New faces populate latest Hog hoops squad 30 years after program’s ‘One Shining Moment’

Barnhill Arena (UA Athletics)

I know I’m getting older, and my mental faculties might not be what they once were, but I don’t think I’m the only one who will need a roster handy for at least the first month of the Arkansas Razorbacks’ basketball season.

All the faces aren’t new, but for every Devo Davis, Makhi Mitchell, or Joseph Pinion on the team, there seems like there are two new Razorbacks. I’m exaggerating, of course, but not by much.

About 7,500 Arkansas fans introduced themselves to Eric Musselman’s latest Razorback basketball squad Wednesday night at venerable Barnhill Arena, the home of the Hogs until Walton Arena opened for the historic 1993-94 season when Nolan Richardson’s Razorbacks captured the school’s lone hardwood national title by beating Duke in Charlotte, N.C.

To me, that season seems like last month, but this April will be the 30th anniversary of that landmark championship. No doubt, the UA will honor that team in some way at the appropriate time this year. Duke does visit Walton Arena on Nov. 29. That would be as good of a time as any.

It’s also the 30th anniversary of Walton Arena, which despite its age, remains one of the best college basketball venues in the nation.

I don’t mention Arkansas’ championship squad, which featured Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman, Corey Beck, Clint McDaniel, Dwight Stewart, Darnell Robinson, Roger Crawford, Alex Dillard, Lee Wilson, Elmer Martin, Ken Biley, Davor Rimac, John Engskov, Reggie Merritt and Ray Biggers, to compare it to Musselman’s current lineup. That would be unfair.

I don’t know this squad nearly as well as I knew that one going into that historic season. To even think of trying to compare would be folly.

Back then the media and even fans were allowed to attend basketball and football practices if you stayed out of the way, remained quiet, and showed discretion in what you reported.

Thirty years ago there was no social media. The internet was in its infancy to the general public. Cell phones were rare and bulky, and none had cameras. Pagers were all the rage.

Information could not be transmitted in the blink of an eye like has been the case for more than a decade.

Back then, players generally were around for more than a year or two. Remember, Scotty and Corliss were the first Razorbacks to leave for the NBA Draft with eligibility remaining after making it to back-to-back Final Fours.

It was a different day.

Last year’s Razorback squad was packed with one-and-done guys. This year’s squad has a ton of veteran transfers, several with only one year of eligibility left to chase the dream.

Back in 1993-94, many who covered the Razorbacks thought the Hogs had a chance at winning a national title based on how much talent returned from a team that gave the 1993 national champion North Carolina Tar Heels a run for their money in the Sweet 16 and with a recruiting class added two near seven-footers in Robinson and Wilson and a sharp-shooter in Dillard. But there is never a sure thing.

Musselman is an excellent coach. I have no doubt he will maximize the talent he has on this squad by the time the NCAA Tournament rolls around. It’s what he’s done the past four seasons with the Hogs, even in his first season that was cut short by Covid-19.

How far will that will take the Razorbacks this year?

I have no idea. Right now, like a lot of you, I’m just trying to put faces with the names on the roster.

The Razorbacks’ have two exhibition games on their docket. The first is against Texas-Tyler at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 20 in Walton Arena. The second is against what is expected to be a top-10 Purdue squad at 3 p.m., Oct. 28 in Walton Arena.

The Razorbacks open the season against Alcorn State Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. in Walton Arena.