Arkansas board impresses in summer practices
FAYETTEVILLE — Hopefully the rims at gyms in Spain and Italy where the University of Arkansas basketball team will play four exhibition games can handle the Ricky Council dunks.
Council, a 6-6 junior guard preparing for his first season as a Razorback after being traded from Wichita State, bent a rim at the Eddie Sutton Practice Gym last week when he drove the baseline and tempered with authority.
For good measure, the Council also slapped the bottom of the backboard as he came down from the dunk.
The rim has been reset after being slightly bent by the Council.
“Ricky’s amazing,” Arkansas freshman guard Nick Smith, the USA Today High School National Player of the Year, said of Council’s soaking ability. “Ricky is crazy. I’ve never seen anything like this before. I literally saw him go under the basket and do a crotch [dunk] …without even trying.
“I thought I was athletic – until I saw Ricky.”
The board celebrated its 21st birthday on Wednesday with plenty of more impressive dunks in another practice open to the media, but it also hit shots all over the place.
“Ricky is a great athlete,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “He adds dimension to our transition break as three men who can do three foot play and can also catch and finish lobs.
“He’s a good basket cutter. He is a high volume free throw attempt player. Defensively, we want him to continue to improve and evolve. He has the tools to be a very good defender.
“Athletically, he will definitely be in the top percentile of our league, and [the SEC] is as athletic as any league in the country – possibly the most athletic league in the country.
“So you’re talking about one of the best athletes at any level right now.”
Council, who hails from Durham, North Carolina, was the 2022 American Athletic Conference Sixth Man of the Year with an average of 12.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1 .1 interceptions in 26.6 minutes.
“He’s just a freak of nature,” said Arkansas senior forward Jalen Graham, a transfer from Arizona State. “He’s one of the most bouncy guys I’ve played with in college. He works hard. He sprints into an open attack every drill we do.
The board has been working since June with the Razorbacks, who had their eighth of 10 practices Wednesday that the NCAA allows for teams touring overseas.
Arkansas’ European opener is on Tuesday against the Valencia Seleccion.
“Ricky has at least one ‘wow’ moment every practice — at least one,” Musselman said. “It could be a dunk, it could be a traffic finish. But he plays with incredible energy.
Musselman said that in all the years he’s coached — in the NBA, CBA, G League and college — he’s never seen a player run as hard as Council in a drill. fastbreak at 5 against 0.
“Maybe some coaches just mention it in the staff meeting,” Musselman said. “For me, it’s going to take into account his playing time, that he’s running that hard, quite frankly, and he’s doing it 5v0.
“Because it’s all about, who do you trust by how they behave on a daily basis in practice. I have a lot of confidence in Ricky, I can tell you now, just how much he runs, plays, does the things we want.
The board said he ran hard every drill — even when there was no defense — because of the Razorbacks’ fast offense.
“I know we like to play fast, so if I throw the wing like that every time the guys are going to find me,” Council said. “I’m just focused on it right now so it can carry over into the season.”
This is the second straight year the Razorbacks will trade from Wichita State with Trey Wade, who as a senior forward became a starter and scored 15 points when Arkansas beat the No. 1 Gonzaga 74-68 in the NCAA West Regional Semifinals.
“Obviously we had Trey Wade to bounce ideas around on how we could use [Council] and how Trey thought he would fit in here,” Musselman said. “But from an assessment perspective, I think you can see the quick first leg of the rebound and the finishing ability in transition.”
Razorbacks junior goaltender Davonte Davis was impressed while watching video of a Council dunk from last season.
“His head was over the edge,” Davis said. “I was like, ‘Wait now, is the lens down?’ When I saw that, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re about to have a really good team.