OK, so what’s next? Examining where this year’s Arkansas players may be next year
Arkansas’ weird, wild season is over. In some ways, it went about how it was expected. In others, not even close.
Injuries changed the the teams’ fortunes from basically the word go. Nick Smith Jr., the nation’s top recruit, played in just 17 games and never really hit his stride. Trevon Brazile didn’t make it double-digits as a torn ACL limited him to just nine games.
Arkansas fought from a 1-5 start in SEC play and a regular-season losing streak of three that saw the Hogs finish below .500 in league play. But a magical NCAA Tournament run saw Arkansas beat Illinois in the first round and No. 1 seed Kansas in the second before UConn brought things to a halt Thursday night, 88-65.
Eyes immediately go to the offseason, where Arkansas could see as many as five players drafted.
A more likely scenario is that two Arkansas players from this year’s roster are almost certainly gone, a third is likely leaning that way and a fourth is totally up in the air. The fifth? He should be back.
So who’s who? Let’s take a look at everyone on the Hogs roster next year – not including incoming freshmen Layden Blocker and Baye Fall – and where they stand heading into next year.
Cade Arbogast - guard
Mar 16, 2022; Buffalo, NY, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Cade Arbogast (21) shoots the ball during practice before the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Arbogast came to Arkansas as a walk-on, but was put on scholarship by coach Eric Musselman during the 2021-22 season. He only plays minutes in late-game blowouts, but his practice presence is massive, per coach Eric Musselman. Arbogast will be a senior.
Odds of returning: 95%
Lawson Blake - forward
Mar 16, 2022; Buffalo, NY, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks forward Lawson Blake (45) shoots the ball during practice before the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Blake is also a walk-on. Think of him as the frontcourt version of Arbogast. A good player to have on a roster to help in game-planning and practice. He’ll be a junior.
Odds of returning: 95%
Barry Dunning Jr. - wing
Jan 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Barry Dunning Jr (12) gains position between Ole Miss Rebels forward Jaemyn Brakefield (4) and guard Amaree Abram (1) during the second half at Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas won 69-57. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Arkansas’ first question on this list lies with Dunning. The 6-foot-6 wing was the 100th-ranked player in the nation coming out of high school last year, but saw just 48 minutes for the Razorbacks this season. In the world of the transfer portal and NIL, Dunning fits the type to perhaps explore. We’re not saying he will, but it is possible. Either way, he’ll be a sophomore.
Odds of returning: 30%
Derrian Ford - guard
Nov 16, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Derrian Ford (23) dribbles during the second half against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits at Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas won 71-56. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Ford is in a similar position to Dunning, though he’s a 6-foot-3 guard. He’s also an Arkansas native. That suggests perhaps a higher possibility of staying with the Razorbacks, but it’s far from a lock. Ford, who will be a sophomore, played 75 minutes as the 78th-ranked player coming out of high school.
Odds of returning: 45%
Joseph Pinion - guard
Jan 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Joseph Pinion (5) shoots a three point shot in the first half as Ole Miss Rebels guard Tye Fagan (14) defends at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Pinion, another rising sophomore, played almost double minutes of Ford (this list is sorted by minutes per game) and had moments even during the regular season. He played double-digit minutes against North Carolina-Asheville, Missouri, Auburn and Ole Miss. With his 3-point shooting ability, it feels like there is a place in the rotation for him next year.
Odds of returning: 60%
Jalen Graham - forward
Mar 9, 2023; Nashville, TN, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks forward Jalen Graham (11) dunks against the Auburn Tigers during the first half at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports
Graham was a senior in 2022-23, but has a year of eligibility remaining. This was his first year with the Razorbacks after earning All-Pac 12 honors at Arizona State. He didn’t have that effect with the Razorbacks. He scored a career-high 26 against Florida and had five other games in which he scored double figures. Graham was also a defensive liability and mediocre rebounder which led to inconsistent minutes. An offseason of work may help. He should return, in theory.
Odds of returning: 51%
Kamani Johnson - forward
Mar 9, 2023; Nashville, TN, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks forward Kamani Johnson (20) passes the ball as he is defended by Auburn Tigers guard Wendell Green Jr. (1) during the first half at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Johnson is the only player whose eligibility will be exhausted. Thanks to Best of Arkansas Sports’ Andrew Hutchinson for that tidbit. He was a rough-and-tumble interior player who could defend and rebound. The changing game – more focus on speed and the perimeter – limited his minutes, but he had a decent couple years with the Razorbacks after transferring from Little Rock.
Odds of returning: 0%
Makhel Mitchell - center
LAHAINA, HI – NOVEMBER 23: Makhel Mitchell #22 of the Arkansas Razorbacks reacts after throwing down a dunk in the first half of the game against the San Diego State Aztecs during the Maui Invitational at Lahaina Civic Center on November 23, 2022 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
Mahkel Mitchell teamed with his brother Makhi to give Arkansas a nice, consistent threat on the inside. He was the reserve to his brother for the most part, but showed flashes of being a 25-plus-minute player. He and and Makhi are in the same boat when it comes to next season.
Odds of returning: 60%
Makhi Mitchell - center
Jan 11, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks forward Makhi Mitchell (15) defends a shot attempt by Alabama Crimson Tide guard Jahvon Quiner (5) during the first half at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Makhi Mitchell was a consistent post presence, one Arkansas badly needed. His 49 blocks were especially important as he gave the Razorbacks a rim protector on one end and a possible double-double any game on the other. Like his twin brother, he has another year available and the NCAA’s new sit-out-a-year-if-you-transfer-to-a-third-four-year-school may keep him, along with Makhel, in Fayetteville.
Odds of returning: 60%
Jordan Walsh - wing
Feb 4, 2023; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Jordan Walsh (13) passes around South Carolina Gamecocks forward Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk (31) in the first half at Colonial Life Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
Jordan Walsh was a borderline first-round pick before the season starter. He was a top-20 national recruit and had a solid season averaging just over seven points per game along with four rebounds. He’s an aggressive defender and can score a bit from everywhere. But his season also wasn’t indicative of one that will draw a ton of NBA interest. That’s good news for Arkansas. And for Walsh, who can step into a scoring role his sophomore season, if he wants.
Odds of returning: 75%
Nick Smith Jr. - guard
Mar 9, 2023; Nashville, TN, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Nick Smith Jr. (3) reacts after making the eventual game-winning shot during the second half against the Auburn Tigers at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Smith did not have the freshman season anyone imagined. A knee injury, shrouded by mystery, limited him to 17 games. He was the No. 1 recruit in the country entering the season, but saw his NBA draft stock go from potential No. 2 pick to potentially outside of the top 10. The reality is probably somewhere in-between. It’s hard to imagine Smith returning for a second year.
Odds of returning: 2%
Trevon Brazile - forward
Dec 3, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks forward Trevon Brazile (2) goes up for a layup in the second half as San Jose State Spartans center Ibrahima Diallo (5) looks on at Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas won 99-58. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Brazile was a human highlight-reel this season. When he was healthy. Unfortunately for Arkansas, the Missouri transfer played in just nine games with the Hogs before he tore his ACL. Brazile has the skill-set NBA teams love, but the injury may drop him out of first-round consideration. His call is the toughest to make here.
Odds of returning: ????
Devo Davis - guard
Jan 28, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Davonte Davis (4) passes the ball against Baylor Bears guard LJ Cryer (4) during the first half at Ferrell Center. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports
Davis cemented himself as an Arkansas legend this year, especially with his performances in the NCAA Tournament. The Jacksonville native will head into his senior season as the team’s unquestioned leader and one of the best defenders in the nation.
Odds of returning: 99%
Ricky Council - guard
FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS – FEBRUARY 21: Ricky Council IV #1 of the Arkansas Razorbacks signals after making a three pointer in the first half of a game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Bud Walton Arena on February 21, 2023 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Council was a godsend to Arkansas this year. His scoring ability was massive with the absence of Smith and Brazile for most of the season. He’s a dynamic slasher, fair shooter and OK on defense. Council had a tendency to disappear at times during the season, but if he were to return to Arkansas – he was just a junior – the Hogs are in much better shape heading into next year. The NBA could come calling, though, as Council is projected second-round pick.
Odds of returning: 45%
Anthony Black - guard
Mar 9, 2023; Nashville, TN, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard Anthony Black (0) after a basket during the first half against the Auburn Tigers at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
It’s hard to envision Black returning for a sophomore season to college basketball. His ability to be a 6-foot-7 point guard who can rebound and dish is pretty to NBA teams. Black is a projected first-round pick and potential lottery pick were he to enter the draft this offseason.
Odds of returning: 5%