The One Muss Let Leave He’d Probably Most Want Back + Arkansas Basketball Transfer Updates

Derrian Ford, Jaxson Robinson, KK Robinson, Arkansas basketball, transfer portal
photo credit: Arkansas State Athletics / BYU Athletics / Little Rock Athletics

For the first time since 2019, an NCAA Tournament will be played without the Arkansas basketball program — but that doesn’t mean the school won’t be represented in the big dance.

A pair of former Razorbacks are on teams that were among the field of 68 announced Sunday, with Jaxson Robinson helping BYU earn a 6 seed and Barry Dunning Jr. being part of the UAB team that won the AAC Tournament to clinch an automatic bid and earn a 12 seed.

While Dunning hardly plays for the Blazers, Robinson has been a key cog for the Cougars. In fact, he’s developed into a possible NBA Draft prospect and was named the Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year.

That makes him the rare Arkansas basketball transfer who left the program that Eric Musselman would probably want back.

Several departures have gone on to enjoy success at future stops, like Derrian Ford and KK Robinson, but they did so after dropping down to the mid-major level. For those two in particular, it was at Arkansas State and Little Rock, respectively.

Jaxson Robinson initially followed a similar path, as he was a key bench player for BYU when it was still in the WCC, but the Cougars joined the Big 12 this year and he actually stepped up his game in arguably the best basketball conference in the country.

The Oklahoma native was critical to BYU far exceeding expectations, averaging 13.8 points on a team that finished fifth in the Big 12 despite being picked to finish 13th out of 14.

Although his percentage fell off drastically in conference play, as he made only 29.8% of his attempts, Robinson was a threat to shoot from anywhere beyond the arc. He enters the NCAA Tournament shooting 34.9% on 6.8 attempts from deep per game.

Having someone like that on this year’s Arkansas basketball roster certainly would have been a boost and opened up driving lanes. Tramon Mark, Khalif Battle and even Trevon Brazile and Jeremiah Davenport had good moments shooting from 3-point range, but the Razorbacks shot just 31.8% as a team. That ranked 295th nationally.

Robinson’s shooting ability, as well as his 6-foot-7 frame, is why Musselman recruited him hard coming out of high school and again when he first hit the transfer portal after one year at Texas A&M. It never came to fruition in Fayetteville, though, as his playing time was sporadic and he was just 4 of 17 (23.5%) from deep in SEC play before once again entering the transfer portal.

Robinson and his teammates will play in the second game of the day Thursday, tipping off against 11-seed Duquesne at 11:40 a.m. CT in Omaha and on truTV.

Here’s a rundown of all eight former Arkansas basketball players still active in college this season…

Arkansas Basketball Transfer Tracker

Barry Dunning Jr. — UAB
Stats: 14 G/0 GS, 4.6 min., 1.3 pts. (31.6% FG, 20.0% 3PT, 71.4% FT), 1.1 reb.

Part of the heralded 2022 Arkansas basketball 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. Unfortunately for him, he barely played more than he did in Fayetteville. He appeared in only 14 games and got double-digit minutes just twice. In fact, Dunning has gotten off the bench just once in the last 15 games.

The Blazers, meanwhile, put together a solid season under former Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy. They went 20-11 and finished fourth in the AAC with a 12-6 mark in their first season in the conference. That gave them a double-bye in the AAC Tournament, which they parlayed into winning the event and earning the AAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

UAB is a 12 seed and will face 5-seed San Diego State, last year’s runner-up, in the first round on Friday. That game will be played in Spokane, Wash.

Derrian Ford — Arkansas State
Stats: 33 G/28 GS, 28.8 min., 10.5 pts. (41.8% FG, 38.1% 3PT, 76.2% FT), 4.4 reb., 1.4 ast.

Another four-star recruit and two-time Gatorade Player of the Year (Arkansas) in the aforementioned 2022 signing class, Derrian Ford played sparingly as a freshman, but — like Dunning — announced his intention to return before ending up in the transfer portal.

He landed at Arkansas State and has been a key part of the Red Wolves’ resurgence under first-year head coach Bryan Hodgson. After a 13-20 season in which it finished next-to-last in the Sun Belt, Arkansas State improved its conference win total by seven and finished fourth in league play.

Ford had been pretty steady for the Red Wolves, averaging 11.5 points in conference play. He had back-to-back double-doubles at the end of January and scored a season-high 23 points against South Alabama last month, knocking down 6 of 10 from beyond the arc.

Arkansas State was knocking on the door of an NCAA Tournament bid, knocking off top-seed Appalachian State to reach the Sun Belt Tournament finals, but fell to James Madison. Ford scored 12 points in that game. Instead, the Red Wolves will play in the CBI.

Justice Hill — Loyola Marymount
Stats: 23 G/20 GS, 29.2 min., 11.2 pts. (41.0% FG, 36.3% 3PT, 78.4% FT), 1.9 reb., 4.2 ast.

It feels like a decade ago, but Justice Hill was Arkansas’ lone high school signee in 2019 and actually enrolled early to go through practice. However, the move backfired because Mike Anderson was fired and he ended up hitting the transfer portal after the hiring of Eric Musselman.

After one year in JUCO, two years at Murray State and one year at LSU, Hill found steady success at Loyola Marymount. Aside from missing time with a hand fracture in the middle of the season, he’s been a mainstay in the Lions’ starting lineup and rotation.

A true point guard, Hill averaged 4.2 assists and 1.9 turnovers this season, while also contributing 11.2 points per game. Loyola Marymount struggled to a 12-19 record and was one-and-done in the WCC Tournament, but Hill ended the year on a high note with 20 points and 6 assists in that conference tournament loss. It was his fourth 20-point effort of the season.

Makhel Mitchell — Little Rock
Stats: 19 G/0 GS, 22.8 min., 9.1 pts. (52.5% FG, 71.0% FT), 5.6 reb., 2.5 ast., 2.3 blk.

Originally a four-star signee at Maryland, Makhel Mitchell spent one season with the Terrapins, two seasons at Rhode Island and one at Arkansas before ending his career at Little Rock. It was his first season playing without his twin brother, Makhi, but their seasons still managed to somewhat mirror each other.

About the same time Makhi emerged as one of the best big men in the SEC, Makhel Mitchell was dominating in the OVC. His lack of production early on, though, wasn’t because of a lack of playing time or poor play. Instead, he had to patiently wait for a court order to force the NCAA to loosen its restrictions on multi-time transfers.

Once that happened, he immediately became a part of the Trojans’ rotation off the bench, but he really stepped up his play during their recent 10-game winning streak. Over that stretch, Makhel Mitchell averaged 12.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 3.1 blocks in 25 minutes per game. That likely helped him earn second-team All-OVC honors.

Unfortunately, that winning streak ended in the OVC Championship Game, in which Morehead State completely neutralized him. Mitchell didn’t take a shot and missed both of his free throws, resulting in a scoreless outing, plus had only 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block in 22 minutes. His season will continue in the CBI.

Chance Moore — Missouri State
Stats: 31 G/20 GS, 26.9 min., 10.7 pts. (41.2% FG, 29.5% 3PT, 61.7% FT), 5.3 reb.

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 found a lot of success at Missouri State last year. He averaged 10.6 points in 21.8 minutes despite mostly coming off the bench.

That led to some preseason hype coming into his junior campaign, as he landed on the preseason All-MVC third team. There were some great moments when he lived up to those expectations, but Moore was also inconsistent. In and out of the starting lineup, he had 10 games in which he scored 16-plus points — including a 24-point effort against West Virginia in the season opener — but also failed to reach double figures in 16 of 31 games.

Even with those inconsistencies, Moore still averaged 10.7 points and 5.3 rebounds, both of which ranked third on the team. The Bears went 17-16 and finished ninth in the 12-team MVC with an 8-12 mark. That led to head coach Dana Ford being fired, so it’ll be interesting to see if Moore chooses to stick around Springfield for his senior year or opts to hit the transfer portal again.

Jaxson Robinson — BYU
Stats: 32 G/6 GS, 26.2 min., 13.8 pts. (42.2% FG, 34.9% 3PT, 90.2% FT), 2.5 reb., 1.3 ast.

Following one-year stops at Texas A&M and Arkansas, Jaxson Robinson has finally settled in and delivered in the way Eric Musselman likely envisioned when he recruited him as a four-star prospect out of high school and then out of the transfer portal.

He had a decent first season at BYU, but has blossomed into an NBA Draft prospect this year despite the Cougars making the jump from the WCC to the Big 12. His 3-point percentage has certainly dipped in the back half of the season, but Robinson is still averaging 13.9 points and has been vital to BYU vastly exceeding expectations this year.

Picked to finish 13th out of 14 teams in the Big 12, the Cougars tied Kansas for fifth and have spent a big chunk of the season ranked inside the top 25. He did start six games this season, but Robinson has mostly come off the bench and was recently named the Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year.

Even though BYU lost to Texas Tech in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament, it still received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. It is a 6 seed and will face 11-seed Duquesne on Thursday in Omaha.

KK Robinson — Little Rock
Stats: 27 G/27 GS, 33.4 min., 15.7 pts. (41.4% FG, 32.0% 3PT, 83.6% FT), 5.6 reb., 4.2 ast., 1.2 stl.

A former in-state recruit and four-star prospect, KK Robinson didn’t quite play 300 total minutes across two seasons with Arkansas basketball and one season at Texas A&M. He more than tripled that this year at Little Rock, his third stop in college.

Not only did he play a lot, but Robinson played very well and was critical to the Trojans winning the regular-season OVC title with a 21-12 overall record and 14-4 mark in conference play. He finished seventh in the OVC in scoring (15.7 ppg) and third in assists (4.2 apg), earning him first-team All-OVC honors.

Unfortunately, Little Rock’s bid to make the NCAA Tournament came up one game short. It lost to Morehead State 69-55 in the OVC Championship Game, in which Robinson had 13 points on 6 of 16 shooting, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 5 turnovers in 36 minutes. Instead, the Trojans will play in the CBI.

Before the OVC Tournament, Best of Arkansas Sports caught up with Robinson to talk about his journey. Check out that conversation here.

Connor Vanover — Missouri
Stats: 24 G/6 GS, 12.9 min., 4.2 pts. (55.6% FG, 23.8% 3PT, 88.9% FT), 3.0 reb.

The long, winding career of Connor Vanover is over, as Missouri lost to Georgia in the first round of the SEC Tournament to cap a tough year in which it won only eight total games and lost all 19 of its conference games.

This was his fourth stop in college, as he 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 before using his super senior season by heading back to the SEC.

Unfortunately for him, Vanover was unable to replicate the success he enjoyed last year with the Golden Eagles in Columbia. Much like at Arkansas, his playing time was inconsistent and his 3-point percentage dwindled, all while blocking only 21 shots after ranking second nationally in that stat at Oral Roberts.

However, he did play well in two matchups with his former team. In Columbia, Vanover notched 7 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block in 14 minutes, doing most of his damage — including knocking down a 3 — early in the game. He didn’t score as much in Fayetteville, finishing with 2 points, but he was one of Missouri’s best players. In addition to grabbing five rebounds, Vanover was critical to the Tigers’ plan to clog the paint and that showed up with him being plus-5 — their only player to finish with a positive plus-minute.

Vanover also ended the year on a high note, notching a double-double in the SEC Tournament loss to Georgia. He scored 10 points on 5 of 7 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds, plus added 3 blocks, 2 assists and 1 steal.


More coverage of Arkansas basketball and the transfer portal from BoAS…

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