It may be football season, but Arkansas basketball grabbed some headlines Monday when it landed the commitment of Jalen Shelley.
Ranked as the No. 35 overall prospect in the Class of 2024 by Rivals, the small forward out of Link Academy is knocking on the door of five-star status.
He’s eight spots lower on ESPN, but well within the top 100, which is significant because he’ll be the 14th ESPN top-100 recruit for Eric Musselman in the span of five classes. That is one more than Arkansas basketball signed in the first 13 years of the rankings combined. A full list of those players can be found below.
Not to state the obvious, but landing Shelley is also important because he’s a very good player. Here’s a closer look at exactly what he brings to the table…
Jalen Shelley Scouting Report
Listed at roughly 6-foot-8, 175 pounds, Jalen Shelley is a lanky wing with great length for his position. Despite his height, he doesn’t necessarily have the muscle mass on his frame just yet to suggest he could play up to at the power forward position in college – but he does have a skillset that may allow him to play down a position at times as an oversized shooting guard.
Think of players like Brandon Ingram of the New Orleans Pelicans or even Jordan Walsh if the Celtics continue to play him as a shooting guard like they did in the NBA Summer League.
Shelley is most comfortable in freelance, chaotic situations – especially on fast-break opportunities. He thrives most with the ball in his hands as a score-first playmaker. While he searches for openings to get his shot off, he’s far from a selfish player and has shown flashes of great passing ability.
Outside shooting, combined with his height and length, are arguably Shelley’s strongest attributes offensively.
He has a smooth jump shot that he’s shown to be capable of firing off over defenders, especially if he boasts a few inches of height over them. Arkansas desperately needed outside shooting last year and seemingly addressed that issue over the offseason for the 2023-24 season, but it’s still refreshing to see recruits with the ability to knock down the long ball committing to Eric Musselman and the Hogs.
Shelley’s ball handling is above average for his size – another factor that makes him such a dangerous weapon in transition. He’s shown comfortability as a primary initiator on offense at the high school level, though he’s perhaps not quite ready to be a lead ball handler at the collegiate level.
While his handles are good in the open court and on the perimeter, he hasn’t often shown the strength or ball security necessary to consistently penetrate against college defenses yet. Luckily, that shouldn’t turn into a real issue because Shelley likely won’t be asked to fulfill that role at Arkansas – especially considering the presence of other guards like Keyon Menifield and potentially Layden Blocker on next year’s roster.
Perhaps the biggest knock on Shelley’s game – aside from the lack of muscle mass that is fairly common among high school recruits – is his motor and defensive positioning. Clearly, at 6-foot-8, he possesses the tools necessary to be a plus defender, but he often finds himself gambling both on and off the ball on defense.
At the high school level, this can often lead to breakaways and fast break opportunities – both of which Shelley thrives in – but in college, that lack of fundamental positioning could lead to getting beat off the dribble and foul trouble. Just ask Jordan Walsh about that latter issue.
Walsh was a much better defender than Shelley, but he was still aggressive in his pursuit of the ball, both as a primary and help-side defender. This led to foul trouble early in the season as Walsh attempted to adjust to the collegiate game.
Shelley could face a similar transition period on the defensive side of the ball, though if Musselman is able to turn him into a net-positive team defender, he could be a dangerous weapon on both sides of the ball.
Sometimes his unselfish nature and emerging passing ability can also be a fault for Shelley because he has the tools and skillset to be a scoring powerhouse. He’s shown the ability to be an elite scorer and will continue to grow offensively as his body develops. There are times, however, when he becomes passive or doesn’t work off-ball to get himself in good positions, leading to fewer scoring opportunities.
Perhaps gaining experience and confidence throughout his senior season at Link Academy and beyond will help Shelley overcome some of those roadblocks in his game. He certainly has the potential to be an electric scoring wing with plenty of defensive upside.
Arkansas Basketball’s ESPN Top 100 Recruits
- Jalen Shelley — No. 43
- Baye Fall — No. 29
- Layden Blocker — No. 31
- Nick Smith Jr. — No. 3
- Jordan Walsh — No. 11
- Anthony Black — No. 15
- Derrian Ford — No. 76
- Barry Dunning Jr. — No. 79
- Joseph Pinion — No. 94
- Chance Moore — No. 72
- Moses Moody — No. 45
- KK Robinson — No. 82
- Davonte Davis — No. 89
- Jaylin Williams — No. 94
- Ethan Henderson — No. 92
- Daniel Gafford — No. 47
- Khalil Garland — No. 58
- Jimmy Whitt — No. 77
- Anton Beard — No. 90
- Bobby Portis — No. 16
- Moses Kingsley — No. 43
- B.J. Young — No. 16
- Ky Madden — No. 36
- Hunter Mickelson — No. 55
- Marshawn Powell — No. 67
- Rotnei Clarke — No. 52
- Michael Sanchez — No. 81
Check out some highlights of new Arkansas basketball commit Jalen Shelley:
More coverage of Arkansas basketball and Arkansas recruiting from BoAS…