By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — It was a long 4-plus months between the Arkansas Razorbacks ending their 2019-2020 season abruptly with a win over Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament in mid-March and their return to the practice floor with coaches on Monday, but week one of second-year head coach Eric Mussleman’s “training camp” concluded on Thursday with some noteable takeaways for the 2020-21 Hoop Hogs.
— Junior guard Isaiah Joe did not participate in any of the drill-work practices this week. Joe, who declared for the NBA Draft in April and has until Aug. 3 to either return to the Hogs or remain in the draft pool, continues to focus his time and effort on his draft exploration with just over a week remaining to make his decision to stay or go. The NBA’s underclassmen advisory committee is expected to release its second report within the next week in an effort to relay the likely draft-ability – for lack of a better word — to the underclassmen who are still in the draft pool. To drop out of the draft prior to the release of the UAC report means forfeiture of receiving the report.
Also, Joe is still in the process of doing interviews with NBA teams. He’s talked with most of the league’s teams, and some have circled back for second interviews. Such is the case with one team that is setting up a second interview with Joe that is expected to take place within a week’s time. With no travel to meet with and work-out for teams in person, and no NBA Draft Combine, Joe has been relegated to online streaming interviews. The NBA Draft, originally set for late June, will be held on Oct. 16.
— Musselman tweeted a week-one camp-wrap message to his team and Hog fans on Thursday that went like this: “Great first week of practice. Loved the Energy, Effort and Enthusiasm back in the Eddie Sutton Practice Gym! #WPS” Musselman has referred to his three “E’s” many times before. He also has a fourth E — “Execution” — that he has grouped with the other three in the past. Still, mentioning his three E’s in the same sentence that he referenced Sutton — who made his three “D’s” (Dedication, Discipline, and Defense) famous at Arkansas in the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s — came off like a tribute to Sutton, who recently passed away at age 84 just weeks after learning that he would finally be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
— Freshman guard Moses Moody‘s shooting prowess has been a big talking point among those familiar with his summer work in Fayetteville to this point. Backed up by his senior season numbers (46.9% from 3 and 60.1% overall field goal shooting) at Montverde Academy, Moody begins his college rookie season with a reputation as a prolific shooter and he has opened eyes with his touch since arriving on campus last month.
— New associate head coach David Patrick hasn’t been in town long since being hired on July 1, but his voice has been a strong one during camp, at least based on a video released via Twitter by Arkansas’s basketball program on Monday. “Somebody has to lead,” Patrick said to the players at the end of his Mic’d Up video piece. “And it’s not just in here, it’s like when you go to your apartments and to your dorms. Because if it’s fraud you’re going to figure it out, but if you can get internal leadership this team can do special things. So it’s not just speaking, it’s a fact …”
— Grad-transfer Vance Jackson, Jr.‘s combination of skill and size (6-9, 238) appears to be making believers out of onlookers inside the performance center. Jackson is a 3/4 combo forward who can shoot the 3 and create offense off dribble-drives, plus he’ll be counted on to help the SEC’s worst rebounding team improve on the glass in ’20-21. Arkansas has not yet had a player of Jackson’s size and skill set spread the floor to create matchup advantages out on the perimeter, but apparently that is about to change.
— Grad-transfer Justin Smith‘s vertical leap of 48 inches has been well-documented — it reportedly matches the best vert measurement ever recorded at the NBA Draft Combine — but one observer said it’s quite something to see in person, and that Smith gets up “easy and quick.” Smith put up career-best numbers in scoring (10.4 points per game), rebounding (5.2), steals (1.0), and minutes (30.4) at Indiana last season before moving to Fayetteville for his final campaign as a collegian.
— The freshmen quartet of Moody, Khalen “KK” Robinson, Davonte “Devo” Davis, and Jaylin Williams has so far been a tight-knit group, on and off the floor. This may not come as a surprise given that ESPN’s 5th-ranked national recruiting class all hail from the state of Arkansas and have played together and against each other for years, but it seems the bond and chemistry among the foursome continues to strengthen.
— Full contact, competitive drills and practice are prohibited by the NCAA and SEC for the time being due to the coronavirus pandemic. And while the same applies to chest bumps and high-five celebrations among coaches and players, a slight variation that falls just short of physical contact has been applied and is lovingly named the “Air Five.” Basically, you go through all the excited mechanics of a high-five but at the end you reach for air instead of contacting your partner-in-celebration’s hand.