Connor Vanover Again in NCAA Crosshairs, KK’s Best Game Yet + More Arkansas Basketball Transfer Updates

KK Robinson, Connor Vanover, Arkansas basketball, transfer portal
photo credit: Little Rock Athletics / Missouri Athletics

With the Arkansas basketball season on the horizon, most attention — understandably so — has been focused on all of the newcomers Eric Musselman has at his disposal.

It’s easy to see why, especially when it was Tramon Mark who had the ball in his hands in crunch time against Purdue in last week’s exhibition game. He recently checked in at No. 11 on ESPN’s ranking of the top 100 newcomers (transfers and freshmen) in college basketball — a list that also considered fellow Arkansas transfers El Ellis and Khalif Battle.

However, as the Razorbacks have seen, the transfer portal works both ways. With so many players coming in, simple math says some must also leave.

Best of Arkansas Sports has kept up with those departures and, by our count, eight former Arkansas basketball players are still active across college basketball.

It seems like many of them will play prominent roles at their new schools, which range from high- to low-major programs. In fact, four of them combined to shoot 17 of 23 (73.9%) from deep in preseason exhibition games for which we could find statistics.

That’s an insanely high number and will certainly fall when they start facing Division I competition in the regular season, but it helps illustrate how many of the transfers were good players who just didn’t pan out in Fayetteville — a stark contrast to the list of Arkansas football transfers.

Here’s a rundown of all eight, complete with how each of them did in their season openers. Although it’s worth noting that two of them did not play on Opening Night, as they’re dealing with the NCAA. Of the six who did play, two of them had 24-point outbursts.

Arkansas Basketball Transfers

Barry Dunning Jr. — UAB

Part of the Razorbacks’ heralded 2022 signing class, Barry Dunning Jr. was a four-star recruit and two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Alabama. He got some meaningful minutes early last season and even started a game, but for the most part, his action came in mop-up duty. Four of his five points at Arkansas were late in the blowout loss to UConn in the Sweet 16.

After initially announcing he’d return for his sophomore year, Dunning entered the transfer portal and landed back in his home state at UAB, where he’ll play for former Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy. The Blazers are coming off a runner-up finish in the NIT and a 29-win season.

In UAB’s lone exhibition game, Dunning came off the bench and played 14 minutes against Division II Morehouse College. He scored 8 points on 3 of 5 shooting, including 2 of 2 from deep, plus had 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block. It’s unclear what role he’ll have for the Blazers, as he played just the ninth-most minutes in the game.

UAB opens its season Monday against Bradley and will then head to the Asheville Championship, where it’ll take on Clemson (Nov. 10) and then either Maryland or Davidson (Nov. 12).

UPDATE: Dunning played the least among the 10 Blazers who saw the court in a 73-71 overtime loss to Bradley. He was on the court for the final 3:10 of the first half and recorded 2 rebounds — one offensive and one defensive. UAB actually trailed by 20 in the first half, but staged a furious comeback after halftime to get the game to overtime — all with Dunning watching from the bench.

Derrian Ford — Arkansas State

None of the Arkansas basketball transfers had a better preseason than Derrian Ford, who was another four-star recruit and two-time Gatorade Player of the Year (Arkansas) in the aforementioned 2022 signing class. After playing sparingly as a freshman, he — like Dunning — announced his intention to return, only to end up in the transfer portal and land at Arkansas State.

Not only did Ford start in both of the Red Wolves’ exhibition games, but he shined. Against Division II Trevecca Nazarene, he dropped 21 points in the first half by going 7 of 10 from the floor, including 5 of 6 from beyond the arc, and 2 of 2 at the free throw line. He added 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 2 turnovers in his 24 minutes of action.

Ford followed that up by nearly matching those numbers in a charity exhibition against in-state rival UCA, another Division I school. He scored 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 4 of 5 from deep, and had 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 2 turnovers in 32 minutes.

We’ll find out quickly just how real that 9-of-11 performance from 3-point range is because Arkansas State has four road games against high-major teams on its schedule, starting with the opener at Wisconsin on Monday. The Red Wolves also travel to Iowa (Nov. 17), Alabama (Dec. 4) and Louisville (Dec. 13).

In between those last two games, there will also be a matchup between two former Arkansas basketball players, as UAB and Barry Dunning Jr. will come to Jonesboro for a non-conference game against Arkansas State and Ford on Dec. 9.

UPDATE: The Red Wolves were blown out 105-76 in their trip to Wisconsin. Ford started and played 30 minutes, but was limited to only 7 points on 3 of 5 shooting. That includes going 1 of 2 from beyond the arc, where he was 9 of 11 in two exhibition games. The Magnolia product also missed both of his free throws and had five turnovers.

Justice Hill — Loyola Marymount

Now at his fifth school in as many years, Justice Hill was the Razorbacks’ lone high school signee in 2019 and actually enrolled early to practice with the team during the second semester of his senior year. The move backfired because Mike Anderson was fired and replaced by Eric Musselman, after which Hill decided to transfer and take the JUCO route.

Following one standout season at Salt Lake C.C. in Utah, Hill signed with Murray State and was a key player on the team that won 31 games and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He then followed head coach Matt McMahon to LSU.

Things couldn’t have started much better, as the Tigers won 11 of their first 12 games and Hill was once again a key to that success. He the nation’s leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio, averaging 4.2 assists and only 1.3 turnovers, while also putting up 8.7 points.

It all came crashing down in SEC play, though. Hill actually left the team for personal reasons at one point and his playing time dwindled down the stretch, as he averaged just 3.6 points, 1.7 assists and 1.4 turnovers in conference play. That ultimately landed him in the transfer portal again and he has resurfaced out west at Loyola Marymount.

The Lions play in the WCC, which is the same conference as Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, and are considered by many to be a “sleeper team” in the league. Jon Rothstein even placed them third behind the two powerhouses in his offseason WCC power rankings this summer.

Loyola Marymount did not play any exhibition games, but Hill is a projected starter and could thrive in head coach Stan Johnson’s system, especially with star guard Cam Shelton moving on to the professional ranks. His first action will come in Tuesday’s season opener against NAIA Westcliff University.

UPDATE: He got off to a bit of a slow start, but Hill still managed to finish with 11 points on 5 of 9 shooting in his first game at Loyola Marymount. He also dished 5 assists with no turnovers and notched three steals – all in the second half – in the Lions’ 109-68 win over NAIA Westcliff University.

Makhel Mitchell — Little Rock

Not quite as well-traveled as Justice Hill, Makhel Mitchell is at his fourth school — all at the Division I level — and his first without his twin brother, Makhi. Originally a four-star signee at Maryland, he broke out at Rhode Island, where he averaged 10.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 24.6 minutes across two seasons.

That got him and his brother on Eric Musselman’s radar and they opted to continue their careers with the Razorbacks. While Makhi was a regular starter, Makhel Mitchell played much more sparingly. That said, he still made nine starts and averaged 3.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks at Arkansas.

Although he left his brother by entering the transfer portal, he didn’t go very far. Mitchell landed at Little Rock, which now competes in the OVC. The Trojans played an exhibition game against Arkansas Baptist and won 97-66, but no box score could be found.

Mitchell’s first real action with his new team will be Monday against Texas State. About a month later, he’ll get the opportunity to face former teammate Derrian Ford when Arkansas State visits the state’s capital city for a non-conference game on Dec. 1.

UPDATE: Best of Arkansas Sports has been informed that Makhel Mitchell is still awaiting a decision by the NCAA in response to his waiver request. This isn’t his first (or second) transfer, so he must receive approval from the NCAA before being able to play at Little Rock.

UPDATE: Mitchell did not play in Little Rock’s 71-66 win over Texas State because he is still awaiting word on his waiver from the NCAA.

Chance Moore — Missouri State

After getting only eight total minutes of playing time in his lone season at Arkansas, where he was a four-star signee, Chance Moore dropped down to the mid-major level and had a lot of success at Missouri State last year. Despite mostly coming off the bench and playing only 21.8 minutes per game, he was the Bears’ second-leading scorer at 10.6 points per game.

He was a very hot-and-cold player, but ended up shooting 34.2% from beyond the arc and adding 3.9 rebounds per game. The fact that he started only three of 31 games helped him land on the MVC’s All-Bench Team.

This year, Moore is a preseason third-team All-MVC selection. He started Missouri State’s exhibition game against Division III Westminster College, but like the rest of the starters, didn’t play much. In just under 7 minutes of play, he scored 4 points on 1 of 2 shooting, with the miss coming from beyond the arc, and notched 2 assists and 1 steal.

The Bears will open their season with a road trip to West Virginia on Monday before returning to Springfield, Mo., a week later for their home opener against Oral Roberts.

UPDATE: The Bears gave West Virginia a real battle, actually leading by six at halftime and pulling within one possession in the game’s final minute before falling 67-59. Moore’s performance is a large reason why, as he poured in a game-high 24 points on 8 of 19 shooting, including 5 of 13 from beyond the arc. He also grabbed eight rebounds and notched two blocks and one steal in 37 minutes. It was his 3 that pulled Missouri State within 61-59 with 41 seconds remaining, but he also missed one with 23 seconds left that would have made it a one-point game.

Jaxson Robinson — BYU

At his third school in as many years, Jaxson Robinson averaged 8.5 points and shot 34.3% from deep in his first season at BYU. Those numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, but he did deliver in some big games.

Against eventual Elite Eight participants Gonzaga and Creighton, plus the Pac-12’s USC, Robinson knocked down 12 of 22 (54.4%) attempts from beyond the arc and averaged 14.7 points. Against NCAA Tournament teams St. Mary’s (twice) and South Dakota State, though, he shot just 1 of 9 from 3-point range and scored a total of seven points.

Robinson got hot in the Cougars’ lone exhibition game against NAIA Life Pacific, dropping a team-high 20 points on 7 of 12 shooting, which included 6 of 9 from distance, plus added 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 turnover in 20 minutes off the bench.

BYU opens the season against Houston Christian on Monday, but then things get significantly harder. It hosts No. 17 San Diego State on Nov. 10 and plays in the Vegas Showdown, facing Arizona State and either North Carolina State or Vanderbilt. This is also the Cougars’ first season in the Big 12, which is arguably the best conference in college basketball, so Robinson will get tested quite a bit.

UPDATE: Just as he did in their exhibition game, Robinson came off the bench in the Cougars’ 110-63 season-opening win over Houston Christian. He scored 13 points on 5 of 12 shooting, including 3 of 7 from deep, plus chipped in one rebound and one assist in 19 minutes.

KK Robinson — Little Rock

A former in-state recruit and four-star prospect, KK Robinson spent two seasons with Arkansas basketball in which he played sparingly. That continued after he transferred to Texas A&M last offseason. He appeared in only 18 of 35 games with the Aggies and averaged just 1.8 points.

Robinson’s best game was a 12-point effort in just 10 minutes against South Carolina on Jan. 14, but he didn’t enter the game until midway through the second half when Texas A&M was already up by 43. From that point on, he played in only six more games and tallies just 2 points in 13 minutes, prompting him to enter the transfer portal again.

It didn’t receive a ton of fanfare, but he returned home to the Natural State over the summer to play at Little Rock. His addition gives the Trojans a strong Razorback flavor, as he not only joins fellow former Arkansas player Makhel Mitchell, but he’ll also play alongside Creed Williamson — the son of Corliss Williamson — and for head coach Darrell Walker, a former Arkansas basketball standout.

As mentioned above, Little Rock opens its season against Texas State on Monday.

UPDATE: Unlike fellow former Arkansas basketball player Makhel Mitchell, KK Robinson has received a waiver and is eligible to play at Little Rock after transferring in from Texas A&M this summer, Best of Arkansas Sports has learned.

UPDATE: Robinson played easily the best game of his collegiate career in his Trojans debut, leading them to a tough 71-66 win over Texas State. He scored a game-high 24 points, largely thanks to a 14-of-18 performance at the free throw line, plus added four rebounds, four assists, five steals and two blocks in his 37 minutes of action.

Connor Vanover — Missouri

Another player on his fourth stop in college, Connor Vanover is back in the SEC after transferring to Missouri for his “super senior” season. He was drawn to the Tigers by assistant coach Dickey Nutt, an Arkansas native and brother of former football coach Houston Nutt.

Prior to heading to Columbia, Vanover began his career at Cal, spent three seasons — including a redshirt year — with the Arkansas basketball program and finally enjoyed a breakout season at Oral Roberts, where he earned first-team all-conference accolades and was named the Summit League Defensive Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.

He played a major role in the Golden Eagles becoming just the second team in the Summit League’s 41-year history to go undefeated in conference play by finishing second nationally in blocks per game (3.2). He also averaged 12.7 points and 7.2 rebounds on a team that earned a 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Tigers didn’t play any exhibition games, so his exact role this season is unclear, but the 7-foot-5 Vanover should — at the very least — add height to a team that lacked it last season. Missouri was the shortest team in the SEC in 2022-23, according to KenPom, and typically started 6-foot-8 Kobe Brown at the five.

They open the season Monday against UAPB and will face the Razorbacks twice this year — on Jan. 31 in Columbia and on Feb. 24 in Fayetteville.

UPDATE: The NCAA is once again keeping Vanover off the court. Arkansas fans remember him being denied immediate eligibility after his transfer from Cal, forcing him to redshirt on Eric Musselman’s first team. Now, he’s serving a three-game suspension to start this super senior season because he participated in the Portsmouth Invitational, an event in which seniors play in front of pro scouts, before deciding to use his extra year of eligibility by transferring to Missouri. That’s why he didn’t appear in the Tigers’ 101-79 win over UAPB. They didn’t necessarily miss him against the Golden Lions, but Vanover will also miss games against Memphis (Friday) and SIU Edwardsville (Nov. 13) before being eligible against Minnesota (Nov. 16).


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