FAYETTEVILLE – From Wednesday’s Arkansas Razorbacks virtual press conference prefacing Wednesday’s start of 20-hours of practice weeks leading into the start of the men’s basketball season, it was learned that transfer guard JD Notae’s injured wrist has healed.
And it was learned graduate transfers Justin Smith and Jalen Tate have so progressed and adapted to be Coach Eric Musselman’s choices to be the first media available before the first practice.
Notae, the junior redshirted at Arkansas last season transferring from Jacksonville University, was out several weeks of summer drills after injuring his wrist. in late. He recently returned when practices were limited to just four hours per week.
“JD Notae looked better than a hundred percent yesterday (Tuesday),” Musselman said Wednesday. “He dropped 5 out of 6 from three in live play and he looked good.”
Notae, a 6-1 guard, and Connor Vanover, the 7-3 center with a complementing 3-point transferred as a sophomore last season from the University of California, both could practice with the Razorbacks while redshirting in 2018-2019.
“Really glad that JD Notae and Connor Vanover were a year into understanding our system and understanding our terminology,” Musselman said. “That was really, really important for us because those guys understand our pace of practice and the way that we want to play.”
Junior 2-year letterman guard Desi Sills of Jonesboro and 2-year letterman junior forward Ethan Henderson are the lone scholarship returnees active on last season’s Razorbacks.
Sills, both a sixth-man and a starter for Coach Mike Anderson two seasons ago and under Musselman last season, especially has been counted upon bridging Musselman’s newcomers to the Razorbacks.
“He’s a natural born leader through being here for so long with all these new guys,” Tate, the 6-6 grad transfer guard via Northern Kentucky University, said. “When we tend to stray away from what the usual is and how hard we work, Desi is always that voice that’s like ‘Come on y’all we’ve gotta pick it up’ or ‘Come on guys you know this ain’t how we do stuff’and this is the expectation.’ He always gets us back to right where we need to be.”
Apparently Smith, the versatile 6-7, 230 forward via Indiana University, and Tate are both simultaneously fitting and leading.
Musselman touted them both when asked about foreseeing their roles.
“ I will say that probably the most consistent player since the first day we’ve been together has been Justin Smith,” Musselman said. “He allows us to play kind of a big lineup when he’s at the three. He allows to play a little bit of the small ball when he’s at the four.”
Tate is a point guard rebounding like a forward.
“Jalen Tate is really important as well,” Musselman said. “At his size, when he’s at the point guard, we’re a much better defensive rebounding team. He’s an unselfish player that’s always thinking, ‘How do I get my teammates involved?”
Jaylin Williams, the 6-10, 245 freshman forward via Fort Smith Northside, has nicely eased into the practice lineups that Musselman said he changes like hockey lines trying to evaluate his cast of freshman and transfer newcomers.
“Jaylin Williams has done a really good job of being easy to play with,” Musselman said. “He’s not a ball-stopper, he’s a ball-mover. He can make open threes. He’s rebounded at his position well.”