10 Names for Arkansas’ Transfer Portal Wish List Now That First Domino Has Fallen

Josh Cohen Clifford Omoruyi

Eric Musselman’s roster-building model brings about an annual sense of both excitement and chaos for Arkansas basketball fans every off season. There’s a reason for the popularity of memes on Twitter joking about his staff contacting anybody and anything with a pulse hitting the transfer portal.

His aggressive approach here usually results in a tremendous amount of year-over-year turnover, with tons of new faces filling the roster. That will surely be the case once again on the heels of a losing season that saw the Razorbacks miss out on the postseason entirely. 

Josh Cohen Arrives

It was clear that the configuration of players on the roster simply did not work, and was in need of a major overhaul. That process has begun quickly, with the first transfer portal domino has fallen with the Friday commitment of Josh Cohen, who most recently starred at UMass and finished a two-day visit to the UA campus on Wednesday. The 6-foot-10 senior averaged 15.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game last season and has one year of eligibility remaining.

While the Lincroft, NJ, native provides a solid frontcourt scoring option off the bench, his lack of athleticism and lingering defensive deficiencies would likely limit his role. Still, there’s no denying he was an effective, shifty low-post threat in the A-10, ranking in the top 30 nationally in drawing fouls, which is right up Eric Musselman’s alley. He has also shown marked improvement defensively in the last year, especially on ball screens, and if he continues trending up in that area he could stay on the court enough to provide the low-post offensive punch the Hogs have lacked since the departure of Jaylin Williams.

Arkansas now has six open scholarships to fill, so let’s get into the transfer portal wishlist of who could join Cohen in future commitments.

Below is a look at some archetypes for the types of players Arkansas needs, including examples of past players from the Musselman era and current transfer portal entrants the staff has already contacted to fit these molds.

Clifford Omoruyi Headlines Dominant Big Man

Given how Arkansas was ripped apart in the paint all of last season, finding a dominant big man should be at the top of Musselman’s list of priorities. With Trevon Brazile likely to declare for the NBA draft, lanky rim-runner Baye Fall is the Razorbacks’ only returning frontcourt player – and he barely saw the floor last year. That lack of depth must be addressed with as much urgency as Fall must address his lack of strength.

Watching the NCAA Tournament, there are so many teams in the field that have dominant centers who make you say “Damn, son. You’re big.” the second you turn on the game. My eyes lit up when I watched Arizona’s Oumar Ballo (7-foot, 260 pounds) going to work for the Wildcats, and seeing a big body like that headlining the Hogs’ frontcourt next season would be a joy.

Rutgers’ Clifford Omoruyi is the first name that fits this mold. “Big Cliff” (6-foot-11, 240 pounds) was a paint beast for the Scarlet Knights, averaging 10.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and an elite 2.9 blocks per game – which landed him on the Big Ten All-Defensive Team for the second year in a row. The Nigerian would be an eraser who could anchor the Razorback defense as a terrorizing shot-blocking threat, as well as slamming home dunks on the pick and roll.

Speaking of dunks, South Dakota State’s William Kyle III made a living at the rim last season with 88 slams – more than Arkansas’ team total. The 6-foot-9 sophomore averaged 13.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game and was named the Summit League Defensive Player of the Year.

A Razorback big man that enjoyed great success in past seasons was the now-Oklahoma City Thunder center Jaylin Williams. A bit undersized, J-Will’s crafty handle and quick feet allowed him to work the paint – as well as his penchant for drawing charges. 

A similar match could be found with Belmont’s Malik Dia, a 6-foot-9 forward who averaged 16.9 points per game. He has impressive handles and playmaking for his size, and is a high flier in transition, as seen by his highlight tape:

Transfer Portal Produces Lead Guards

One thing that Arkansas truly missed this year was the steadying presence of a consistent floor general. While backcourt depth was touted as a strength heading into last season, nobody in the logjam of guards separated themselves from the rest of the pack. From turnover struggles to lack of effort, Keyon Menifield Jr. and El Ellis both spent parts of the year in Musselman’s infamous doghouse.

The case of Layden Blocker was another curious one, as the promising freshman was mysteriously benched for multiple games at a time. After not seeing the floor in the entire month of March, the Little Rock native understandably entered the transfer portal after the season.

Past Musselman teams have featured elite floor generals like JD Notae and Anthony Black. With a consistent star point guard next season, Arkansas basketball’s likelihood to return to the NCAA Tournament tumbles.

Furman’s JP Pegues made a firsthand impression on Musselman when he scored 21 points in Bud Walton Arena back in December. The 6-foot-1 junior averaged 18.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists while shooting 36.2% from behind the arc. His playmaking and perimeter shooting make him an intriguing option for the Razorbacks.

Another Belmont player who initially caught the attention of the Arkansas staff in sophomore Ja’Kobi Gillespie, who scored 17.2 points per game while shooting 38.7% from three. He also averaged 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game, showing a penchant for passing and perimeter defense that is particularly reminiscent of the pocket-picking abilities of Notae (2.3 steals per game).

Aggravatingly enough, Gillespie did commit to Maryland soon after publication, but there are still plenty of other fish in the sea for Arkansas to angle for.

One of these big fish that Musselman is already familiar with is Old Dominion transfer Chaunce Jenkins, who made his presence known firsthand by scoring 21 points and grabbing seven rebounds in an impressive performance against the Razorbacks last season. Watching the clip below, you’d be forgiven for thinking Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant had gone undercover for the Monarchs:

Jenkins averaged 15.9 points and 2.7 assists per game on the season.

Athletic, Two-Way Wings for Arkansas Basketball

The Eric Musselman era has been defined by elite defensive teams. Look no further than the coach’s motto of “effort, energy and enthusiasm”. The glue holding those units together was the key roles played by a number of wings such as Stanley Umude, Au’Diese Toney, and Justin Smith. These forwards were athletic enough to run in transition and guard multiple positions, and usually provided great floor spacing – save for Smith, who made up for it as an elite lob threat.

UNC-Greensboro’s Mikeal Brown-Jones fits the bill as a three-and-D wing, as he put up 18.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game on 43.1% shooting from behind the arc. Arkansas fans will surely remember the 6-foot-8 senior’s perimeter stroke from when he dropped 17 points on the Razorbacks this year, hitting four triples.

A surefire selection to the “all-name” team, Hofstra’s Darlinstone Dubar lit it up for the Pride last season. The 6-foot-8 forward shot the three at a 39.9% clip, averaging 17.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Dubar’s defensive presence also showed with his 1.2 steals and 0.9 blocks per game, making him a versatile piece that Musselmean would surely love to have.

James Madison guard Terrance Edwards Jr. will be a highly-coveted piece out of the transfer portal after winning the Sun Belt Player of the Year award. The junior, nicknamed “Fatt”, scored 17.2 points per game shooting 34.2% from three. He’s testing the NBA Draft waters as well, but Edwards certainly fits the mold of a prototypical Musselman wing.

Shooting guards…emphasis on the shooting

Simply put, the Razorbacks have yet to have an elite three point shooting team under Musselman. Despite the additions of several perimeter-centric offensive pieces last year like Jeremiah Davenport and Khalif Battle, the Hogs were never able to have consistent shooting from behind the arc. The team shot just 31.8% from three, ranking 286th in the nation.

With Battle’s likely return to Fayetteville, the Hogs will have a go-to scorer capable of dropping 30 and even 40 points on a given night. However, the Temple transfer was a streaky shooter throughout the season who had multiple slumps. Arkansas would do well to target additional shooters to ensure that the team has enough perimeter threats for better floor spacing.

Musselman could tap back into the Wichita State pipeline he established with Ricky Council IV by targeting Colby Rogers, a 6-foot-4 guard who averaged 16.9 points per game. Rogers shot 40.9% from three on high volume at 7.1 attempts per game.

South Dakota State’s Zeke Mayo, a teammate of Kyle’s, is another Jackrabbit that the Razorbacks are targeting. The junior scored 18.8 points per game and shot the three ball at a 39.1% clip.

Arkansas Tech’s Taelon Peter and Central Arkansas’ Camren Hunter likely won’t be on any “wish list” for the Razorbacks, but both Arkansas natives are capable of knocking down shots and perhaps would bring the kind of home state pride about which Mike Neighbors had his recent revelation. Peter shot a scorching 44.1% from three, while the more mid-range-focused Hunter shot 31.1%.

Transfer Portal Hunt Continues

After bringing in nine transfers last offseason, it appears next year’s Arkansas basketball roster will feature at least seven transfers in addition to two true freshmen in Jalen Shelley and Isaiah Elohim. While last year’s portal puzzle was never fully put together, Musselman will be hard at work procuring the right combination of pieces to be a much-improved team next season.

The portal has proven to be a double-edged sword for the Head Hog during his time at Arkansas. It allowed him to rebuild the program quickly, and his deep tournament runs featured transfers playing essential roles. 

But turning over so much of the roster every year also has its consequences, as team chemistry is never a guarantee with so many new faces. Only time will tell if “The Importer” can create the right recipe for success once again.

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