Cultivating a winning culture in a locker room is an age-old dilemma that coaches have been struggling with since the beginning of time. Getting your players to buy-in and put everything they are into that sport is no small feat. Eric Musselman, the head coach of the University of Arkansas men’s basketball team, has created that environment in just two short years. In-turn, Musselman has captured the hearts of some of the best recruits in the country and built the top three recruiting classes in the country. The highest ranking of those recruits being a home-town kid by the name of Nick Smith Jr. Smith is the sixth ranked player in his class, and for good reason.
Nick Smith Jr. is a 6’4” shooting guard out of Jacksonville, Arkansas. What makes Smith so great is what he is able to do in transition. As soon as he gets the ball off of a defensive rebound, Smith is immediately running in transition with rarely anyone being able to keep up. At the McDonald’s All-American game in late-March I was able to witness his speed and IQ on the break in person and it was spectacular. He also participated in the McDonald’s All-American dunk contest, which saw him as the competition’s runner-up. Smith will be a perfect fit to an Arkansas scheme that is hell-bent on running and getting out in transition.
Nick Smith Jrs. talent has been apparent from a young age. When Smith was just a ninth grader in high school, Musselman was right there recruiting him in his first year as the Arkansas head coach in 2019. Musselman is now seeing that recruitment effort come to fruition as Smith gears up to attend Arkansas this fall. Smith is looking to add to an already explosive lineup with his cunning speed and knack for getting to the hoop on the break. I asked Nick Smith Jr about what it’s been like to watch Arkansas make deep run’s in March the last two seasons and he detailed that experience saying:
“It’s been pretty fun, you know, watching the state of Arkansas and in general just having a good time watching, and you know Arkansas winning. I feel like winning in each and every sport has been fun, the past two years, especially for coach Mussleman and the program, and you know next year the guys we got coming in, we just got it going and just work hard in the summertime you know. it’s not guaranteed we’re gonna make it to the elite 8 next year, but at the same time we have to have that same mindset that we could win a national championship and that’s what we’re gonna try and do.” – Nick Smith Jr.
As the one-and-done becomes ever more prevalent as each season passes, it’s not crazy to say that Nick Smith Jr. could be on an NBA floor in just a year’s time. Under the guidance of Coach Musselman, the ceiling is the roof for Nick Smith Jr. I can’t wait to see what he and the rest of Arkansas’ stacked class can accomplish this upcoming season. The future is bright for Arkansas, and especially for Nick Smith Jr.