Strong Bond

SMITH, MUSSELMAN ON THE SAME PAGE

By Scottie Bordelon

2022-07-05T07:00:00.0000000Z

2022-07-05T07:00:00.0000000Z

WEHCO Media

https://hawgsillustrated.pressreader.com/article/281492165017823

NICK SMITH

Nick Smith and Arkansas coach Eric Musselman formed a unique relationship during the recruiting process that ultimately resulted in the 5-star guard signing with the Razorbacks. Smith believes their bond has continued to grow in his short time on campus for team practices and workouts, and away from the floor during team-building outings. Nick Smith and Arkansas coach Eric Musselman formed a unique relationship during the recruiting process that ultimately resulted in the 5-star guard signing with the Razorbacks. A projected top-three pick in next year’s NBA Draft, according to ESPN, Smith believes their bond has continued to grow in his short time on campus for team practices and workouts, and away from the floor during team-building outings. Musselman feels the same way. Prime examples of their connection came in June when Arkansas’ team visited New Beginnings, a self-managed community in Fayetteville that provides housing for those in need of temporary shelter, for a public service outing. As the team stood on a sidewalk in front of the main building and awaited leaders of the function to kick off the event, Musselman, with his hands on his hips, slowly walked in his players’ direction. Smith noticed the Razorbacks’ fourth-year coach approaching and had some fun at his expense. The freshman turned toward his teammates and mimicked Musselman’s walk. Roughly an hour later, Smith was speaking with reporters away from the team. Stationed up a hill about 20 feet away, Musselman was gathering players and staff for a photo. “Hey, Nick, I don’t want to interrupt your interview, but come on,” Musselman said. “You’re the only person that would do that,” Smith said after turning to walk toward the group. The good-natured back-and-forth moments are strong indications that they understand each other’s personality. That much is true on and away from the basketball court. “Before I even came here I already knew that we had some similarities, honestly, and things like that even other than basketball,” Smith said. “Everybody knows the competitive side with basketball, but off the court there’s some similarities there.” Musselman added that when he speaks in front of the team and attempts to make light of a moment or topic, Smith will regularly be one of the only players who laughs under his breath. Others may not pick up on the subtle jokes. “It’s kind of funny,” Musselman said. “Some guys just kind of get you. He just kind of gets me. I think he’s such a competitor and he’s so tough that there’s kind of an automatic bond.” Smith believes what the two shared during his recruitment has expanded because of trust. Musselman has spoken in the past about a few of his players at Arkansas taking the message rather than the tone in moments of truth behind closed doors. The guard knows Musselman will not lead him astray, and there is purpose behind his messages. “I’m just trusting him and what he’s got going on with his system,” Smith said. “It’s a big reason why I came. He’s going to tell me what it is and that’s what it’s going to be. I like that type of stuff. I want people to be real with me. “He just understands where I come from and I understand where he comes from. It’s just a great connection.” And the same elements of his personality that expedited the relationship with Musselman assisted him in forming tight bonds with new teammates. The Razorbacks’ roster features 10 other newcomers. Grasping the situation and wanting what is best for the team in the long run, Smith made it a point to make himself open to all lines of communication with those on the roster. The move has already paid dividends, he said. “I showed them my contact and said if they need me that they can call me, and if I need them then I’ll call them,” Smith added. “For me, it’s kind of like a big brotherhood, because it’s a lot of older guys on the team and they just want me to do me. And the other guys coming in are filling their role, and I’m trying to figure out my role, as well. “We just came in, loved the same stuff, love doing the same stuff. That was kind of easy for us to connect right off the bat.” European Tour Set The Razorbacks are set to go on a foreign tour to Italy and Spain from Aug. 6-16, when they will mix exhibition games and sightseeing. Arkansas is expected to play four games during the trip. The Razorbacks will arrive in Valencia, Spain, on Aug. 7. Their first game will come Aug. 9 in Valencia, Games 2 and 3 will be played in Madrid, and Game 4 in Lake Como, Italy. Arkansas’ tour is the program’s first since 2016, when former coach Mike Anderson’s team visited Spain to play four games over 10 days. The covid-19 pandemic deterred the possibility of an overseas tour in the summers of 2020 and 2021. An NCAA rule allows teams to make an international trip once every four years. “The advantage for that, especially for a team like we have this year with roughly 10 new players and many of those young players, is you get 10 extra days of practice in and get those…four competitions while you’re on the foreign tour,” Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek said of the trip. “That’s going to be a huge advantage for our program.”

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