Fresh off back-to-back Elite Eight appearances and signing the No. 2 class in the country, Arkansas basketball is showing no signs of slowing down.
Head coach Eric Musselman and the Razorbacks have already been on the recruiting trail looking for future recruits, hunting down some of the top prospects from the 2023 and 2024 classes.
Layden Blocker – a five-star point guard out of Little Rock – is Musselman’s lone commitment in the 2023 class so far, though Arkansas hosted a pair of ESPN 100 teammates from Denver in five-star, center Baye Fall (No. 20 on ESPN) and four-star forward Assane Diop (No. 57) during the weekend of the Alabama football game.
However, the bread and butter of Musselman’s recruiting remains in-state. That’s where Little Rock native Dallas Thomas comes in.
A 6-foot-8 forward at Little Rock Parkview, he is currently ranked as the No. 33 player in the 2024 class, according to ESPN, and has already been in constant contact with the Arkansas coaching staff. In fact, he told Whole Hog Sports earlier this year that Musselman and assistants Gus Argenal and Ronnie Brewer Jr. contact him “basically every day.”
Dallas Thomas Recruitment
Along with being ranked No. 33 on ESPN, Dallas Thomas holds top-100 rankings on both 247Sports (No. 57) and Rivals (No. 67). That makes him the No. 1 player in the state for the junior class in ESPN (11 spots ahead of Annor Boateng), just a three spots behind Boateng in 247Sports and 54 spots behind Boateng in Rivals (if these disparities don’t prove recruiting rankings are an inexact science, nothing will).
Thomas’ current high school coach at Little Rock Parkview is all-time Razorback great Scotty Thurman. He told us in a recent interview that his star forward isn’t one to market himself.
“He’s more focused on the team, representing his family well, and I think he really thinks of himself last,” Thurman said.
Perhaps that humble, low-key mentality has somewhat skewed the opinions of national ranking sites.
Regardless, the scholarship offers are already pouring in for the 2024 standout. Thomas currently holds offers from Arkansas, Houston, Illinois, Texas A&M, Auburn, TCU, St. John’s, Oklahoma State and Missouri State.
St. Johns stands out as a potential destination due to Mike Anderson’s ties to Arkansas and Thurman. Missouri State will also likely remain in heavy contention considering that’s where Thomas’ father went to school.
Thurman pointed out that even more offers could be on the way as schools realize that Thomas’ decision has not yet been made.
“I think there were a lot of assumptions made in his recruitment due to the fact that his high school coach attended the University of Arkansas, and him being an Arkansas kid,” Thurman said. “I think there was a certain level of expectations from coaches that have been hesitant because some thought that he would automatically attend the University of Arkansas – which is definitely an option for him, but it’s not the only option.”
High Off-Court Praise from Arkansas Legend
Dallas Thomas is an unselfish, lanky forward who is quickly developing into one of the most complete players in his class. However, it’s his off-court mentality and growth that makes Thomas stand out, Thurman said. He notes that Thomas is “an old soul” in the sense he doesn’t get easily immersed in social media as many other teenagers do.
He went on to add that Thomas is the type of kid that college coaches don’t have to worry about him for off-the-court reasons either. It’s an added bonus that he holds a 3.5 GPA.
“This kid is zero to no maintenance in terms of being concerned about where he’s going to be at night, how he’s going to handle the academic stress level and course load, and knowing he’s going to be all in – he’s a gym rat,” Thurman said. “That’s what coaches want, and ultimately that’s what coaches win with.”
Thurman says that he gets compliments nearly every day on the behavior and mentality of Thomas, and that his star junior is always self-aware of what he needs to do to get better as a basketball player and as a person – such as continuing to put academics before athletics.
“That’s what I appreciate about him the most,” Thurman said. “That allows me to get after him from a coaching standpoint as well as challenge him from a personal standpoint and help him realize his goals.”
Dallas Thomas Breakdown
Standing at roughly 6-foot-8, 175 pounds, Dallas Thomas projects as a 3-and-D wing – a player who specializes as a versatile defender and fills holes as needed on the offensive end, usually by spacing the floor with their length and shooting.
Thomas uses his height to his advantage when shooting, defending or occasionally initiating an offensive set. When asked about Thomas’ biggest strength on the court, Thurman pointed to his size, or specially “what he can do at his size and skill level, being able to shoot the ball at a high level and make passes and do the things that a small guard can do.”
Thomas can score from all three levels and his ball-handling is more than serviceable for his size. He’s a high-IQ passer that likes to get his teammates involved and a capable defender when he’s fully locked in. As a sophomore, Thomas averaged 2.3 assists per game.
When the Little Rock native first joined the Parkview basketball team as a freshman, he was a 6-foot-4 shooting guard. Thomas has since grown four inches to 6-foot-8 over the last two years, and as you can see in the highlight film below he’s managed to maintain a majority of his guard skills as he transitions to playing a different position on the court.
Naturally, this level of growth spurt brings challenges along with the benefits. Physically, Thomas’ weight and muscle mass are still catching up to his new frame — his nickname is “Slim” for good reason — but having extra height and longer arms also changes the way a player dribbles, shoots and defends.
His shooting seems to be transitioning nicely – as a sophomore he shot 47.6% from the field and 39.4% from beyond the arc – but Thurman notes that Thomas tends to stand upright at times when defending smaller guards, sometimes putting himself at a disadvantage.
Thurman also said they’re working on Thomas’ weight and confidence in his own strength, getting him to where he can “go in head-first and not be concerned with his stature more than trusting he has the necessary strength to be effective.”
As Thomas gets used to his new size and continues to add muscle, he can become an efficient 3-and-D weapon at either the small forward or power forward position at the collegiate level.
Thurman added he and his coaching staff are also working to help the young prospect decide when to be more selfish with the ball. As a sophomore, Thomas averaged 14.6 points per game — a number that is likely to go up in his junior-year campaign.
“He can be unselfish to a fault trying to get others involved in the game,” Thurman said. “Right now, we’re trying to help him find the balance to where he can be selfish when we need him to be, but not selfish to the point where it hurts the team.” Still, this is a good problem to have as a coach. Not many players are so capable of becoming scoring weapons yet need to be coaxed to pass less often.
Leave the State Like Moses Moody?
Thomas projects as more of an elite 3-and-D wing player at the next level rather than being a go-to, No. 1 scoring option offensively. Even as he puts on muscle mass, his guard skills will allow him to take advantage of smaller defenders playing at the 3, especially as more teams turn toward small-ball lineups consisting of three guards.
Perhaps the best example of a lanky, 3-and-D wing in today’s NBA is Mikal Bridges of the Phoenix Suns. Standing at 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, Bridges averaged 14 points on 40% shooting from beyond the arc with more than one steal per game across the last two seasons. He’s the perfect complementary piece to a Suns offense that made it to the NBA Finals in 2021.
Another more familiar player that is rapidly learning how to be an elite 3-and-D wing at the professional level is Little Rock native Moses Moody. At roughly 6-foot-6, Moody doesn’t share the same wiry frame as Thomas, but he does have a long wingspan that allows him to defend bigger players and shoot the ball over small defenders.
Moody also briefly attended Little Rock Parkview, where he helped his team reach the state championship game as a freshman, before transferring to North Little Rock, where he won the Class 7A state title as a sophomore. He played his junior and senior seasons at Montverde Academy in Florida.
Thurman doesn’t believe Thomas will take a similar path through a prep school on his way to the collegiate level.
“If I was a betting man, right now, as long as we continue to help him develop as he’s been able to develop and continue to assist him in reaching his goals both on and off the court, I would think he’s still going to be a Parkview Patriot,” Thurman said.
Thurman was also quick to point out that “things can always change,” but both of Thomas’ parents attended Little Rock Parkview and the family appears to be all-in on Thomas staying put.
Arkansas Basketball Player Comparison
After a disclaimer that he doesn’t typically like to compare high school players to collegiate-level players, Thurman threw out a pair of legendary Razorbacks when asked who Thomas’ game reminded him of most: himself and Todd Day.
Both of those former Razorbacks stand at roughly 6-foot-6 and displayed a high level of versatility during their collegiate careers. Both are known for their scoring prowess – Thurman primarily for his cool-headed outside shooting and Day for filling the bucket as the No. 1 all-time scoring leader at Arkansas – but they were both much more than just spot-up shooters.
Perhaps most notably is each of their ability to defend both guards and forwards at a high level. Both players forced turnovers at a high rate (1.4 steals per game for Thurman and 2.1 for Day), along with being well-rounded across the stat sheet. Both handled the ball well on the perimeter, rebounded well for their position and had a high IQ when finding their teammates.
Thomas has already shown all of these qualities in his young career and Thurman knows they can translate well to the next level.
“He’s a guy that’s going to bring an enormous amount of versatility to a program due to the fact that he already has the skill set,” Thurman said. “Any school in the country that’s looking for a guy that can possibly be a 3 or a 4, but still be able to initiate offense from the perimeter and is unselfish despite being highly rated – I think every school in the country should be all over this kid.”
See Moody tear it up in preseason here. His spinning layup at :45 shows big things could be ahead in Year 2:
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