Vanover Jumps Out of Frying Pan Into Fire, KK’s First Triple-Double + More on Arkansas Transfers

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

The calendar has flipped to 2024, which means Arkansas – and other teams around the country – are diving head-first into conference play.

Best of Arkansas Sports figured it was a good time to check in with former Razorbacks who used the transfer portal to continue their collegiate careers…

Barry Dunning Jr. — UAB
Stats: 10 G/0 GS, 5.7 min., 1.6 pts. (29.4% FG, 25.0% 3PT, 71.4% FT), 1.3 reb.

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’s playing for former Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy. The Blazers are just 9-5 overall and No. 207 in the NET, but they did beat UTSA in their first conference game as a member of the AAC.

However, Dunning played just four minutes in that win. That is indicative of his role so far this year, as he’s played sparingly. In fact, he’s averaged only 5.7 minutes in his 10 appearances and played double-digit minutes just twice. Dunning’s best game was against Alabama A&M, when he contributed 6 points and 2 rebounds in 6 minutes in the first half, but didn’t come off the bench after halftime.

Derrian Ford — Arkansas State
Stats: 14 G/9 GS, 23.7 min., 8.6 pts. (38.7% FG, 37.7% 3PT, 66.7% FT), 3.7 reb., 1.2 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 got off to a scorching hot start in the Red Wolves’ two exhibition games, scoring 39 total points and going 9 of 11 from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, Ford hasn’t been able to carry quite that level of play into the regular season, even though he’s been solid.

After starting only two of the first seven games of the season, he’s started the last seven and is playing better of late. He dropped a season-high 16 points against Little Rock and followed it up with a 12-point, 5-rebound showing at Alabama. About a week after that, Ford helped Arkansas State beat Louisville on the road. Most recently, he earned the team’s Hard Hat award for his performance against Georgia Southern on Thursday, in which he made 3 of 5 attempts from beyond the arc and finished with 15 points and 7 rebounds.

Justice Hill — Loyola Marymount
Stats: 11 G/11 GS, 26.7 min., 10.0 pts. (40.8% FG, 37.2% 3PT, 73.7% FT), 1.7 reb., 4.2 ast.

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, where he helped the Tigers to an 11-1 start and was among the nation’s leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio early on.

However, SEC play went poorly for both the Tigers and Hill, who actually left the team for personal reasons at one point and saw his playing time dwindle down the stretch. That ultimately landed him in the transfer portal again and he resurfaced out west at Loyola Marymount.

He started the first 11 games of the season, in which he posted a solid assist-to-turnover ratio (46 to 18) and averaged 10.0 points while shooting 37.2% from beyond the arc, but is currently dealing with a hand fracture suffered in mid-December that will keep him out 4-6 weeks. It’s also worth noting that his scoring is inflated by some early-season success, as he averaged 17.0 points over the first four games, but only 6.0 points in the next seven games.

Makhel Mitchell — Little Rock
Stats: 2 G/0 GS, 13.0 min., 1.0 pts. (16.7% FG), 2.0 reb., 1.0 ast.

Not quite as well-traveled as Justice Hill, Makhel Mitchell is at this 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 again, he didn’t go very far. Mitchell landed at Little Rock, where he initially couldn’t play because he’s a multi-time transfer. However, when a court order forced the NCAA to loosen those restrictions, he gained eligibility for what is expected to be his final collegiate season.

After missing the first 11 games, Mitchell played eight minutes against Murray State on Dec. 18. Unfortunately, he dislocated his shoulder and missed the next three games before returning to the court Thursday. Mitchell played 18 minutes off the bench against SIU-Edwardsville and finished with 2 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist.

Chance Moore — Missouri State
Stats: 13 G/11 GS, 30.1 min., 12.8 pts. (40.1% FG, 31.3% 3PT, 75.6% FT), 5.8 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. 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.

A preseason third-team All-MVC selection, Moore is now a starter for Missouri State and his scoring has ticked up to 12.8 points per game, even though his efficiency has dropped. He’s shooting just 31.3% from beyond the arc — down from 34.2% last year.

However, he can still get hot and light it up. He opened the season with a 24-point, 8-rebound performance against West Virginia in which he went 5 of 13 from deep. He also scored 28 points against Evansville and had an impressive 16-point outing in a road upset over St. Mary’s.

Jaxson Robinson — BYU
Stats: 12 G/0 GS, 22.8 min., 16.0 pts. (47.7% FG, 41.4% 3PT, 92.3% FT), 2.8 reb., 1.5 ast., 1.1 stl.

It’s taken a few years and three different schools, but Jaxson Robinson is finally delivering in the way Eric Musselman likely envisioned when he was in the Arkansas basketball program in 2021-22.

The former Texas A&M and Arkansas player had a decent year last season at BYU, averaging 8.5 points and having some big games against notable opponents, but he’s been sensational so far this year. Even after missing all six of his attempts the last two games, Robinson is still shooting 41.4% from deep, which leads the Big 12.

He’s also averaging 16.0 points despite not starting a single game, which has helped the Cougars to a 12-1 record and No. 2 ranking in the NET. Robinson’s hot start has also led to him shooting up to No. 38 on ESPN’s ranking of the top available NBA Draft prospects for 2024.

KK Robinson — Little Rock
Stats: 10 G/10 GS, 32.8 min., 17.6 pts. (39.8% FG, 25.0% 3PT, 82.9% FT), 6.0 reb., 4.8 ast., 1.3 stl., 1.0 blk.

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, as he appeared in only 18 of 35 games with the Aggies and averaged just 1.8 points.

It didn’t receive a ton of fanfare, but Robinson returned home to the Natural State over the summer to continue his career at Little Rock, where he’s playing for former Arkansas basketball standout Darrell Walker.

A bruised knee kept him out for a few weeks, but he has been very productive — albeit inefficient — when he’s been on the court. Despite shooting only 38.3% from the floor and 24.4% from beyond the arc, he’s putting up 17.6 points per game to go along with 5.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks.

Robinson scored a season-high 26 points against Georgia State in his last game before his injury and then returned with a 16-point, 14-rebound double-double against Murray State. Most recently, he notched a triple-double against SIU-Edwardsville with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists, plus added 2 steals and 1 block for good measure.

Connor Vanover — Missouri
Stats: 10 G/3 GS, 12.2 min., 4.8 pts. (50.0% FG, 14.3% 3PT, 88.9% FT), 2.5 reb., 0.9 blk.

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. The Nutts, like Vanover, are Little Rock natives. 

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. There, he earned first-team all-conference accolades and was named the Summit League Defensive Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.

Vanover’s stint at Missouri was delayed because of a three-game suspension for participating in the Portsmouth Invitational, an event in which seniors play in front of pro scouts, before deciding to use his extra year of collegiate eligibility. Since returning to the court, his play has been much more like it was at Arkansas than Oral Roberts.

Even though he started three straight games at one point, Vanover’s playing time has been limited and sporadic, averaging only 12.2 minutes per game. He’s just 2 of 14 from beyond the arc, as well. It also seems like the Missouri fans turned on him during the Illinois game, in which he went scoreless on 0 of 4 shooting in 6 minutes of action. Some of the criticism he received that day sounded similar to — if not worse than — the criticism from Arkansas basketball fans late in his tenure in Fayetteville:


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

Facebook Comments