ranked No. 29 nationally by On3. That is the same ranking 247Sports gave Rogers’ Aidan Chronister, whom the Razorbacks offered during his unofficial visit this month.
Arkansas Basketball’s 2024 Recruiting Efforts
The good news for Arkansas basketball is that even if it misses out on top in-state talent, Eric Musselman will either find another top recruit from somewhere else in the country or fill the spot via the transfer portal. That hasn’t always been the case.
Just look back at the 2016 class, when the Razorbacks missed out on Malik Monk and eventually signed CJ Jones instead.
When he missed out on Chris Moore (2020) and Kel’el Ware (2022), Musselman put together arguably two of the best classes Arkansas has had during the recruiting rankings era. He could be on the brink of doing it again in 2024.
Jalen Shelley jumped on board earlier this month and the Razorbacks are already on commitment watch for other top prospects in the class.
On Monday, about a week after wrapping up his official visit to Fayetteville, four-star Isaiah Elohim announced a top three of Arkansas, Kansas and Villanova. According to ESPN’s Paul Biancardi, his decision should come “within the next 7-10 days.” He is ranked as high as No. 32 on Rivals.
Not only did the Razorbacks get him on campus most recently, but Elohim — who plays at Sierra Canyon High in California — has also received a pair of FutureCast projections to Arkansas on Rivals from national analyst Rob Cassidy and HawgBeat’s Jackson Collier.
Arkansas is also seemingly in a good spot for Rakease Passmore, a four-star prospect originally from Florida who now plays at Combine Academy in Lincolnton, N.C. He’ll be in town for the Red-White Showcase on Oct. 4 and, according to Cassidy, he “feels like Arkansas’ to lose at this juncture.”
Passmore, who is ranked as high as No. 36 nationally by Rivals, took an official visit to LSU this weekend — where he saw the Tigers beat the Razorbacks on the gridiron — and Kansas could also be a player.
As for the commitment Arkansas already has in hand, Shelley is ranked as high as No. 35 nationally by Rivals and strengthens the Razorbacks’ recruiting pipeline both at Link Academy in Branson, Mo., and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
That’s a pipeline Musselman already used with Jordan Walsh and one he hopes to double-dip with in 2024, as Link Academy’s Tre Johnson is the big fish still available. A consensus top-five prospect in the class, the Dallas native is scheduled to officially visit Arkansas on Oct. 20 and has a loaded top six that also includes Alabama Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky and Texas.
Two other names to monitor in the 2024 class are a pair of four-star prospects currently playing in Florida: Jase Richardson at Columbus High in Miami and Amier Ali at IMG Academy in Bradenton.
Richardson is ranked as high as No. 28 nationally by ESPN and was in Fayetteville for an unofficial visit last September. Joining him on the trip was his father, Jason, who played for Musselman in the NBA. As of last month, Cassidy considered Michigan State — his father’s alma mater — the favorite, but noted that Arkansas was the Spartans’ “biggest threat” to steal Richardson.
Ali is another top-50 prospect on ESPN and included the Razorbacks in his top five earlier this month, along with Alabama, Arizona State, Kansas and Kentucky.
It’s unrealistic to expect Musselman to land all five uncommitted prospects mentioned above — he has to save some room for the transfer portal, after all — but being in the mix for so many top recruits greatly increases his chances of landing one or two more before it’s all set and done.
Arkansas Basketball’s ESPN Top 100 Recruits
Here’s a look at the top-100 recruits, as ranked by ESPN, that Arkansas basketball has landed over the years:
- Jalen Shelley — No. 43
- Baye Fall — No. 29
- Layden Blocker — No. 31
- Nick Smith Jr. — No. 3
- Jordan Walsh — No. 11
- Anthony Black — No. 15
- Derrian Ford — No. 76
- Barry Dunning Jr. — No. 79
- Joseph Pinion — No. 94
- Chance Moore — No. 72
- Moses Moody — No. 45
- KK Robinson — No. 82
- Davonte Davis — No. 89
- Jaylin Williams — No. 94
- Ethan Henderson — No. 92
- Daniel Gafford — No. 47
- Khalil Garland — No. 58
- Jimmy Whitt — No. 77
- Anton Beard — No. 90
- Bobby Portis — No. 16
- Moses Kingsley — No. 43
- B.J. Young — No. 16
- Ky Madden — No. 36
- Hunter Mickelson — No. 55
- Marshawn Powell — No. 67
- Rotnei Clarke — No. 52
- Michael Sanchez — No. 81
More coverage of Annor Boateng, Arkansas basketball and Arkansas recruiting from BoAS…