Basketball Presser with Connor Vanover, JD Notae and Eric Musselman

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – Redshirting together as fellow transfers to the University of Arkansas’ basketball team, 6-2 junior guard JD Notae had a full season practicing with Connor Vanover to get accustomed playing with a 7-3 center who shoots threes.

The other Razorbacks aside from junior returnees guard Desi Sills and forward Ethan Henderson still are getting used to throwing passes higher than accustomed to a target that may go dunking or even sky-hooking inside one possession or drifting out shooting  from apparently different area code threes the next.“ My last center was 6-6,” Notae, who played two years at Jacksonville University before transferring to Arkansas joining Vanover redshirting last season after one year lettering at the University of California, said in Friday’s Zoom press conference that opened with Vanover and closed with Coach Eric Musselman.   

“So I mean you tell me the difference between 6-6 and 7-3.  “For me being able to play with him last year I know you can’t throw it low to his knees or he’s not going to catch it.  You have to get it to him higher.  So I feel like that was the struggle with all the new guys with Connor. Other than that, now we’re getting it so he can catch it.”And that enables Vanover to do so much with it.“Just a player that has a high basketball IQ,” Notae said.  “He can shoot.  He can go down low.  He can pass out of the post.  He can roll. He can create.  He’s just a great mismatch out there with him being 7-3 and being able to shoot.”Vanover said those he practiced with last season helped translate his strengths to the newcomers.“

“I’d say it’s definitely different for a lot of them,” Vanover said. “They didn’t know how to pass to me to start with. Everybody was throwing it at my shoes or me knees. So I just had to teach them to throw it up, if I’m open just throw it up to me and I’ll catch it. They kind of had to adapt to playing with a body as big as me.  But they also know now that if I’m sitting a screen that it’ll open a lot of things up. I’m also open on the backside for a pick and pop. I can roll. I can do a lot of things for them.”

Arriving at Arkansas with a way too skinny frame for the inside rigors of the SEC, Vanover spent the offseason getting stronger and heavier until, thankfully not covid-19 but flu,  set him back.“ Before all this crazy stuff started happening I was able to gain a lot of weight,” Vanover said.  “I was drinking protein shakes all the time, and I was close to 250. I was really pounding the weight. Got a little sick and lost a bit (down to 230) But I feel like I’m still in really good position, and I’ve been getting a lot stronger.”

Musselman implied more Vanover gains will be worth the weight and worth the wait.“We’ve just got to get him on the floor and then keep him in the weight room and keep him eating as much as he can,” Musselman said.  “He did a great job all last year and most of the offseason then it’s easy to lose ground when you’re not fully healthy.”

Notae, 6-2, but so versatile he can play the 3-spot swingman guard/small forward in addition to point guard and point guard, has had to overcome breaking his wrist playing ball during the summer.“All the work I was putting in during the summer having to be on hold because I’ve got a broken wrist,” Notae said. “And like it’s still coming along getting treatment every day trying to really make sure I get back to 100 percent.”

Musselman says Notae catches up quickly.“Obviously we wished we had him for that large chunk of the offseason when we were together,” Musselman said.  “But once a guy gets back for three or four weeks, I think he gets in a flow. He gets in a rhythm. So I don’t look at the injury as having too big of an effect. He was doing the bike and doing sit-ups and working on his core when he couldn’t do things because of the injury.”

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