Ron Holland has once again broken the hearts of Arkansas basketball fans.
The five-star recruit from Duncanville, Texas, announced his intention to bypass college completely and play for the G League Ignite on Wednesday. It’s the second time the Razorbacks have seemingly finished runner-up for Holland, the No. 1 overall player in the Class of 2023, according to 247Sports.
Rumored to be an Arkansas lean last fall, Holland eventually chose Texas over the Razorbacks and UCLA in November. Even though he signed with the Longhorns, speculation about his status almost immediately started when then-Texas basketball coach Chris Beard was arrested on domestic violence charges Dec. 12.
That was amplified when Beard was fired Jan. 5, but it wasn’t until April 28 that Holland backed off his commitment. He was finally released from his National Letter of Intent last week, officially opening the door for Eric Musselman to make another run at him.
This time, the Razorbacks lost out to the professional route, as the Ignite are an NBA G League team designed as an alternative to college basketball for the year between high school and becoming eligible for the NBA Draft.
It’s a heartbreaking decision for a program hoping to land 247Sports’ No. 1 player for a second straight year, as the Razorbacks signed Nick Smith Jr. last year. Holland also would have been following in the footsteps of former high school teammate Anthony Black, who’s widely projected as a lottery pick in this summer’s NBA Draft after one year at Arkansas.
Instead, Musselman’s 2023 signing class will remain at just two players, Layden Blocker and Baye Fall, both of whom are top-35 prospects in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite.
What’s Next for Arkansas Basketball
Late Wednesday night, Jordan Walsh also took himself out of the mix for Arkansas basketball in 2023-24 when he announced he was staying in the NBA Draft.
Walsh was one of four Arkansas basketball players invited to the NBA Draft Combine earlier this month and has drawn positive reviews, resulting in his draft stock going up. At the combine, the Texas native posted 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in 40 minutes of action.
In fact, ESPN’s latest mock draft — which was released Wednesday morning — has Jordan Walsh going No. 39 overall to the Charlotte Hornets after a lone season in Fayetteville. That’s still in the second round, but in the top-third range, which about where fellow former Razorback Daniel Gafford was selected back in 2019 (No. 38). He has since found a role in the NBA, as has Isaiah Joe, who went 49th overall in 2020.
Those recent success stories, not to mention two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic being the 41st pick in 2014, seem to indicate Walsh would be better served by staying in the draft, especially considering his skill set would seemingly fit nicely in the league.
Davonte Davis Stays
Davonte Davis, who announced he was returning for his senior season earlier Wednesday evening, is another story. Despite being a key cog on the last three Arkansas basketball teams, he does not appear in any mock drafts and would almost certainly go undrafted. He was not invited to the either the G League or NBA combine, although the Jacksonville native did go through a workout with the Milwaukee Bucks this week.
There’s a chance he could catch on in the G League, like Justin Smith and Stanley Umude, but both of them did so after playing their senior seasons with the Razorbacks.
Regardless of the decisions by Walsh and Davis, Arkansas already got some good news on that front with both Tramon Mark from Houston and El Ellis from Louisville pulling their names out of the draft. Both will transfer to Arkansas for the 2023-24 season.
Another potential transfer who tested the waters but has since withdrawn from the NBA Draft is North Dakota State big man Grant Nelson. He will now focus on finding a new school for this coming season and recently said one of his next visits would be to Alabama.
With Jordan Walsh staying in the NBA Draft, the Razorbacks would have one available scholarship for 2023-24 and Nelson — who averaged 17.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.7 blocks last season — would be a major target. Last season, Nelson was a terror in the same Summit League that produced Umude, as he was the only player in the league’s top 11 for all five of the above stat categories. Overall, Grant Nelson led the Summit League in rebounding and ranked second in the league for blocks.
However, plenty of other schools, including Gonzaga, Kansas, Kentucky and Houston, are also in pursuit of his services.
What Could Have Been: Ron Holland Scouting Report
With Jordan Walsh now joining Nick Smith and Anthony Black as the third one-and-done player from last year’s Arkansas basketball team, Ron Holland likely would have been a perfect replacement.
Standing at 6-foot-8, he projects as a small forward at the NBA level, but his length and incredible defensive versatility would have made him the perfect combo forward capable of playing either the 3 or 4 in today’s college game – very similar to Walsh.
The best part about Holland’s game is his all-around athleticism – and not just in the sense that he jumps high or can run fast without the ball. He covers ground on the court in every direction on both sides of the ball, similar to former No. 1 NBA pick Andrew Wiggins, an Ontario native who proved to be a sports betting in Canada favorite after helping the Warriors when the NBA title last year. Holland can play passing lanes, defend the rim, outrun his defenders down the court, stay in front of shifty ball handlers and blow by bigger defenders, all while having a generally high motor and passionate style of play.
Combine all of these “intangibles” with a smooth base jump shot to build off of, as well as a high IQ as a passer and team defender, and it’s easy to see why Holland drew so much attention from colleges and NBA scouts across the country.
Holland is most comfortable offensively when attacking the rim with reckless abandon. He finds himself in good position to finish plays thanks to his high motor, but he’s also improved his ability to get by defenders with the ball in his hands and finish in the paint. He’s shown the ability to shoot from long range, though that will be an important skill to pay attention to as he adapts to the speed of the college game.
He still has room to grow as an on-ball decision-maker offensively, both within his guard skill set on the perimeter and his ability to slow the game down and make the correct reads as a ball-handler, but those are attributes he’ll be able to work on in the G League next year. The fact that he already has a solid foundation in each of these aspects, with the potential to grow, further demonstrates his all-around skillset and appeal as a future NBA prospect.
Brandon Baker contributed to this story.
More coverage of Arkansas basketball from BoAS…