MBB transfers

Arkansas graduate transfer point guard Chris Lykes shoots the ball during the Razorbacks’ Nov. 9 win over Mercer in Bud Walton Arena. Lykes is one of four players who have carved out key roles since transferring to Arkansas this year.

Arkansas Men’s Basketball head coach Eric Musselman has continued his tradition of relying on transfers for success, bringing in four over the offseason. The No. 10 Razorbacks are 6-0 on the year, and the team is hitting its stride.

The newcomers who transferred to Arkansas this offseason include senior forward Trey Wade and senior guards Chris Lykes, Au’Diese Toney and Stanley Umude.

“They are doing a great job,” Musselman said after the Hogs’ Nov. 17 win against Northern Iowa. “We’re further along this year than we were last year at this particular time.”

Transfers have always been a major part of Musselman’s success at Arkansas. The locker room leaders of last season’s Elite Eight squad were transfers Justin Smith and Jalen Tate. That team also featured a recently transferred JD Notae, the Razorbacks’ leading scorer this season, as the sixth man.

Lykes spent the first four years of his career at Miami. The 5-foot-7-inch guard was a starter for his old squad, but he has fully embraced a role for the Hogs as a scoring spark off the bench. He is averaging 10 points per game in the Razorback uniform.

After suffering a season-ending injury with the Hurricanes last year, Lykes has been a crucial piece in the Arkansas rotation this season.

“I just wanted to be a part of a winning program,” Lykes said. “(The coaches) just told me they liked my game and they saw how I could fit. They made me feel like I was wanted, and that was big for me coming off a year where I didn’t really play.”

Lykes has taken over the sixth-man role Notae played last season. He brings a different feel to the Arkansas offense with his speed and improvisational style of play. The ball tends to stick in his hands, especially late in games, but the Razorbacks need his shot creation if they are going to succeed this season.

Umude came to Fayetteville by way of South Dakota. He has the size and athleticism to defend all five positions on the floor, and his ability to guard forwards as a 6-foot-6-inch guard allows the Razorbacks to play small-ball lineups. He averaged 22 points per game for the Coyotes last season, but has found a role with the Razorbacks as a versatile defender.

Umude has been a little hesitant offensively and has yet to find his footing as a scorer. He could become one of Arkansas’ best players if he can continue to grow his offensive repertoire to accommodate the variety of positions the Razorbacks have had him play this season. For now, Umude is a utility player who can fit in every lineup.

Toney has been a revelation for Arkansas. The former Pittsburgh Panther almost never has a play run for him, but his persistent effort on both ends creates opportunities to impact the game. Toney has made himself indispensable, especially after his performance in the Hall of Fame Classic final Nov. 23, in which he locked down Cincinnati's leading scorer and led the Hogs in scoring.

“We did not call one single play for Au’Diese,” Musselman said after the Hall of Fame Classic final. “He had 19 points, nine rebounds and literally took their best player completely and utterly out of the game.”

Toney is a player who contributes directly to wins. He rebounds, defends the other team’s best wing, cuts hard and hits open 3-pointers. In just a few games for the Razorbacks, Toney has solidified himself as a coaching staff and fan favorite.

Wade has been battling injuries since the season began, but he has carved out a role as an energy player off the bench for the Razorbacks in recent games. He is a 6-foot-6-inch front-court player with an impressive motor. He has limited offensive ability, but his attitude and defensive versatility keep him on the court.

“Just adjusting and learning the system has probably been the hardest thing,” Wade said. “The coaching staff are all NBA coaches, (and) getting that experience is important. Their pitch to me was if I wanted to be a professional, to come to Arkansas. That’s my goal.”

This season’s crop of transfers has played a major role in the Razorbacks’ successful start. And with more time to grow accustomed to the system and their teammates, there is ample room for growth.

The Hogs will continue with their non-conference slate throughout December before they begin Southeastern Conference play Dec. 29 against Mississippi State.

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