FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas coach Eric Musselman isn’t wondering if he expects Nick Smith — the Razorbacks’ announced freshman guard — to make his collegiate debut at the Maui Invitational.
The No. 9 Razorbacks (3-0) will play the first of three games in Maui when they open against Louisville (0-3) on Monday.
Smith, a preseason All-SEC first team picked by the coaches and media and forecasting a high first-round pick in the NBA draft, did not play in Arkansas’ No. 9 draft in the first three games because of a right knee injury.
Smith fired some shots at Walton Arena Wednesday night after the Razorbacks defeated South Dakota State 71-46.
“I think Nick will continue to improve,” said Musselman. “But he still is [limited] … We want to make sure he’s in a good place [before playing in games].”
Musselman said Smith did not practice.
“So it’s still a process that we just have to evaluate,” Musselman said. “And if I say [Smith is] Day after day he will not wake up [Thursday] and practice.
“But I’m also not going to write an injury report and tell the whole world where we are day by day.
“He’s not practicing right now.”
Smith traveled to Maui with the team, Musselman confirmed.
Arkansas signed a pair of 5-star high school recruits this week at 6-2 guard Layden Blocker and 6-10 center Baye Fall.
More signings for the coming season, as indicated by Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman, will come from the transfer portal.
“We’re done in the ranks of high school,” Musselman said. “We’re going to try to have a philosophy of going after high, high-level high school players, like the two guys we just got and then see what the roster is like and then go from there .
“We certainly don’t recruit anyone in this class anymore.”
No planning Bellarmine
Bellarmine, a private Louisville college that attends the ASUN conference along with the University of Central Arkansas, beat the Louisville Cardinals 67-66 to open the season.
When asked about the game, Eric Musselman chose to praise Bellarmine rather than focus on how Louisville was playing.
“I wouldn’t want to play them,” Musselman said of the Knights. “Do you see the game? I’ve never seen a team pass the ball so many times in my life. I’ve never seen a team that doesn’t dribble the ball like that. It was a work of art.
“We don’t play against this team, I can tell you that. We won’t plan them as long as I live, I can promise that.”
After a video of Musselman’s comments was posted on social media, Bellarmine’s assistant coach Beau Braden tweeted saying he would love the Knights Arkansas to play at Walton Arena.
Musselman replied, “Coach, we’ll play you guys at Bud Walton if we can limit the number of passes you can have during the game,” with a laughing emoji.
“Let’s make it happen,” Braden replied. “Choose a date. But we’ll also likely need to limit the number of TOs allowed.”
Braden then wished Musselman and the Razorbacks a safe trip to Maui.
Arkansas junior guard Vomte Davis said he’s looking forward to his first trip to Hawaii.
“I see some white sand, the blue ocean,” Davis said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m ready to go.”
On Saturday, Davis tweeted a photo of the team at the beach.
birthday in hawaiian
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman celebrated his 58th birthday on Maui Beach on Saturday.
Musselman was born on November 19, 1964 in Ashland, Ohio when his father, Bill, was an assistant coach for the Ashland University basketball and football teams.
Bill Musselman became Ashland’s head basketball coach for the 1965-66 season.
Surfing is hip
The Razorbacks didn’t practice at home on Friday, instead leaving early for Maui to allow players time to relax upon arrival and be ready for some fun activities on Saturday, which Musselman said would include surfing lessons.
While coaching in Nevada, Musselman said all players could surf when the team played exhibition games in Costa Rica in August 2017.
“My hope and goal is to get everyone on the board,” said Musselman, who said on his radio show earlier this week that he went surfing while living in San Diego. “We did it in Nevada, all 13 players had to stand in the water on a surfboard and try to ride the wave.
“The longer the board, the easier it is for those of you who have never surfed. So if you get a really long board you have a pretty good chance of staying on top if you have some balance.”
Musselman said he also plans to hold some walk-through drills on the beach, like the Razorbacks did in August when they played a four-game show tour in Spain and Italy.
Arkansas is 3-4 with Louisville, a program the Razorbacks have not played since the 2008-09 season when the Cardinals won 99-66 in St. Louis. That was in John Pelphrey’s second season as Arkansas coach when he faced Rick Pitino, who had been his coach in Kentucky.
Louisville has a new coach this season in Kenny Payne, who assisted Kentucky in coaching the Wildcats to a 73-66 win in Arkansas in 2020 after coach John Calipari was sacked.
Payne, a player on Louisville’s 1986 national championship team, was an NBA assistant with the New York Knicks for the past two seasons.