Arkansas News Bureau's Eric Bolin reported late Friday night that Razorbacks' freshman guard Jimmy Whitt is "likely to transfer" out of Fayetteville this offseason.
It should be noted up front that this is not a definite thing that will happen and Bolin said it's unclear if Whitt has even met with Mike Anderson to discuss this situation, but some people close enough to Whitt and/or the basketball program feel strongly enough that it's probably going to happen that Bolin reported it.
While Whitt did not have the type of impactful freshman season most were expecting, he did show enough flashes that make me believe he'll grow into a really nice player, and I'd be disappointed if that didn't happen at Arkansas.
Whitt's season was certainly inconsistent. It started off well. He actually started the team's first 10 games and reached double figures in scoring in five of the first six games. After that point, he seemed to disappear for a while. He simply wasn't very good in January save for a season-high 15 point outburst against Missouri in his hometown of Columbia. He only scored 8 points in the team's next five games that closed the month, including a scoreless stretch in 35 minutes of combined action in three straight games against Kentucky, Georgia, and Texas A&M.
However, Whitt seemed to close the season with positive momentum, reaching double figures three times in February and only going scoreless once. He also seemed to find more confidence in his jump shot. Five of his six made threes on the season were in February. He finished the season averaging 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in 17.2 minutes per game.
Bolin notes that with two new juco guards joining the team next season, Whitt could be feeling like their wouldn't be much of a role for him. That's not an invalid concern. If Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon are as good as advertised, it's hard to see Whitt cracking a starting lineup that could feature one or both of them - each of whom is a year older than Whitt - and Dusty Hannahs, whose starting spot is likely secured following his impressive junior season.
That being said, would that be worth leaving and sitting out completely next season? That's the question Whitt will have to answer.
Whitt has the athleticism to have a nice future. He showed excellent quickness and agility for a 6'4" player. If he can be more consistent with his shot and figure out how to keep so many shots at the rim from being blocked, he should have a very successful career.
Anderson's critics will surely be quick to point out that Whitt is Anderson's highest-profile recruit since the 2013 class brought in Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley. Whitt was ranked 68th nationally in the composite rankings. A program and coach that haven't thus far lived up to expectations can ill afford to lose this type of potential talent. It would also mean the 2015 recruiting class would be a dismal failure unless Doobie Jenkins ever gets on the court. It was supposed to be a small class with Whitt and Ted Kapita, but Kapita never made it to campus and Whitt could leave after one year. The class suddenly had more openings when Nick Babb transferred and Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls declared for the professional ranks, but the coaches struggled to fill those spots, ending up with Jenkins, senior graduate transfer Willy Kouassi, and putting Manny Watkins on scholarship. By the time Jacorey Williams was kicked off the team later in the year, recruiting season was over.
If Whitt does leave, that will open a sixth spot in the 2016 recruiting class. Arkansas currently has five commitments, but the coaches have been recruiting more players to sign in the late signing period that starts in mid April.