The open spot on the Arkansas basketball roster didn’t stay vacant for long, as Tramon Mark committed out of the transfer portal Sunday afternoon.
A three-year player out of Houston, his announcement came just two days after Makhel Mitchell entered the transfer portal, opening up a scholarship. It’s worth noting that Mark is also testing the NBA Draft waters and has until May 31 to withdraw and maintain his collegiate eligibility.
The 6-foot-5 guard was part of a talented backcourt that helped the Cougars spend the entire 2022-23 season ranked in the top 5 and earn a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Widely viewed as a top-50 player in the transfer portal, Mark is ranked as high as No. 5 by CBS Sports. As of Monday morning, he is also ranked 15th by 247Sports and 45th by On3, both of which rate him a four-star transfer. The Athletic had him as the 39th-best available transfer before his commitment and now has him 13th among transfers who’ve found a landing spot.
Arkansas has now landed two players from the portal this offseason, as Mark follows former Washington guard Keyon Menifield Jr., who ranks ninth on The Athletic’s list of committed transfers.
They will join a roster that will for sure include Trevon Brazile, Jalen Graham, Joseph Pinion, Derrian Ford, Barry Dunning Jr., Layden Blocker and Baye Fall. The Razorbacks’ remaining four scholarships are tentatively held by Davonte Davis, Anthony Black, Jordan Walsh and Makhi Mitchell.
Black is expected to declare for the NBA Draft, while Walsh could potentially join him and Davis in testing the waters. Mitchell also has yet to announce his plans for next season, but his twin brother has entered the transfer portal.
Tramon Mark at Houston
A consensus top-100 recruit in the Class of 2020, Tramon Mark was ranked as high as No. 72 nationally by ESPN coming out of Dickinson, Texas.
He was pursued by the Big 12 (Oklahoma and TCU), SEC (Texas A&M) and Pac-12 (California), but opted to stick close to home rather than go to one of those bigger conferences.
Despite playing in the American, though, Houston had developed into a powerhouse program under Kelvin Sampson, making the school just 30 minutes from his hometown a solid choice.
Sure enough, Mark became a key bench player as a true freshman and actually ranked fifth on the team in minutes per game (20.1) as the Cougars made their run to the 2021 Final Four. He averaged 7.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists that season.
It appeared that Mark was set to take a step forward offensively the following season, as he averaged 11.8 points over the first six games of the year. Unfortunately, he suffered a shoulder injury in the seventh game that required season-ending surgery and received a medical redshirt.
He was healthy this past season and started all 37 games for a team that entered the year ranked No. 3 and never dropped lower than No. 5. Houston actually spent seven weeks at No. 1 in the AP Poll and earned a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Although All-American Marcus Sasser and projected lottery pick Jarace Walker got most of the attention, Mark was a key player for the Cougars. Known as a lockdown defender, he also put up 10.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals in 29.5 minutes per game as a redshirt sophomore.
For his career, Mark has shot 39.2% from the floor, including 30.0% from beyond the arc, and 79.0% at the free throw line.
What Mark Brings to Arkansas Basketball
On top of his solid statistics, Tramon Mark has been part of a winning program the last three years. Houston won two regular-season AAC titles and two AAC Tournament titles during his time there and reached at least the Sweet 16 in all three seasons – a feat matched only by Arkansas and Gonzaga.
The aforementioned shoulder injury forced him to watch the 2022 Elite Eight run from the sideline, but he had big moments in the postseason as a freshman and redshirt sophomore.
That includes a 15-point performance in a first-round win over Cleveland State and game-winning three-point play in the closing seconds against Rutgers in the second round as a freshman, plus a 26-point, 9-rebound effort against Auburn in the Round of 32 just last month.
Mark’s specific skill set is also one that should fit seamlessly into Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman’s system – an opinion college basketball analyst Aaron Torres reiterated in a YouTube video reacting to his commitment.
“I think it is a perfect match between player, style of play, how the guy plays, how the team plays,” Torres said. “I think it is going to be really, really, really good and I think that a lot of those championship type habits that were created at Houston, Tramon Mark is going to bring with him.”
Torres went on to describe him as a “new-age wing player” who is “super long, super athletic (and) can create for himself off the dribble, create for others off the dribble.”
The other thing that makes him a good fit with the Razorbacks is the fact that he’s a “very active” and “very willing” defender, Torres said — a sentiment echoed by CBS Sports, which wrote that he is a “great defender.” That makes sense considering defense is what Houston basketball coach Kelvin Sampson is known for, as the Cougars were top 10 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings each of Mark’s three years with the team.
There are some flaws to Mark’s game, though. Arkansas basketball fans will be quick to notice he’s made just 30.0% of his career 3-point attempts and shot just 32.8% on 3.2 attempts per game this past season, his third year of college.
According to The Athletic, Mark isn’t much better in more favorable catch-and-shoot opportunities from 3, knocking down only 32% of them. The publication also pointed out that he is a “horrid finisher at the rim,” converting only 44% of his attempts this year.
“A terrific lefty midrange gunner, Mark can create shots with his shifty handle,” wrote The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie and CJ Moore. “He also showcases some real potential as a passer and playmaker. Teams that take Mark, though, will need to be willing to accept the good with the bad.”
The scouting report laid out above may sound familiar, as it closely resembles what Davonte Davis has brought to the Razorbacks over the last few years — all the way down to the fact that both of them are left-handed. They both have career 9.2-point scoring averages and their games are very similar.
Davis is a lockdown defender whose offensive game has evolved over the last three seasons. He’s known for his midrange game and NCAA Tournament heroics, plus — before a late-season surge, which saw him shoot 41.2% over the final 21 games — he also struggled from beyond the arc.
In fact, Davis shot just 23.0% on 1.6 attempts per game over the first 81 games of his career. Mark has played 76 games and is shooting 30.0% on 2.8 attempts. Considering the fact that his 3-point percentage has ticked up a little bit each year and that Davis enjoyed such a drastic improvement, it isn’t totally inconceivable that Mark could further improve that area of his game.
That would leave his inability to finish at the rim as the most glaring issue and Musselman has proven to help individual players improve that aspect throughout a season. Moses Moody struggled mightily with that early in his career, but steadily got better with it in his lone season with the Razorbacks before becoming a lottery pick.
Landing a player with Davis’ skill set could be critical for next year’s Arkansas basketball team because Davis is testing the NBA Draft waters and could decide to pursue a professional career instead of returning for his senior year. Even if he withdraws his name and comes back, it certainly wouldn’t hurt if the Razorbacks had two such players at their disposal.
Arkansas Basketball Roster for 2023-24
Here’s a rundown of what the 2023-24 Arkansas basketball roster looks like so far…
- Jalen Graham — super senior
- Makhi Mitchell — super senior (yet to announce his decision)
- Davonte Davis — senior (testing NBA Draft waters)
- Tramon Mark — redshirt junior (transfer from Houston)
- Trevon Brazile — redshirt sophomore
- Anthony Black — sophomore (likely to declare for NBA Draft)
- Jordan Walsh — sophomore (yet to announce his decision)
- Keyon Menifield Jr. — sophomore (transfer from Washington)
- Joseph Pinion — sophomore
- Derrian Ford — sophomore
- Barry Dunning Jr. — sophomore
- Layden Blocker — freshman (2023 signee)
- Baye Fall — freshman (2023 signee)
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