With all the exciting new players and endless possibilities on this 2020-21 Razorback basketball team, it’s easy to overlook a few players that have been with the Hogs longer than a few months. Desi Sills and Ethan Henderson are the only players returning from the 2020 season who played significant minutes, but there are also a few other players that have been learning from head coach Eric Musselman for a full season. Fan favorite big man Connor Vanover, for instance, is expected to have a key role in the Hogs rotation this year. But it’s a different sit-one transfer that might just outperform his expectations.
After averaging 15.5 points a game in two seasons at Jacksonville State, the 6’1″, 195-pound J.D. Notae spent the 2019-2020 season sitting at Arkansas. That didn’t stop him from showing out, as his teammates said he often dominated practices.
“I think that with JD, we just kind of saw his confidence. I think that when he first got here, he might not have been used to the speed and the size obviously coming from Jacksonville. That can be different,” Musselman said in March. “I think he adjusted when he was on the scout team. Just building his confidence up through scoring on people and those types of things. And, I think he’s going to be a more consistent 3-point shooter because he’s just put so much time into it on his own.” Through two years, Notae holds a career 35.2% 3-point average.
Naturally, the coach who recruited Notae speaks highly of him, but Muss isn’t the only one taking note of the soon-to-be junior’s potential. Ashton Hagans, the former star Kentucky guard, had some encouraging words of praise for Notae on Twitter:
Best GUARD IN THAT CONFERENCE! Nocap!!! https://t.co/kpm2Y9Co5v— ashton hagans (@H23Ash) October 2, 2020
This type of statement is something you typically expect to see from current or former teammates, not alumni of rival programs. Though Hagans has not yet made a name for himself as a basketball analyst, he did spend two seasons at Kentucky playing against top SEC guards. He would also familiar with Kentucky’s incoming class of blue-chip guards including point guard Devin Askew and big guards/wings in BJ Boston and Terrence Clarke.
Yes, Hagans did grow up with Notae, who is two years his senior. For at least a season, the native Georgians shared the same backcourt at Newton High School in Covington, Georgia. And the two guards are friends who work out with each other in the offseason. Still, though, implying that a newcomer to the conference is already the best guard in that conference is a high vote of confidence.
For Notae to deliver on such high expectations, he’ll need to improve from his impressive tenure at Jacksonville State.
There, he averaged upwards of 15 PPG in both seasons and showed promising improvement in many other parts of his game between years one and two. In his sophomore season, the score-first guard dished out 3.4 assists per game compared to only 1.9 in his freshman season. He also improved his rebounding average from 4.7 to 6.2 per game in year two.
The other most notable areas of improvement come in his efficiency. Notae improved his overall FG% from 41.0% to 42.7%, as well as his FT% from 69.9% to 73.0%. It’s also worth noting that Notae put up all of these improved stats in only 29.2 minutes per game during his sophomore campaign compared to his 31.4 minutes per game in year one.
In late October 2020, Notae said he’s spent the last year improving his shooting off the dribble and his catch and shoot, along with creating space to get his shot off.
“We’re going to be a really good cutting team. We cut hard, with a lot of good movement. A lot of players on our team cut backdoor, so you’ll see a lot of that.”
You can see an example of that here:
My brother ??? https://t.co/CsrxhECOrx— Jd Notae (@jdnotae) October 24, 2020
In the summer, Notae hurt his wrist but he appears to have almost completely recovered. “JD looked better than a hundred percent,” Razorback coach Eric Musselman said on October 14th. “He dropped 5 out of 6 from three in live play and he looked good.”
“JD’s done a great job of trying to play the combo guard, which obviously it’s difficult to go from a scorer to a distributor, but he’s done a really good job with that,”
See Musselman video bomb JD’s interview at 2:40:
Player Breakdown and Comparison
With improvement from his Jacksonville State time, Notae projects to be one of the best isolation guards in the country when it comes to getting his shot off over or around a defender. Throughout his highlight video below, Notae can be seen displaying a plethora of moves including catch and shoot triples, pull up jumpers in transition, and long strides between defenders in the paint.
One move in particular that stands out is the step back 3-pointer he hits at the 3:59 mark. This bucket shows many different things about Notae. First, the pass to Notae came after an out of control pass from the corner. Instead of panicking or continuing to play out of control, he instead slows down the offense to settle his team. That kind of poise from an underclassman is invaluable. He then sizes up his defender, reacts to what the defense gives him, and makes a difficult step-back three look easy. This move is something you see from many different NBA guards, including one guard in particular who shares several similarities with Notae: Bradley Beal.
While these players are not on the same level of talent or potential, their play styles do mirror one another. Beal is a couple inches taller than Notae and a better athlete, but he also relies on his ball handling and all-around scoring ability in the NBA, rather than being known as a knock-down shooter like Klay Thompson or former Razorback, Isaiah Joe. Instead, Beal is able to create his own shot from anywhere on the court while utilizing ball handling, footwork, and finishing around the rim. Notae utilizes many of these same skills. Both players make their living around the perimeter with a defender attempting to stay in front of them.
Though they come from different spots on the court, at the 2:50 and 5:37 marks of Beal’s highlight tape, you can see Beal using a nearly identical between the legs, hesitation, step back 3-pointer combo that we pointed out in Notae’s highlight reel above.
Notae is not known for his defensive prowess, but don’t be surprised to see him become a nuisance in passing lanes when playing in Musselman’s defensive scheme. He possesses the right physical tools to become a useful team defender. Notae has also vastly improved his rebounding and passing vision, as can be seen by his impressive improvement in both stat categories through his first two seasons, allowing for him to potentially become a better-rounded player moving forward.
Fitting in the Rotation
After a crippling lack of depth last season, Musselman now faces the exact opposite problem this season: he has more depth than he’s used to. Muss has been known to only play 8-9 rotation guys when coaching in college, even saying depth is “overrated” last season. Now he has one sit-transfer likely to make his debut in 2021-22, two players returning who played significant minutes last year, three eligible sit-one transfers, three grad transfers, and four highly touted freshmen on the same team. For those not keeping count, that’s 12, potentially 13, guys with a chance at seeing playing time barring injury.
Of all these players, six are considered guards. Two of these guards, Sills and Moody, will more than likely spend most of their time off-ball at one of the wing positions. That leaves four guys capable of playing the point guard position, including Notae.
Jalen Tate (6’6, G/T) is a defensive minded guard from Northern Kentucky. He is able to play the point guard position in large part due to his ability to make plays for others and defend opposing guards very well. His 3-point shooting was poor during his junior season, leaving room for a more offensively inclined player to overtake him in the rotation.
Next you have the incoming freshmen duo of KK Robinson and Davonte “Devo” Davis. At 6’0 Robinson is a quick and shifty guard with excellent shooting and playmaking ability. There has even been speculation that he could potentially join Moses Moody as Arkansas’s first one-and-done players in program history. Devo is more likely to be a multi-year player at Arkansas, as he possesses tremendous length, IQ, and upside, but may need a little more polishing on the offensive side of the ball before he’s ready for the next level.
That leaves Notae. Before Isaiah Joe declared for the draft (again), I expected Notae and Robinson to battle for the starting point guard position. Experience and scoring ability gives Notae the edge, but his injury gave Robinson time to develop and gel with the other starters.
Now that Joe is officially gone, don’t be surprised to see the two guards start side-by-side on more than one occasion. Unless Coach Musselman opts for a larger lineup with Moody at the SG position, the tandem of Robinson and Notae appears to be among the best options for the team. They both provide elite shooting and ball handling. Robinson’s playmaking and defensive prowess will likely complement Notae’s IQ and scoring ability beautifully.
With so many new faces, it’s difficult for anyone to predict how this team will mesh together on the court. A fascinating mixture of experience and youth has Hog fans everywhere holding their breath to see who emerges into which role. Notae will likely spend his fair share of time both as a facilitator and as a spot-up shooter. Because of his versatility, we expect Notae to be among the top three to four scorers on the team at roughly 12 PPG. Other players in contention to lead the team in scoring include, but are not limited to: Moses Moody, Vance Jackson, and Connor Vanover.
Notae is also not afraid to mix it up in the paint and fight for 50/50 rebounds, which fits well into the mentality Musselman’s Hogs were forced to play with last season when they were grossly undersized at every position. Notae has shown flashes of tremendous vision when attacking the paint, leading to an increased assist total. This is an improved skillset that fits perfectly into what Coach Musselman likes to do on the offensive side of the ball.
Full stat prediction for J.D. Notae:
22.5 MPG | 12.3 PPG | 2.9 RPG | 2.4 APG | 1.4 SPG | 0.3 BPG | .415 FG | .337 3P | 77.4% FT
Notae’s vision in full effect:
Author: Brandon Baker
Contributor and Senior Writer for overtimeheroics.net
Facebook Page: Overtime Heroics Arkansas