Junior guard and former Fort Smith Northside state champion star Isaiah Joe deciding to withdraw his name from the NBA draft and return to the Razorbacks obviously was a big boost to an obviously bigger basketball team.
Ethan Henderson, a 6-8 junior returns as last season’s tallest Hog for second-year Coach Eric Musselman.
Now Henderson practices looking up at 7-3 Connor Vanover, activated after redshirting at Arkansas last season transferring from the University of California. Jaylin Williams, the 6-10 incoming freshman from Fort Smith Northside, and 6-9 graduate transfer forward Vance Jackson via the University of New Mexico also are taller than Henderson. University of Indiana graduate transfer Justin Smith is listed 6-7, just an inch shorter than Henderson.
With graduated senior Adrio Bailey the tallest regular starter at 6-6, last year’s little Hogs went 20-12 despite on average outrebounded 38.3 to 31.5.
“It’s going to help a lot, especially on the defensive end, getting rebounds,” Joe said. “We’ll be able to compete more in the paint. We’ve got 7-3 Connor Vanover. You can’t teach 7-3, so he’s definitely going to fill up a lot. We’ve got Justin Smith who’s very athletic. We’ve got Vance and Ethan, so we definitely have guys who can fill it up in the paint, offensively and defensively.”
Adding to Sills and Henderson those aforementioned big guys plus adding guards JD Notae, redshirted in 2019-2020 as a transfer from Jacksonville University, graduate transfer Jalen Tate via Northern Kentucky University and heralded instate freshmen KK Robinson of Bryant, Davonte Davis of Jacksonville and Moses Moody of Little Rock had the Hogs looking talented.
And now with Joe, the SEC’s best 3-point shooter and also an outstanding defender….?
“Certainly Isaiah changed the landscape of who we are, what our identity can look like,” Musselman said. “And I do think for sure that we do have some roster flexibility. But so do other teams in the SEC. They’ve got players that have tested the waters (and like Joe opted to return). It’s a talent league for sure.”