By Nate Allen
FAYETTEVILLE – Into his third year coaching Razorbacks basketball Eric Musselman has fared well with the transfer portal.
However the Arkansas coach has no SEC monopoly on transfer portal success.
Mississippi State’s Ben Howland, whose Bulldogs open Arkansas’ SEC season rescheduled from Wednesday night to Wednesday afternoon hosting in Starkville, Miss., has four newcomers greatly helping his squad.
Arkansas, 10-2, and Mississippi State, 9-3, tip off at 4 p.m. CST at Humphrey Coliseum today on the SEC Network.
The game was supposed to tip off at 8 p.m. but moved to accommodate the SEC Network’s afternoon time slot after covid issues postponed Wednesday’s Florida vs. Ole Miss SEC game.
“They did as good a job as anybody in college basketball with the transfer market this offseason,” Musselman said. “They’ve got a lot of really competitive guys and a coach who gets his teams to play hard.”
Howland starts three new Bulldogs from the portal, 6-10 center Garrison Brooks formerly of the University of North Carolina, shooting guard Shakeel Moore formerly of North Carolina State, and 6-7 forward D.J. Jeffries formerly of the University of Memphis.
Injuries have limited another transfer, guard Rocket Watts formerly of Michigan State, to just eight games, none recently.
And 6-9 reserve forward Javion Davis transferred last season to Mississippi State from the University of Alabama.
“Their off-guard, Moore, is a left-hander who can shoot the ball,” Musselman said. “Jeffries , at the small forward has really good athleticism. He can make threes. Brooks, No. 10, transfer from North Carolina can play the four or the five for them. He’s a really good pick-and-pop player. Guys like Davis who come off the bench have an impact.”
Their best player remains a Mississippi State original. Junior guard Iverson Molinar, averaging a team-leading 16.9 points, is a junior into his third season at Starkville.
“Molinar, is one of the best guards in the league,” Musselman said. “He’s very good in pick and roll. He’s good in isolation situations. He’s excellent in transition.”
Sophomore forwards Derek Fountain, 6-9 and often a starter, and Cameron Matthews, 6-7 also figure in Howland’s rotation.
“They are a really good team,” Arkansas sophomore power forward-center Jaylin Williams said of the Bulldogs. “They’ve got a lot of good bigs. Their guards, we know we’ve got to go down there and have a rebounding war. We’ve got to play good defense. We know a lot about this team already and I know it’s going to be a really hard-fought game.”
Just because it’s a SEC game, it will be unique to Arkansas’ previous 12 games, Jaylin Williams said.
“I know that from last year that every night we have to take it as serious as the most important game of the season,” Williams said of SEC games. “So we just have to go out there every night and be ready to battle knowing that everybody in this league is good. Everybody in this league can play. So we’ve just got to be ready to go out there and play our best.”
Musselman’s starting lineup tonight seems anybody’s guess.
He did a lot of mixing and matching in the games leading into their abbreviated Christmas break including extensive recent action for reserve guard Jaxson Robinson, the sophomore transfer via Texas A&M, and power forwards Trey Wade and Kamani Johnson transferred respectively from Wichita State and the University of Arkansas-Little Rock.