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With the early-entry deadline for the NBA Draft looming, Arkansas is still awaiting a decision by Isaiah Joe.
Although leading scorer and AP SEC Co-Player of the Year Mason Jones has already announced his intention to enter the 2020 NBA Draft, the Razorbacks’ sharp-shooter has yet to make any public decisions about his future.
However, head coach Eric Musselman said he believes Joe will at least declare before the April 26 deadline, even if he ultimately decides to return for his junior season.
“I would expect him to probably test the waters,” Musselman said on a teleconference Wednesday. “That would be my gut feeling, but again, I think that the timing or whatever is really up to Isaiah.”
Coming off a season in which he averaged 16.9 points and made an SEC-high 94 three-pointers, Joe is a possible late first-round pick, but most mock drafts have him going in the second round.
Once considered a potential lottery pick, Joe is now discussing his options with his family. Musselman said there is a “phenomenal” line of communication between him, Joe and Joe’s father, Derek.
“They are really really thinking through the process,” Musselman said. “They’re asking all the right questions. If we send them stuff, they will call back and ask if we can dig a little further.”
In the event they decide it’s in his best interest to return to school, Joe will likely have a bigger role in 2020-21. He would almost assuredly be the top player on a team that’s appearing in several way-too-early top-25 rankings rather than the No. 2 option behind Jones.
There were times last season when Arkansas played Jones as a point forward and Musselman has mentioned that Joe could be used similarly. With Jalen Tate joining as a graduate transfer, JD Notae being eligible and Davonte Davis signing, it probably won’t be in a point guard role, but he would be used in other ways.
“If he comes back, we want Isaiah to be in more ball-handling situations,” Musselman said. “I think he can do that at that off-guard spot, as well, but we want to put Isaiah in more pick-and-roll situations and more isolation type things that we used Mason with – but I don’t think necessarily at the point.”
That may be the sales pitch Musselman and his staff are giving Joe, but they aren’t pushing him to do one thing or the other. Instead, he is focused on helping him in the decision process.
“Not just Isaiah, but I want our other guys to know that when you go through this process with us, we have gone through it with a lot of guys in a very, very short period of time,” Musselman said. “There has got to be a trust factor on what is best for the particular player. Our job – like I stated over and over – is to get as much information (as possible).”
Musselman did the same for Jones, who declared for the NBA Draft last month and has reiterated in recent interviews that he intends to sign with an agent and remain in the draft.
Because of that, the Razorbacks are proceeding as if he won’t be back for his senior season.
“From all indications, it sounds like that’s the challenge he’s looking towards,” Musselman said. “We kind of supply the feedback that we’ve gotten from NBA teams to Mason and his family and then it’s up to them.”
Jones is not in most mock drafts and a lot of experts speculate he is a second-round pick at best, but Musselman and his staff have a lot of connections in the professional ranks.
He and assistant Clay Moser have each coached in the NBA, Earl Boykins – the Director of Student-Athlete Development – played in the NBA for more than a decade and Anthony Ruta – the Director of Basketball Operations – has coaching experience in the G-League.
“We support all of our guys in any of their professional aspirations,” Musselman said. “We’re behind them 100 percent in whatever decision they make. The only thing we can do is provide information through our multiple, many, many contacts that we have.”
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