Stay or Go: Eric Musselman gives the latest on Mason Jones, Isaiah Joe

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FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ season ended prematurely because of the cancellation of the rest of the SEC Tournament and all postseason tournaments due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That has forced fans to look ahead to next season, which looks encouraging with a quartet of Rivals150 recruits coming in and the possibility of both leading scorers returning returning for another year.

However, Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe could opt to begin their professional careers by declaring for the NBA Draft. Various outlets have them rated anywhere from 18th (CBSSports, Joe) to unranked, so it’s unclear what they’ll decide.

Because of the unusual ending to the season and most of the players immediately returning to their homes once back in Fayetteville from the SEC Tournament, head coach Eric Musselman said his conversations with those players have been limited.

“I’ve reached out to both of them and just said, ‘Hey, whatever you guys are thinking or whenever you want to talk or discuss those things, we’re here for you,’” Musselman said. “But I think right now everything is on such a holding pattern across the board for everybody.”

Musselman, speaking to local media via a teleconference Thursday, said he has spent a lot of time gathering information for Jones and Joe. He’s reached out to many of his NBA connections to try to learn as much as he can.

Despite those efforts, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the NBA Draft, NBA combine and other pre-draft workouts underclassmen would usually have the opportunity to participate in.

“The process this year is going to be much different than it has in the past,” Musselman said. “No one really knows how all that is going to look, so it’s kind of premature to talk about any process because no one really knows, including the NBA right now.”

Luckily for them, Musselman has extensive experience with the process. Not only is he a former NBA and G-League coach, but he went through it from the college side at Nevada.

During his time with the Wolfpack, he guided guys like Cameron Oliver, Caleb Martin and Cody Martin twins. Oliver ultimately declared early and went undrafted, while the Martin twins came back for their senior seasons. Those experiences were completely different than what Joe and Jones are currently going through, though.

“There was a clear, definitive plan in place to discuss with those guys,” Musselman said. “At Nevada, we put the calendar for them. They did not use agents, so we were able to set up all their workouts. We were able to arrange all their travel.”

Although it could change, the 2020 NBA Draft is scheduled for June 25, with underclassmen having an April 26 deadline to declare. As long as they don’t sign with an agent, Joe and Jones could withdraw their names up to 10 days before the draft and return to Arkansas.

“We’re just here to support those guys,” Musselman said. “I think if they decided to come back, I think they’d both be two of the best players in the country and I think their role would be incredible on our team. If it’s a different decision, then we’re here to do whatever we can to help them.”

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