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Arkansas coach Eric Musselman provides insight into prospect Anthony Black

Arkansas coach provides insight into Anthony Black originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

CHICAGO — Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman knows a thing or two about the NBA and what it takes to succeed at the highest level. He was the head coach of the Warriors (Wizards director of pro personnel Antawn Jamison played under him) and the Kings. He also served as an assistant for the Timberwolves, Magic, Hawks and Grizzlies.

Now Musselman is coaching in the college ranks, but remains connected to the NBA through the players he recruits and coaches. This year he could have four players taken in the 2023 NBA Draft. Three could be first-round picks and two could go in the lottery.

The highest-rated player among them is Anthony Black, a 6-foot-7 point guard who could be among the best options for the Wizards with the eighth overall pick. That is if he lasts that long.

Black is a chameleon on the defensive end, able to switch easily from guards to forwards, with the quickness to stay in front of ball handlers. On offense, he has an innate feel for the game and the athleticism to play above the rim.

“He’s unique because he can play the point guard position at his size,” Musselman told NBC Sports Washington in the hotel lobby at last week’s NBA Draft combine.

“Really good defender, great anticipation defensively. Rebounds as well as any point guard in the entire draft. Body is ready to play in an NBA game right now.”

That last point is worth highlighting. Black is only 19 years old and still sports a baby face. He weighed in at 210 pounds at the combine and has a relatively wiry frame.

Black may mature quite a bit physically in the next several years as he enters an NBA training program. And as he gets stronger, it could help one area that is a question mark for him entering the draft. That would be his turnovers, as he averaged 3.0 per game last season with a 20.6% turnover percentage.

Outside shooting is another area he will need to work on, as he shot just 30.1% from three last season. But aside from those two areas, there is a lot to like about Black as an NBA prospect. His size, versatility and smarts are major pluses.

Last season, Black averaged 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.1 turnovers per game.

“Incredible person, a leader. Very, very, very coachable… He has high, high, high basketball IQ,” Musselman said. “He sees two or three plays ahead of time. He can give adjustment suggestions in huddles. To me, he’s kind of a no-brainer for the next level because he’s just got so much upside.”

Black is the type of point guard who could make teammates better on both ends of the floor, as he explained himself at the combine. If he were drafted by the Wizards, that could be evident in him taking on bigger defensive assignments to lighten the load for Bradley Beal. He could also simplify the job of rim-protectors Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford by stopping dribble penetration from the perimeter.

Combine all of that with Black’s ability to create for others and he amounts to an ideal teammate. Take it from Nick Smith Jr., the second Arkansas player who could be drafted in the lottery next month.

“He’s a big guard, pretty much can basically do whatever the team needs. He’s a good slasher, he can shoot the ball pretty well. He’s a wonderful passer. He makes good reads,” Smith Jr. said.

For a team like the Wizards with their top two point guards a year away from free agency, plus an obvious goal of improving their overall defense, Black would make a lot of sense. They will also have to look at other players in that range, including Cason Wallace who like Black is a tall, defensive point guard.

Whichever team takes Black, Musselman believes they will be getting a really good NBA player someday.