The talented duo of Arkansas freshmen from Texas will return early next month for the Hogs-v-‘Horns charity game

By Kevin McPherson

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Razorbacks’ much-loved freshman tandem [b]Anthony Black[/b] and [b]Jordan Walch[/b] no longer have to wait until early 2023 to return to their country of origin. Turns out their first tango in Texas is coming next month.

The men’s basketball program announced Tuesday that the team will travel to Austin, Texas for a charity exhibition game Oct. 29 against the debuting Texas Longhorns (3 p.m. CT, Longhorn Network). as hosts in the new 15,000 seat club. Moody Center.

The game accelerates homecomings for Black (6-7 goaltender, Duncanville, TX) and Walsh (6-7 combo forward, DeSoto, TX), who will return twice more to the Lone Star State with the Razorbacks for regular season games. – against Baylor in Waco, Texas, on January 28 in the Big 12 / SEC Challenge, and against Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, on February 15 in the SEC league.

Multiple opportunities to compete against fellow Texans who are now “Horns, Bears, and Aggies” in front of fans who know both Black and Walsh should provide added motivation for the two freshmen.

A day before the Texas exhibition game was released to the public, Black and Walsh were not only on the floor with their Razorbacks teammates for the first full practice of the 2022-23 season, but were among the many talking points. as Head Hog Eric Musselman and transfers Ricky Council IV and Trevon Brazile answered questions posed by the media.

“He’s a great young man,” Musselman said when asked about Black. “I think everyone in the program, the way he respects everyone, the way he treats everyone, he has a great attitude towards himself. You can often sit and watch how a player treats a graduate assistant, assistant coach, trainer, strength coach, equipment manager, assistant equipment manager, assistant coach, he just has a good disposition of himself. As coaches we probably have to be even tougher on him. Sometimes he’s so likable that it’s a little more problematic to pick on him when he might need us, just because… he’s an easy guy to be around.

Black was a National Top 15/5-Star prospect last year in the Class of 2022, and he’s currently being projected as a first-round lottery pick in some 2023 NBA mock drafts. He was the last of six Hoop Hogs high school commitments in 2022 when he signed his national Letter of Intent in the spring, and he continued to show promise at the McDonald’s USA Game, Iverson Classic All-Star Game, U17 FIBA ​​Americas Cup as he led Team USA in every major statistical category aside from scoring on their way to a perfect record and a gold medal, and most recently CP3 Elite Guard Camp where an NBA scout left convinced that Black was the NBA’s top prospect who competed.

“The whole recruiting process with him and his mom and coach (Duncanville High School) Peavy and his brother, it was about as easy as (any player I’ve recruited),” Musselman said. “When I say easy, not that it wasn’t hugely competitive with other programs, but easy in the fact that it’s really fun and easy to recruit someone who enjoys being around their surroundings and family, and that’s certainly how we felt from the beginning dealing with Anthony and his family.”

Black’s busy spring and summer also included his contributions to Arkansas’ 4-0 run on a European exhibition tour in August, when he averaged 4, 0 assists for the team with a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio, 6.3 points. , 4.0 rebounds (tied for 4th on the team) and 1.5 steals while shooting 41.4% from the field, including 1 of 4 of 3 (25%).

His knowledge of the pitch in both transition and half-court as well as his vision to see over and through tight spaces make him an elite combination. Set up dimes on out-of-bounds side plays, diagonal and jump passes to shooters, backdoor dimes to cutters, lob passes to dunkers, and downhill passes over defense in transition were just a few of the tricks Black pulled from his Europe stint bag. Pushing 6-8, tough and athletic with a deceptive flurry, Black is a powerful edge finisher in transition as well as offensive half-court scenarios on and off the ball. Defensively, he’s active and versatile with positive instincts as to how best to use his athleticism and large size.

“I would say on the pitch it’s crazy to play with a guy that length – he’s 6-7, 6-8, whatever you want to call him – he plays goalkeeper, he plays point guard, so it’s just crazy to have someone out there like that,” Brazile said of Black. “Catch lobs on your back, like a wing. It’s just crazy to play with someone so versatile on the pitch. Then off the pitch, great personality. I got really close to him on the overseas tour. Just a great boy, great personality.

The Council was equally complimentary of Black with his assessment.

“I’m probably going to be one of the most athletic point guards in the country this year,” Council said. “Can score, can facilitate very well at his young age, so it’s really fun. Off the pitch, he’s a cool guy. In fact, we’ve been hanging out a lot lately and he’s been cool.

Walsh was quickly identified by Brazile as one of the team’s best three-point shooters who could be counted on to help a Hoop Hogs side that struggled to shoot from distance in Europe.

“I would definitely say Jordan Walsh,” Brazile said when asked who, besides freshman Nick Smith, Jr., provides value as a three-point shooter. “You saw him, he hit that fadeaway (in Europe). It was a tough shot to hit. He can definitely hit big shots. He’s a great three-point shooter. So in the season, we’ll definitely look to him for three-point shots.

The board agreed that Walsh would factor into the equation if the Hogs were to mount a credible three-point offense.

Walsh was a national Top 15/5-Star prospect last year in the Class of 2022, and he had first- and second-round draft picks in several fictional 2023 NBA drafts. He was a McDonald’s star All American and Jordan Brand Classic 2022 after a stellar 21-22 high school season in which he led Link Academy (Mo.) to the Geico High School National Championship game.

Almost immediately after arriving on campus, Walsh’s impact in competitive pickup games against the Pro Hogs inside the Razorbacks Basketball Performance Center caused several of those Pro Hogs to state that Walsh “looks like a pro”.

“It’s so cool that not only Jordan goes to school here, but also his brother Joshua,” Musselman told “It was great getting to know them and bonding with the Walsh family.”

Thinking back to the aforementioned four-game European tour, Walsh was more productive across the board in the first two games played in Spain (10.5 points on 50% shooting, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists goals and 1.5 steals) before struggling a bit once the team played their last two games in Italy. He finished the tour with an average of 5.8 points (31.0% in field goals, including 1 of 8 of 3 for 12.5% ​​and 4 of 6 free throws for 66.7%), 4, 0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 1.3 assists and 2.3 turnovers. by competition.

Musselman gave his post-Euro-tour assessment of Walsh.

“Jordan is such a great athlete,” Musselman said. “He tried to improve his performance in the four away games. He continued, like many young guys, to try to improve with each passing day.

Standing 6-7 with a 7-3 wingspan and at 200 pounds, Walsh has a fearsome set of length and quick, explosive rebound to go along with more flexibility and wicked long strides that make him a lone man, form an ocean to another. coastal transition phenomenon.

These physical and athletic gifts combined with Walsh’s instincts and competitive determination made him arguably the most versatile defender in the country at the high school level – he kept all 5 positions at a high level as Musselman described him. one day as a “violent defender” – and while it remains to be determined how quickly this will translate to major Division 1 level, it is not unreasonable to think that as a 3/4-combo striker , he will be able to defend several positions in the first year.

Offensively, Walsh can be an elite transition finisher (both primary and secondary) as he is a constant threat to dunk a lob pass, whether in quick break or half-court opportunities, and he is an effective slasher towards the cut when he puts the ball on the deck to drive. One of the staples of his high school game was completing tough contact drives, even when he wasn’t playing over the edge. He is a good passer in transition sets and on the half court.

Black and Walsh still have a month to develop and improve, and no matter how far they move the needle in this regard, it remains likely, if not certain, that the freshman Texans will feature in the Top 7 rotation. -8 from Arkansas, which means the two will be watched to show well as Hoop Hogs rookies when they return home for three games this season in the Lone Star State.

And it all starts in Texas next month at the new home of the Longhorns’ longtime rival in a game that’s for charity and doesn’t even count or matter (wink!).

“This Texas game is going to be great for Jordan’s family and for Anthony’s family,” Musselman said of Lone Star State’s fast approaching homecoming.

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