Larry Johnson’s advice to Nolan Richardson still resonates with Arkansas basketball

Washington guard Keyon Menifield reacts after making a basket against Oregon State on Feb. 18, 2023, in Seattle. Menifield has committed to transfer to Arkansas. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

College Basketball Hall of Famer and NBA standout Larry Johnson once told former Arkansas Razorback coach Nolan Richardson to “go get you some men” when Johnson’s No. 1 UNLV squad defeated No. 2 Arkansas in perhaps the biggest regular-season basketball game played on the UA campus in February of 1991 in Barnhill Arena.

The game’s final score was 112-105, but it really wasn’t that close as the Runnin’ Rebels blistered one of the Hogs’ most talented teams ever with a run for the ages to open the second half.

A 50-46 halftime Razorback lead turned into a double-digit lead for UNLV in a matter of minutes.

Johnson made that comment to Richardson, who had recruited him as a junior college standout, after making a bucket and running past the Razorbacks head coach while getting back on defense.

Richardson related the story a few years later during his program’s hey days of the mid-1990s when his Hogs won his national title in 1994 and advanced back to the championship game in 1995. Richardson made the point that he “got him some men.”

Had Johnson’s Rebels somehow traveled to the future to play Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks this season, I imagine L.J. might have told Muss to “go get him some outside shooters.”

Now, Muss did recruit two solid 3-point shooters in Nick Smith Jr. and Trevon Brazile. Unfortunately injuries sidelined them for the bulk of the season.

Smith returned in the middle of February, but he had missed so much time that he never really regained his shooting rhythm or got into sync with his teammates. That was no fault of his, just a bad set of circumstances. I look forward to following his NBA career, and wish him all the success.

The success of all former Razorbacks on the professional level just further emphasizes what a great launching point the Razorback program can be for recruits who have NBA, NFL or MLB dreams, too.

Smith was the first Razorback to announce his NBA intentions for next season. Devante “Devo” Davis and Ricky Council IV followed him. One assumes Anthony Black will follow sometime in the near future with his decision. From some comments he made after the Sweet 16, it sounds like Jordan Walsh plans to return to the Hogs for another season, but minds can change.

It was just a couple of years ago that Isaiah Joe went back and forth with his NBA decision before finally opting to take the plunge.

Brazile announced last week that he would return to the Razorbacks next season to the excitement of every Hog-Caller in the land. If Brazile is healthy, he is the type of talent that could vie for SEC Player of the Year if everything comes together for him and the Razorbacks.

But I digress. Back to shooting.

The Razorbacks had a very good overall shooting percentage from the field last season at 46.1%, but the three-point shooting percentage of 31.5% and a free-throw shooting percentage of 69% left a lot to be desired.

Musselman and his staff don’t need me or anyone else to tell them what they need to improve with their squad, but the commitment of Keyon Menifield, a 6-1 point guard transfer from Washington, looks like a good move.

A member of the Pac-10 All-Freshman team, Menifield shot 41% from the field and 33% from the three-point line. He led Washington in assists with 3.1 per game and was third on the team in steals. Point guard is a need that had to be addressed for the Razorbacks with so many guards possibly exiting the program.

It’s going to be interesting to see where Musselman goes with recruiting the transfer portal from here and how many holes he will have to fill.

Davis said in his announcement that he would consider returning to the team depending on testing the NBA draft waters. He has until May 31 to remove his name from the NBA Draft. All the Hogs have that option, but from the wording of Smith and Council’s announcements, neither appear to be looking back.