Basketball

Dear Razorback Basketball,

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Image for Dear Razorback Basketball,

This has been the greatest stretch of my sports life. For as long as I can remember, Razorback basketball has been just good enough to sneak into the tournament and compete for a second-round appearance. The stories of a time when Razorback basketball made consistent appearances in the Sweet 16, Elite 8, and Final 4 felt like just that: stories. The success of the ‘90s seemed as unattainable as finding a bigfoot or a dragon. Maybe they existed once upon a time, but the chances of seeing them first hand were slim to none.

That is, until this season.

Eric Musselman has taken Razorback basketball to success not seen in 25 years. Through the recruitment of transfers and freshman and stellar midgame coaching all season long, the Hogs won game after game after game. They found themselves in the Elite 8, fighting tooth and nail with one of the best teams in the nation for a Final 4 berth. For that, I thank you. I thank coach Musselman, all the players that chose Fayetteville as their home, and the entire fanbase for making this ride one to never forget.

Dear Ethan Henderson,

When the coach who recruited you was relieved of duties, it would have been easy for you to hit the transfer portal and find a new home that promised more consistent playing time. Instead, you chose to remain a Hog and fight for your state. The playing time was not always ideal, but your effort and energy never wavered. I hope to see you in a Hog uniform again in the future, but regardless of where your career takes you, I wish you the best. Thank you for choosing to be a Hog.

Dear Khalen Robinson,

You were perhaps the player I was most ready to watch coming into this season. Your passion for your craft is undeniable and your skillset is only going to keep improving. I cannot wait to watch you lead Razorback basketball to new heights next year and hopefully for the next several years. Year one didn’t go as planned, but you’ll always have the support of the Razorback fanbase. Thank you for choosing to be a Hog.

Dear Vance Jackson,

Though the playing time didn’t turn out to be as consistent as expected, you provided valuable minutes nearly every time you were on the court. It’s rare to find a college forward with a shooting stroke as smooth as yours. Much like many others this offseason, you didn’t have to be a Razorback; you chose to come here. In doing so, you joined a family forever. Through no fault of your own, I wish we could’ve seen more of your game. Regardless. Thank you for choosing to be a Hog.

Dear Connor Vanover,

After playing your first couple of years in a different state, you decided to return home and represent your state with that Razorback across your chest. Your presence on the court was often undeniable, whether protecting the paint on one end or launching triples on the other. Some matchups didn’t afford the playing time we hoped for you, but it never stunted your passion for this team or Razorback basketball. The games that felt your impact were incredibly fun to watch, and I think I speak for many when I say we’re excited to see what your future holds in Fayetteville. Thank you for choosing to be a Hog.

Dear Desi Sills,

If there was ever one single person that could embody what it means to be a Razorback, his name is Desi Sills. Tough as nails, yet skilled enough to compete with the best, you never stopped giving your all to Razorback nation.

To begin the season, you looked like a man on a mission. As the Hogs’ most prominent returning player, you were instantly thrust into a sort of leadership role, and you appeared to embrace it day in and day out. As the season progressed we saw minor struggles arise, as happens to nearly every player, but in true Razorback fashion, you never wavered. Your fight was evident every time you stepped on the court, and you were the biggest spark in our final game of the season against Baylor, something that should not soon be forgotten. Thank you for choosing to be a Hog.

Dear Jaylin Williams,

After dominating the high school circuit in Arkansas, Razorback nation couldn’t have been happier with your decision to stay home and help elevate Razorback basketball back to its dominance of old. One of the smartest players I’ve ever seen trapped in a forward’s body, it was truly a pleasure to watch you blossom this season.

Taking charges, dishing dimes, and dropping in running hooks are just the beginning of your game. With the confidence that comes only with experience, I shudder to think of the potential you possess. I couldn’t be more excited to watch you develop in that Razorback cardinal and white. In year one, you’ve already been a vital piece to the greatest Razorback run of your lifetime, and this is only the beginning. Thank you for choosing to be a Hog.

Dear JD Notae,

When you were on, it was exhilarating to watch. A human flamethrower in the truest sense, you carried the offensive load many times this season, willing the team to wins with your spark off the bench. The shots didn’t always fall, but you had the attention of everyone in each arena you stepped in, for none of us knew what would come next.

Instead of continuing to lead your team in Jacksonville, you chose to be Hog where you knew the competition for playing time might be stiffer. Embracing the challenge in true Razorback fashion, you quickly emerged as the best pure scorer on the team, and for good reason. Bleacher Report’s national and the SEC’s conference 6th Man of the Year, Razorback basketball would not be where it is today without you. Thank you for choosing to be a Hog.

Dear Devo Davis,

I owe you an apology, Devo Davis. Coming into the season, your drive and potential were undeniable, but I didn’t believe you were ready to contribute at the collegiate level. I’ve never been happier to be wrong about anything. Not only did you worm your way into the rotation ahead of exemplary talent, but you also managed to become one of this teams’ most important players.

Late in the season, the Hogs went as far as you took them. Your energy was not outdone by any college player in the nation this season. Stellar defense, eye-popping fast-break finishes, midrange magic, and the occasional between the legs football pass kept us all on the edge of our seats every time you touched the court. You’ve already cemented yourself in the Razorback basketball history books, but I know that you’ll go down as a true Razorback legend. Thank you for choosing to be a Hog.

Dear Jalen Tate,

Perhaps the biggest apology of all is owed to you, Mr. Tate. It’s not so much that I doubted you were a good player, for your numbers at Northern Kentucky were hard to ignore. No, it wasn’t a lack of confidence in you, but more an overabundance of confidence in the other guards on the roster. I thought you would be a tremendous bench addition that provided stellar defensive minutes when called upon.

Instead, you became the undisputed on-court leader of this squad. You found your way to the rim when the team needed it most, found open teammates every single night, and kept a level head no matter what the scoreboard might read. Coming down the stretch of close games, I didn’t want the ball in anyone else’s hands, plain and simple. Razorback nation would welcome you back for another year with open arms, but we also wish you the best with whatever your future holds. Thank you for choosing to be a Hog.

Dear Moses Moody,

A generational type recruit, you chose to return home and play for your state. Razorback basketball will never be able to thank you enough, not only for your on-court contributions but also for proving that top recruits can come to Arkansas and have great success. Selfishly, I’ll never be ready to stop seeing you in a Razorback jersey.

However, we all know the NBA is knocking, and that’s a hard call to ignore, so we wish you the best moving forward in whatever comes next in what looks to be a long career. Your game is elite and will improve any team you’re a part of. No matter how the run ended, your role in this historic stretch will not soon be forgotten. Thank you for choosing to be a Hog.

Dear Justin Smith,

“Originally, I was like… no.” Razorback nation can never thank you enough for changing your mind from that initial reaction of our interest in you. Coming from another high-major school with a notable basketball history, I’m sure your list of interests was not small in the transfer portal. Coach Muss made his pitch and the rest will go down in Razorback basketball history.

Many nights, you were the most important piece of this team. You didn’t always score the most points or have the ball in your hands the most often, but your impact was never in doubt. High flying dunks, put-back finishes, and anchoring an underrated defense are only the tip of the iceberg of what you brought to Arkansas. The most substantial run in 25 years wouldn’t have been possible without you, Justin Smith. Thank you for choosing to be a Hog.

Dear Coach Eric Musselman,

Outside of my religious beliefs and my family, Razorback basketball is the most important part of my life. Anyone that knows me can confirm that. I can’t even watch a game in the same room as other people that I know don’t share my passion for the team.

Being only 24 years old, I missed out on the Arkansas glory days by that much. All my life, I’ve waited to experience something similar to the stories of old. Super Sid leading the Hogs to #1 in the nation. May-Day rocking Barnhill arena. Big Nasty leading the charge to National relevancy. However, it’s always alluded myself and the entire portion of our fanbase of a similar age.

That is until Coach Musselman came around. In year one you shocked all of Arkansas. In year two you put the entire nation on notice. Nothing in my day to day life has ever meant as much to me as the experience of watching my Hogs reach the Elite 8. For that, I will never be able to thank you enough.

With that being said, I am not satisfied, and I know you feel the same way. A new season consisting contacting of transfers and recruits begins now, and I am thrilled to watch you go to work. It’s time to retool and reload because now that Razorback nation has gotten that first taste of renewed success, it won’t easily go away. I know that you know these things, but I can’t express my gratitude and support enough, no matter what happens next.

You, as well as each of your players, changed the culture of Razorback basketball in two short seasons, and for that, we will always be thankful.

Thank you for choosing to be a Hog.

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