It was a go-go first day on the Hill for new Hogs basketball coach Eric Musselman.
There was, for starters, an introductory press conference.
But Musselman also managed to squeeze in quality time with his current players, as well as a couple tantalizing potential future Hogs.
Not long after he got off the plane which brought him from Reno to Fayetteville, he met all the current players for the first time and reassured them he knows he can’t force their allegiance. Instead, Eric Musselman expects to earn their trust and in return will demand max effort in practice and in games.
“If you guys give me and our staff a chance, great things are gonna happen,” Musselman told the Razorbacks during their first meeting on Sunday night.
“If you give me effort, our staff is gonna squeeze whatever ability that you have in that body of yours,” he said. “I can’t stand up here and say, ‘Hey trust me.’ Anybody can do that. I have to earn your trust, I know that. I have to earn you trust through how we practice, how we bond, just how we live our daily lives, that’s how you’re gonna end up trusting me. I can’t get your trust today. I’m not gonna get your trust tomorrow, it’s gonna come through time.”
Musselman also explained the style of basketball he wants to teach is “fast. I want to give you guys a lot of freedom on offense and if, I don’t know if any of you guys have watched us play. I know Jalen [Harris] would know just from playing us [when he played for New Mexico] — we play fast and we shoot a lot of threes and we try to get to the basket and we try to draw a lot of free throws attempted.”
“That’s kind of who we have been offensively, and I really don’t want to change. Obviously when I get to know you guys individually as players, it’s my job to kind of tailor to what our strengths are as this group. But overall philosophically that’s what I want to do on offense.”
“Defensively I want us to gamble, but with discipline and with intelligence,” Musselman continued. “But I want to try to create steals. Again, with discipline and with our game plan. And the one thing that’s gonna be a little bit of a culture shock to you guys is gonna be our terminology and our in-depth scouting reports.”
Watch the below video to see Eric Musselman address his players for the first time:
For more insight here, Arkansas Fight’s Adam Ford highlighted some of the major differences between the styles of Musselman and Mike Anderson. He goes into detail on how 2019-2020 Arkansas will shoot more three-pointers per game, will foul less and — to Hog fans’ delight — will rebound much more.
Under Musselman, Nevada maximized defensive rebounding at the expense of forcing turnovers, Ford wrote. “Nevada was one of the nation’s top defensive rebounding teams in 2019, snagging about 78% of their opponents’ missed shots.”
“His Nevada teams weren’t great at offensive rebounding, but they were good enough to be a rebound-positive team in three of four seasons”
Another big difference: Mike Anderson often played things by feel. Musselman doesn’t. He’s much more analytics-based.
“What I do want to start doing tomorrow for sure is meeting with you guys individually,” he told the players. “I think that’s really, really important. And I’ve done some things statistically on you guys individually that I kind of want to show you and walk you through some things. I’m a big believer in trying to motivate you guys through number and through statistics.”
“A lot of college coaches don’t believe in that. A lot of college coaches think that we only talk about the team and we don’t talk about how many three balls a guy can shoot, or how many rebounds a player can average. I think that that helps motivate you. I think your outer circle that’s outside of this, whether it’s a parent or an AAU, they’re talking to you about it — so why don’t I talk to you about it?”
In the end, Musselman wants these Hogs to know they can improve their individual pro stock and help the team at the same time. This is especially important as he makes the case to them individually that their best shot at succeeding in pro basketball comes by staying in Fayetteville, not transferring to other programs (as Darious Hall did last spring).
“If you don’t win, your value is low. And so we gotta win,” he said. “We gotta win for each of you individually and we gotta win for each other collectively. And if you work hard and if you buy in, we will make the tournament.”
What about Eric Musselman’s recruiting?
Ah yes, the big question.
Through the last week, some Hog fans have expressed concern about Musselman’s lack of experience recruiting high school players. They know he mostly leaned on experienced transfers to build a mid-major power at Nevada. In fact, the Wolf Pack’s entire starting five last season was made up of fifth-year seniors who started their careers at other DI schools. In all, 10 of his 13 scholarship players transferred in.
At Arkansas, he’ll need to blend the two approaches to truly compete with the likes of Kentucky and Auburn. So far, he’s showing he’s more than willing.
On his very first day, Musselman offered a scholarship to five-star junior Kyree Walker of Phoenix, Arizona. “He’s a kid that’s super athletic,” Walker’s high school coach Nick Weaver told recruiting reporter Richard Davenport. “Big body, an NBA body. Probably one of the best defenders you’ll see in the whole country. A lock-down defender. He’s a guy that’s super versatile, super athletic, can play a 1-3.”
Here’s Kyree Walker showing off those beastly abilities against one of the best prep teams in the nation:
As Davenport writes, it’s conceivable this prodigy could see the college court as soon as this fall. “Walker, 6-6, was also offered by Kansas on Monday. He’s thinking about reclassifying and becoming a 2019 signee.”
‘That’s a decision the family is going to make,’ Weaver said. ‘I know they’re going through it right now. I know they’ve talked about it and they very highly considered it. So if he did, it wouldn’t surprise me.'”
Musselman also offered Walker’s teammate Dalen Terry, who’s ranked as the No. 32 player in the nation by Rivals. “He leads the nation in assists [11.2 per game] this year,” Weaver told Davenport. “Super long, 7-foot wingspan. He gets everybody involved. Super efficient. He can also play a 1-3. Very versatile. Dalton is a knockdown 3-point shooter. He’s a guy you can not leave open.”
And here’s an update on Moses Moody, the most highly sought Arkansas native in the Class of 2020:
Musselman addressed a lot more in his first talk with the team. Dive deeper by clicking below: