The Ron Holland sweepstakes is lining up to be one of the most unique in college basketball history. Rarely is the No. 1 recruit in a class undecided so late in the cycle and perhaps never before has the final choice appeared to come down to a single college team and pro team.
But here we are, in late May, a decision on the destination of the highly coveted 5-star recruit out of Duncanville, Texas, a major point of interest among millions of passionate college basketball fans and hundreds of diehard G-League fans. We are one step closer to that decision with a report on Tuesday that Holland has at last been released from his national letter of intent with the Texas basketball program.
Now, Arkansas basketball fans are eager to see if the dynamic forward will ink with the Razorbacks, who finished as runner-up to the Longhorns when Holland made his initial college decision late last year. “It’s my understanding is there was real disagreement in his initial commitment,” college basketball analyst Aaron Torres said in a recent episode of his podcast. “I think part of his camp wanted Texas, but part of his camp wanted Arkansas as well.”
A number of recruiting insiders, including On3’s Gerry Hamilton, have predicted Holland will choose the Hogs. Indeed, on Wednesday, Hamilton gave Holland a 95% confidence rating that he would end up in Fayetteville.
Fans’ hope for a Fayetteville landing, however, have been tempered by Holland’s reported visit of the G-League’s Ignite team on Tuesday. That team in the NBA’s pro developmental league, which has produced multiple lottery picks over the last few years, has emerged as the most popular option for elite high school recruits who prefer to forego the college experience and plunge right into all-encompassing preparation for the big lights.
“It helps you get into an NBA mindset and develop an NBA skill level,” Holland said last year in an interview with 247Sports. “The NBA does not want to bring in young guys who do not know how the league works so I feel (like) the G League could help you prepare for that.”
Most insiders consider the Ignite, coached by Jason Hart, a former NBA player and USC assistant coach, to be the top challenger to the Razorbacks for Holland’s services. There are plenty other professional possibilities, including Europe and Asia. Most recently, the developmental team of Australia’s National Basketball League made Ron Holland an offer.
Still, there are at least a couple reasons this Ignite visit shouldn’t as much of a cause of concern as it first appears.
Ron Holland and G-League
For one, it may simply be coincidence that he visited the Ignite on the same day as his release. The visit might have been scheduled in advance. But if his visit had been to a college instead of the G-League, then that visit could not have happened before his release. So, in that case, it would have been reasonable to assume that his first place to go after Texas would carry an upper hand.
But Holland hasn’t been restricted from signing with a pro team while under the national letter of intent. Had he wanted to announce he was going pro at any point in the last few weeks since requesting a release, he could have. No red tape was stopping him. (Indeed, the very fact that he hasn’t yet gone pro yet is an indication he is more likely to go the college route.)
When it comes to Arkansas, Holland is already quite familiar with the program from previous visits and previous talks with the Razorback coaches as well as input from Anthony Black (former teammate in high school) and Jordan Walsh (former AAU teammate).
That familiarity means his decision to delay or forego altogether another visit to Fayetteville shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a negative.
If Holland is looking for pro development and the college experience, then Arkansas seems to be a very good fit.
“You get to be a kid for another year, you get to do the college experience, but you get to do it in a basketball-crazy state for a basketball-crazy fan base for a program that is already going to start in the top 10 with or without you, maybe the top five,” Aaron Torres said in the below video. “So you get all of the college experience, but you also get it with a program that is very NBA-centric and NBA-focused.”
The Razorbacks are loaded with staff members who have NBA experience, starting with Musselman himself. Keith Smart is a former assistant with the New York Knicks and Anthony Ruta, the director of operations, is a former assistant with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of what’s now called the G-League.
Expect the coaching staff to get even more NBA-centric in the wake of today’s news that assistant Gus Argenal has taken over at Cal State-San Bernardino. Ronnie Brewer, the former Hogs star and NBA veteran, could be elevated into Argenal’s position.
Arkansas Basketball and NIL
Torres continues to lay out the potential benefits of coming to Arkansas: “You get to play in front of 18,000 people every single night instead of – no disrespect – half empty crowds in the G League-program. Also, I think if it comes down to money, I don’t think Arkansas is lacking in NIL either.”
If Holland chose to play for the Ignite, he would command a salary of at least $500,000 based on what previous players of his caliber have made. “The possible No. 2 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, Scoot Henderson, signed a two-year $1 million contract in 2021,” as 247Sports’ Brandon Jenkins wrote. “This broke down to $500,000 a year splits which put him on pace with former Ignite stars, Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga, who made roughly the same amount of money during their time in the G League.”
Jenkins also adds that former Razorback Nick Smith Jr. — the No. 1 player in the 2022 class — had an NIL evaluation of close to just $10,000 coming out of high school. “It would be hard for Holland to say no to the type of money the G League is offering while also getting the pro experience he’s craving,” Jenkins wrote.
That number doesn’t do justice to what Nick Smith Jr. actually made through NIL in his one season on the Hill, however. His NIL valuation, according to On3, was $234,000 for the 2022-23 school year. Even that, however, is significantly lower than the $500,000 deal that Smith actually commanded, according to insiders.
With that number in mind, it would not be surprising to see Holland get an NIL deal(s) at Arkansas that matches – if not exceeds – anything that the G-League could offer.