FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas men's basketball coach Eric Musselman has signed twice as many graduate transfers in six weeks on the job than his predecessor, Mike Anderson, did in eight years.
Anderson signed just one graduate transfer -- 6-10 Willy Kouassi from Kennesaw (Ga.) State -- to help fill out the roster for the 2015-16 season.
Musselman has signed two graduate transfers for the 2019-20 season to add depth and experience to a team that returns six of its top seven scorers -- All-SEC forward Daniel Gafford is entering the NBA Draft after averaging 16.9 points per game -- from last season's 18-16 squad that played in the NIT.
Isaiah Moss, a 6-5 guard from Iowa, and Jeantal Cylla, a 6-7 forward from North Carolina-Wilmington, both will have immediately eligibility as graduate transfers and fifth-year seniors for the Razorbacks next season.
Moss and Cylla figure to have a bigger impact than Kouassi, who averaged 2.0 points and 1.9 rebounds in 31 games for Arkansas.
Moss, who was considering Kansas before signing with Arkansas, started every game last season for Iowa's 23-12 team that played in the NCAA Tournament.
In Tennessee's 83-77 victory over Iowa in a first-round NCAA Tournament game, Moss had 16 points and 5 rebounds in 29 minutes. His averages in Big Ten games of 9.4 points and 3.0 rebounds were slightly better than his season stats of 9.2 and 2.9.
Moss, who started 96 games at Iowa the previous three seasons, shot 42.1% on three-pointers (39 of 139) last season.
"Isaiah Moss is a guy that is going to stretch the defense out," said Musselman, who led Nevada to NCAA Tournament appearances the previous three seasons. "He is an excellent three-point shooter and has had huge games against big-time programs.
"He is going to give us some veteran leadership and allow us to play with some flexibility."
Musselman said he's excited for Moss to get on the floor at the same time with Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones, both returning 6-5 wing players.
Joe averaged 13.9 points as a freshman last season and hit a school-record 113 three-point baskets in 273 attempts for 41.4%. Jones averaged 13.8 points and shot 36.5% (76 of 208) on three-pointers as a sophomore junior college transfer last season.
"I think they will cause some mismatch problems and we can play those guys together, which is what we have planned," Musselman said of Joe, Jones and Moss. "We might be a little undersized at times, but we can also play big and play Isaiah Joe at point guard for short stretches in games.
"It gives us a lot of flexibility when you have three guys like that. At Nevada, that was one of the things that made us unique was three three-point shooters [6-7 twins Caleb and Cody Martin and 6-7 Jordan Caroline] that could all play multiple positions."
Cylla also is a three-point threat. He hit 33 of 106 three-pointers (31.1%) while averaging 13.7 points and 4.6 rebounds last season.
"He can play the 4 [spot], he can play the 3," Musselman said of the power and small forward positions. "He's going to stretch out the defense with his perimeter shooting, and you're talking about somebody that's got experience. He's a man."
Arkansas also has added 7-3 Connor Vanover, a Little Rock native who as a freshman at California last season averaged 7.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots in 17.5 minutes per game.
Vanover is applying for a waiver to the NCAA that will allow him to have immediate eligibility at Arkansas if approved. If the NCAA denies the waiver, Vanover will have to redshirt during the 2019-20 season.
"We're excited to add Connor," Musselman said. "He's just such a unique player to be his size with the ability to shoot the ball and his ability to rim protect.
"Certainly we'd be ecstatic if he could play next year. But if it's a year from now, that's great, too, where we can work with him from a player development standpoint."
Vanover hit 27 of 76 three-pointers (35.5%) as a freshman.
"For us, when you look at our roster, we need size," Musselman said. "So it wouldn't have mattered where [Vanover] was from. He's a guy that would have been highly sought after from our standpoint.
"To know that he's from the state just makes it that much better."
Vanover averaged 14.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots in 29.3 minutes in his final three games against Washington State, Stanford and Colorado.
"He just kept getting better and better as the season progressed," Musselman said. "At the end of the year, he was one of the best freshmen in the country."
Musselman, who had two graduate transfers in his four seasons at Nevada, said how many he adds annually at Arkansas might fluctuate based on need, but he plans to make it a key part of his recruiting.
"I think it's just a changing landscape of college basketball when you look at what Texas Tech has done with Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens," Musselman said of graduate transfers from South Dakota and St. John's who started for the national runner-up Red Raiders last season. "Both those guys had a huge impact on a team that made it to the Final Four.
"So I think it's just a change in college basketball that's involving. It's in football now, too. You're seeing a lot of quarterbacks change schools."
Arkansas added two graduate transfer quarterbacks with Ben Hicks from SMU and Nick Starkel from Texas A&M.
"It's just kind of the way in college athletics right now," Musselman said of adding graduate transfers. "I think from an experience standpoint it's good.
"But it's got to be the right fit. The right culture at the right time."
Sports on 05/17/2019
Print Headline: Hogs' Musselman lauds graduate transfers