FAYETTEVILLE – Unless he, too, declares for the National Basketball Association draft as Arkansas junior honorable mention All-American guard and SEC scoring leader Mason Jones did Friday, Arkansas junior-to-be shooting guard Isaiah Joe likely will play some point guard, too, for the 2020-2021 Razorbacks.
Graduate transfer starting point guard Jimmy Whitt completed his eligibility with Coach Eric Musselman’s 20-12 Razorbacks this past 2019-2020 season shortened with the SEC Tournament and postseason cancellation because of the coronavirus induced national emergency.
Senior-to-be 2-year letterman point guards Jalen Harris, playing every game, starting five and mainly sixth man 27 times off the bench as Whitt’s alternate or alternate for Jones, Joe, and guard junior-to-be guard Desi Sills, has put his name in the transfer portal.
The fifth-year senior, originally a University of New Mexico freshman before transferring to Arkansas and redshirting in 2017-2018 then lettering one year as a starter for former Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson and one year for Musselman, intends using his final season as a graduate transfer. Jones, a versatile 6-3 also played some point guard in addition to power forward, small forward and shooting guard. Now it seems Joe, the 6-5 former shooting star for state champion Fort Smith Northside and leading SEC 3-point shooter, and incoming November instate signed freshman Devontae Davis, 6-4 of Jacksonville, seem most likely on the point as well as 6-2 combo guard JD Notae, the sophomore redshirted at Arkansas last season after transferring from the University of Jacksonville (Florida).
Both in press conferences and on his radio show at the two Sassy’s restaurants in Fayetteville, Musselman often has expressed intentions of playing Joe some on the point next season long before Harris announced intentions to transfer. Repeatedly, Musselman says Joe is far more than a shooter because he “opens the floor,” not just with his shooting but ball handling and passing, 45 assists, and “high basketball I.Q.” and is way overlooked as an excellent defender because of his shooting skills. Adding point guard to Joe’s resume also would make him more marketable for the 2021-2022 NBA draft.
Musselman also has been asked about 4-star guard Davis, whom he can comment on as a November signee, and Notae who practiced with the Hogs last season as did fellow redshirt transfers Connor Noland, the 7-3 sophomore center via the University of California, and 6-9 sophomore forward Abayomi Iyilola via Stetson University. “I think Devo, he does things that you can’t coach,” Musselman said. “In basketball, for any coach at any level, guys that can go get their own shots or create a shot for a teammate, those guys who have a unique ability to get by their own man when the play breaks down becomes so important. We feel like Devo has that ability.” Musselman explained why. “He’s crafty,” Musselman said. “He’s shifty. He changes gear really quick. All those things are things you can’t teach. Obviously he’s got good length for his size. We look at it like he can play two positions, the 1 and the 2. He knows how to score. He’s got great court vision. Obviously the thing that’s going to be really important is just consistency from a shooting standpoint once we start our player development program.”
Notae in his two seasons at the University of Jacksonville in the A-Sun Conference totaled 929 points, averaging 15.5 points with 328 rebounds for a 5.5 average and 2.7 average on 163 assists with 101 steals for a 1.7 average.Notae didn’t rust this past season. Not only practicing extensively because the Hogs were down to nine scholarship players or less when Joe missed five games because of arthroscopic knee surgery, Notae also participated in post practice 3 on 3 sessions with his fellow redshirts and walk-ons Ty Stevens, Jamario Bell and Emeka Obukwelu and any scholarship Razorbacks not playing much at various times.
“He (Notae) can play two guard spots for us,” Musselman said. “He’s a guy that can create his own shot. He’s a guy that I think is going to be able to create offense through defensively getting steals.”