The first two of what likely will be several announcements from Razorback basketball players came Thursday as Trevon Brazile announced he would be returning to Eric Musselman’s Hogs for his junior season, while Nick Smith Jr. announced he was taking his talents to the NBA.
Despite missing basically half the season because of a knee injury, it’s not a surprise that Smith is moving on. Hog fans knew he would be a one-and-done when he signed. It’s too bad Smith’s lone season with the Razorbacks was plagued with injuries.
Through no fault of his own, the Jacksonville native will be remembered by Razorback fans as much for his knee injury and “what might have been” as he will be for his play on the floor.
Hog fans need to remember that he did not have to try and come back and play like he did. Had he sat out the rest of the season, and then showed his skills had not deteriorated at this summer’s NBA Combine, he would have still been regarded as a first-round draft pick. That means guaranteed, life-changing money for himself and family.
Smith may be a lottery pick, and that will be based on his own talent and potential as perceived by NBA front offices. What he did playing for the Hogs this season will only be part of their assessment because he was coming off an injury and his practice time was limited.
What the NBA scouts will like about Smith and his time at Arkansas was his determination to get back on the court and help his team. They will also see that he had a great attitude upon his return, even when he was taken out of games and had to watch from the bench. Some five-star recruits would not have had the same all-in attitude in a similar situation.
It’s a shame Smith’s lone season with the Hogs wasn’t the storybook one Razorback fans had all hoped for, but life isn’t a storybook, even for an individual as talented and dedicated as Smith.
Hog fans should only wish the best for him. He fought through a lot of pain with that knee injury to be a Razorback and busted his tail on the court when he returned.
Certainly we could have hoped for different circumstances had he been healthy, but he gave all he could to the program that represents his home state. Arkansas’ program got a lot of great publicity from having the nation’s top recruit sign with the program, even if an injury kept Smith’s time on campus from being all that he and Arkansas fans dreamed it could be.
As for Brazile, it’s exciting to hear that he is returning. The 6-10 Springfield, Mo. native was the best if not the most talented Razorback on the squad when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee.
His recovery will go through the summer. Brazile could have taken a chance that he would be a second-round draft pick with the injury. It might have happened. His potential is that great.
However, by returning to Arkansas, he has a chance to elevate his draft stock back to the first-round, where it was projected before his injury. That means a guaranteed contract for money most of us can’t truly understand.
That’s worth another year of college.
A player’s first contract sets the trajectory for his career. For a player like Brazile, who likely wouldn’t have gotten guaranteed money if he came out with an injury, it’s worth a risk to play another season for the reward that will come later.
It’s going to be exciting to see what a player of his height, length, athletic, and outside shooting ability can do in a full season under Musselman. If he is completely healthy, the team will revolve around him in many ways.
Over the next few days and weeks, we will learn of more stayings, goings and comings with Razorback basketball players.
Almost certainly Anthony Black will join Smith in taking his talents to the NBA. He, too, is a first-round pick. The only thing missing from his game is an outside shot, but that’s something the young man can focus on and improve with time. Many of the all-time greats weren’t sharp-shooters from the outside until they matriculated to the NBA. The greatest Razorback NBAer of all-time, Sidney Moncrief was one of them.
Certainly other Razorbacks have decisions to make. Like Black, Ricky Council IV’s jump shot isn’t where it needs to be for the NBA. The question is would another year of development make him a for-certain NBA draft pick, or would he still have to hope for free agency or explore options overseas. That’s a tricky question to answer. No one can tell the future.
Jordan Walsh might be a second-round pick on his potential this year, but could he perhaps up his stock more with another year of expert coaching by Musselman and his crack staff?
Musselman is the type of coach who will point his players in the right direction. We’ve seen that in his four years at Arkansas. Jaylin Williams last year is a case in point.
Williams went in the NBA Draft to test the waters, but Musselman told him to do it with a no-looking back attitude. That’s not to say Musselman wouldn’t have welcomed Williams back to Arkansas if he hadn’t of impressed NBA squads. Musselman would have, and think about how much a junior season by Williams would have meant to a young Razorback team.
But Musselman knows the NBA as well or better than any college coach. He gave Williams great advice, and he’s going to do that for the current Razorbacks, too.
On the other end, there are Hogs that didn’t play as much this year, and they are having to make decisions, too. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Razorbacks’ roster shakes out.