Arkansas junior transfer Ricky Council IV came over from Wichita State with a reputation for his explosive athleticism and clutch proficiency at the charity stripe, but can he also provide the Razorbacks with some much-needed three-and-D pop this season?
Council (6-6, 205) has already wowed fans with his highlight-reel dunks in practice clips, during Arkansas’ summer foreign tour and most recently at the annual Red-White Game in Barnhill Arena. While his ability to create off the dribble, get downhill and rebound from the perimeter fits in ideally with what head coach Eric Musselman covets in his wings, extrapolating every ounce of potential from his jumper is something that also looms large on a team starved for long-distance shooting.
In two seasons of college play, Council has shot 33.9% (38-of-112) from beyond the arc. He was high-percentage (44.4%) and low-volume (12-for-27) as a freshman and saw a regression in efficiency as he upped his attempts as a sophomore, going 26-of-85 (30.6%) from three . His numbers behind closed doors aren’t readily available, but Council is a combined 2-of-10 at Arkansas between the trip to Europe and the Red-White Game.
Council has an unorthodox release, but he has shown the ability to heat up, and often times his consistency revolves around shot selection and quality. After reviewing film, Musselman and the coaching staff have noticed a trend with Council. When his feet are set and he is taking catch-and-shoot threes in rhythm, his percentage is much higher than when he is pulling up off the bounce or going to the step-back.
“We have learned some things, like Ricky and I just met a little bit ago,” Musselman said. “When Ricky doesn’t put the ball on the ground on his three-point shooting, he’s much more effective than when he plays off the bounce from three. So, that’s just a little thing that we’ve just learned over the summer and time together. He’s so mature, he walked into my office today and said, ‘Coach, I got you on putting the ball on the deck and shooting a step-back three as compared to my feet set.'”
When it comes to defense, Council looks the part with the size, length, strength and athleticism to be a disruptive and switchable force on the wing for the Razorbacks. He has shown his chops as an on-ball defender and jumped some passing lanes in early viewing opportunities, and Musselman believes the potential is there for him to really excel as he grows more comfortable in the system.
“I think defensively with Ricky, he is a great athlete. He has great anticipation,” Musselman said. “I think he still is learning a lot of our defensive concepts: Where we’re trying to force the ball, what our second and third rotations look like, how we X out from the weak side. I mean, there’s a lot of areas that Ricky is, as is all of our new guys, he is still learning. But from an athletic standpoint, from a toughness standpoint, to be a great defender, you have to be willing to fight through screens.”
Arkansas is replacing one of the SEC’s top perimeter defenders in Au’Diese Toney, who interestingly enough came from the same AAU background as Council and was one of the voices that helped steer him towards the Razorbacks after entering the portal in the spring. It appears Council is motivated to follow in his friend’s footsteps.
“I think the one thing with Ricky is he comes from the same AAU program as Au’Diese Toney, and I think he saw that Au’Diese turned into one of the best defenders in all of college basketball,” said Musselman. “The way that Au’Diese defended in the NCAA tournament against Gonzaga, I mean, it was as good a defensive individual player that we’ve seen or we’ve had. And I think that Ricky aspires to do that as well.”
Council and the Razorbacks will host Division 2 Rogers State for an exhibition tilt inside Bud Walton Arena on Monday before hitting the road for a charity exhibition at Texas to open its new arena on Saturday, October 29. Arkansas opens the regular season against North Dakota State in Fayetteville (Ark ) on November 7.