Musselman making Alabama a threat in SEC basketball

Published 7:00 am Thursday, August 5, 2021

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John Calipari is not the only SEC coach producing first-round NBA draft picks as Moses Moody of Arkansas was picked 14th in last week’s draft. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas says while Arkansas coach Eric Musselman has NBA experience, that’s not why he can produce talented players.

“The NBA experience I think is helpful, but it’s the level of detail that he has as a coach. You’ve seen it up close, the scouting stuff. Those guys are detail-oriented,” Bilas said. “I’m a believer that players respond to whatever the coach really believes in.

“Some people they play music during practice, they do this, they do that. Eric is really detail-oriented and really high energy, and I think the players respond, and clearly, they responded really well to it at Nevada and Arkansas. I think Moses certainly benefited from being around that level of detail, and you could see his improvement over the course of the year as a result of it.”

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However, Moody was not the first SEC player drafted. That was Josh Primo of Alabama at No. 12. Five more players — Tre Mann of Florida (18), Keon Johnson of Tennessee (21), Isaiah Jackson of Kentucky (22), Cameron Thomas of LSU (27), and Jaden Springer of Tennessee (28) — all went in the first round. That meant six SEC teams had a first-round draft pick. Five more players were picked in round two, including two from Auburn.

Auburn’s Bruce Pearl had first-round picks in 2019 and 2020 before JT Thor went 37 and Sharife Cooper 48 this year.

“I think the quality of players there at Auburn has certainly gone way up since Bruce got there, and that’s not a huge surprise. I mean, Bruce is one of the best coaches in the country,” Bilas said.

Bilas also said Alabama coach Nate Oats — who had Primo and Herb Jones (35) drafted — is going to continue to build his brand at Alabama.

“If those guys do well, that’s going to be another selling point for the Alabama program, that you can reach your destination of the NBA through Tuscaloosa,” Bilas said.

Kentucky will play Alabama twice during the 2021-22 season.