The Razorback men’s basketball team signed five promising players, including two top-10 prospects, as part of the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class for 2022.
The highly esteemed class includes two five-star and three four-star players. Head coach Eric Musselman previously recruited a powerful 2020 class that included four four-star recruits and was widely regarded as one of the best classes in program history.
Five-star combo guard Nick Smith of North Little Rock is ranked as ESPN’s No. 6 overall recruit nationally. He is the second-highest ranked player to ever sign with the Razorbacks, trailing only Al Jefferson. Smith is elite at commanding the floor as a point guard.
“Nick is as smart as any player that I’ve ever seen,” Musselman said in a Nov. 15 press conference. “He is a special player, there wasn’t anybody who was even close to him at the guard spot at the level of (Amateur Athletic Union) he was playing.”
Smith’s combination of outstanding offense and defense can help the Razorbacks make another run to the Elite Eight, and possibly further.
Five-star small forward Jordan Walsh from Cedar Hill, Texas, is ranked as ESPN’s No. 7 overall prospect in the country. Walsh has an explosive 41-inch vertical, and several Power Five schools recruited him aggressively. Walsh’s athleticism makes him invaluable for the Hogs, Musselman said.
“Jordan is an electric athlete and can play any position,” Musselman said. “He is as athletic as any player in college basketball.”
Walsh is a physical player who can finish anywhere around the rim. He shoots easily from mid-range, and his great court vision helps him pass while driving.
Walsh's defense is also elite because of his 7-foot-3-inch wingspan. His long reach helps him steal the ball with ease and makes it difficult for opponents to finish against him at the basket.
A trio of four-stars — Derrian Ford, Joseph Pinion and Barry Dunning — rounds out the list of 2022 signees.
Ford, a combo guard out of Magnolia, is ranked as the No. 68 player in the ESPN 100, and the third-best player in the state of Arkansas. He has a 6-foot-3-inch, 190-pound frame, and he is one of the quicker players in the Hogs’ class.
“He’s a guy who’s so strong and explosive, he has the body of a college player,” Musselman said. “I think that each one of these guys that we have in the class possess something special that makes them unique in our system.”
Eight other Southeastern Conference schools recruited Ford, according to ESPN.
“I already knew where I was going before the (Arkansas) visit,” Ford said. “The talks that I had with the staff every day were amazing. I thank all the other colleges for reaching out to me, but I knew where I wanted to go. Arkansas felt like home, and I was comfortable.”
Ford was not the only four-star talent recruited from Arkansas. Pinion, ESPN's No. 93 prospect, hails from Morrilton and is an elite shooter. The 6-foot-6-inch shooting guard has great range outside the arc. Pinion’s athleticism helps him to finish around the rim.
“I just want to develop my game to be the best that I can,” Pinion said. “I want to help this team win a championship.”
Pinion is also exceptional as an on-and-off ball defender, averaging about 1.6 steals per game and 1.4 blocks per game for Morrilton Senior High School this season. Pinion suffered a knee injury last year that sidelined him for more than half the season, but he has looked healthy playing for the Devil Dogs this year.
“Getting reps while being fully healthy is going to be important for him,” Musselman said. “He’s obviously playing without the knee brace, which I think is going to be really important that he gets a full season where he is healthy.”
Dunning, ESPN’s No. 76 recruit, rounds out the 2022 signees for Arkansas. He is a 6-foot-6-inch forward from Mobile, Alabama, and was the Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year last season.
As a junior, Dunning averaged 21.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game for McGill-Toolen Catholic High School. He is a talented scorer, but Musselman said it is his passing ability that will benefit Arkansas.
“Barry Dunning is going to be one of the best passers on our team next year,” Musselman said. “He has outstanding court vision.”
Arkansas is not finished with the 2022 recruiting trail yet. Musselman and his staff will have the opportunity to add more players to the squad after the season, but for now the Hogs are sitting pretty in the recruitment rankings.