Ricky Council IV has declared for the NBA Draft and will forgo his remaining eligibility with Arkansas basketball, he announced Tuesday.
Joining the Razorbacks as a transfer from Wichita State last offseason, Council is listed as a junior on the roster, but could technically play another two years in college because of the extra year granted by the NCAA in response to the pandemic.
He did not mention leaving the door open to a potential return, but it is believed he will remain in the draft.
“This year has been a dream come true to say the least,” Council wrote on Twitter. “The fans were top tier and going to school here has been amazing in every aspect.
“Transferring and coming to Arkansas was a very hard decision but I want to thank Coach Muss, Coach Argenal, Coach Smart and the rest of the support staff for making that transition as easy as possible. Playing here this year has taught me so much on and off the court and I can truly say I just haven’t grown as a basketball player but also as the person I’m becoming today.”
He is the fourth Arkansas player to make an announcement regarding his future and second to outright declare for the NBA Draft, joining projected lottery pick Nick Smith Jr.
Already known as a very good player from his two seasons at Wichita State, where he was named the AAC Sixth Man of the Year in 2022, Council took his game to another level this season.
He filled a much-needed role by becoming Arkansas’ go-to scorer while Smith dealt with a knee injury for much of the season. His efficiency dipped in SEC play, but he still averaged 16.1 points to go along with 3.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.1 steals. That helped him earn second-team All-SEC honors from the AP and coaches.
After struggling in the SEC Tournament, Council ended the year on a high note by averaging 18.7 points in three NCAA Tournament games. He notched a double-double against Illinois (18 points, 10 rebounds) and came up big down the stretch against Kansas. Across those three games, Council was excellent getting to the charity stripe and converting, as he knocked down 29 of 32 free throws.
This will be the seventh straight offseason Arkansas will have to replace its leading scorer. The last time it returned its top scorer was the 2016-17 season, when Dusty Hannahs came back for his senior year.
Ricky Council IV and the NBA Draft
There was a point during the season that more mock drafts had Ricky Council IV in the first round than didn’t, but the general consensus at this point is that he is a second-round prospect.
Various mock drafts have him going anywhere from No. 39 to No. 46 overall, which would put him in the top half of the second round.
His best projection is on NBADraftRoom.com, which has the Spurs taking him with the 39th pick. ESPN hasn’t published a mock draft since before the NCAA Tournament, but it has Council going to the Nuggets with the 41st pick. The Athletic released a new mock draft last week that has him at No. 43 overall to the Lakers.
Perhaps the two most interesting projections would have Council joining former Razorbacks who have already successfully done what he is now trying to do.
USA Today posted a mock draft ahead of the Final Four and has him being taken 40th overall by the Wizards, where he’d join former Arkansas standout Daniel Gafford.
NBADraft.net has Council slipping the furthest, slotting him at No. 46, but that has him joining former Arkansas stars Isaiah Joe and Jaylin Williams with the Thunder.
Those three former Razorbacks — Gafford, Joe and Williams — are part of what has been a hot-streak of sorts by second-round picks from Arkansas.
Gafford went 38th overall to the Bulls in 2019 and has since caught on as a starter with the Wizards. He is about to enter the portion of his contract that’s worth about $40.1 million over the next three years — an extension he signed back in October 2021.
Joe went 49th overall to the 76ers in 2020 and, after being waived following a couple seasons of sporadic playing time in Philadelphia, signed with the Thunder last October. He is now one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA.
Williams went 34th overall to the Thunder last year and has evolved into a starter as a rookie.
Prior to that stretch, Sonny Weems and Patrick Beverley were second-round picks in back-to-back years (2008 and 2009) who eventually played in the NBA. Most notably, Beverley — after spending time overseas — has been a three-time All-Defensive Team selection and protagonist in the league.
There is a chance Council could climb into the first round with a strong pre-draft showing, which is certainly possible with his 6-foot-6 frame and elite athleticism (46-inch vertical), but if he does slip to the second round as expected, there is at least recent precedent for him making an impact in the NBA.
Who’s Next for Arkansas Basketball
Even with four announcements already made, the Razorbacks are still awaiting several others because everyone but Kamani Johnson has remaining eligibility.
Anthony Black is widely expected to join Nick Smith Jr. as a one-and-done and projected lottery pick, but he has yet to make his intentions for next season public.
With Trevon Brazile already announcing his return, the biggest decision Arkansas is waiting for – aside from Davonte Davis deciding whether or not to remain in the NBA Draft – is what Jordan Walsh will do. He could also be a one-and-done, but unlike Smith and Black, he is projected as a second-round pick.
Considering he was once seen as a potential first-rounder and has flashed the ability that could vault him into that range again with another year, not to mention his comments immediately following the loss to UConn, there is speculation that Walsh may return for his sophomore year.
In addition to Davis, the Mitchell twins — Makhi and Makhel — and Jalen Graham are veterans who could potentially move on to the professional ranks, but aren’t seen as NBA Draft prospects and would likely be forced to play in the G League or overseas.
The transfer portal could also be in play for those guys, as well as lightly used freshmen Joseph Pinion, Barry Dunning Jr. and Derrian Ford. The Hogs have already announced the first incoming Arkansas basketball transfer of the offseason in Keyon Menifield Jr. The guard comes from the Washington Huskies after averaging 10.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals in his freshman season.
The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NBA Draft is April 23. The G League Elite Camp (May 13-14) and NBA Draft Combine (May 15-21) are in mid-May, with the deadline to withdraw from the draft and maintain college eligibility set for May 31.
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