What the Pairing of Baye Fall and Layden Blocker Means for Arkansas

by Brady Michael
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Receiving fantastic news on November 15th was coach Eric Musselman and the Arkansas Razorbacks. The big signing both literally and figuratively of future NBA forward Baye Fall brought warmth to a snow ridden Fayetteville. For Fall, it felt as if the momentum had been tilting in Arkansas’ favor for the previous month. With him and teammate Assane Diop solidifying the Hogs in the mix with multiple visits, it was all but complete. The momentum eventually began to dwindle in an attempt to land the pair. Other teams weren’t going to let Diop, but most certainly Fall off so easily. Between present day and the momentum being halted, another five-star target, Ron Holland, only created more unlikely despair. He pledged to the Longhorns of Texas to put on for his home state. That’s when worry began to plague the Razorback recruiting world. Reassurance was in dire need.

Jumping to social media, the single commit at the time, Layden Blocker, was all in on Baye Fall. With little to no public recruiting action being taken by Blocker to that point, it felt as if something was up. While the post didn’t signify a done deal, it brought all the positive mindsets back to Razorback fans.

https://twitter.com/Laygogetit2/status/1585807351986016256

With the dust finally settling in the middle of November, Fall split the proposed pairing with Diop and signed with Arkansas.

 As far as rankings go, Fall is a consensus five-star recruit. According to the 247 Sports composite rankings, he is the number 14 player in the class and listed as the number three center. 

No Fall/Diop Dynamic Duo

Oddly enough, the fear of Baye Fall sliding away from Arkansas was sparked by his teammate Assane Diop. The pair transferred to a newly formed prep school in Colorado in July of this year. While they were seemingly bound at the hip before then, the action only set that idea in stone. Top recruiting analysts agreed that the pair was seemingly bound for the same destination once signing day rolled around. Even their play styles were a match that would have provided worth at the next level.

The visits to Arkansas by the duo is what kept the dream alive. Suddenly, the name of Diop dropped from mention around Arkansas which then sparked concern for Fall. Word of Seton Hall and Colorado making a late push at either recruit began to smoke. If one domino being Fall or Diop were to go elsewhere it would create a pitfall. That’s at least what the meta was surrounding social media and beyond. 

 The day before their signing day, momentum kicked the door in as the Razorbacks were once again the team to beat for Fall’s signature. Diop on the other hand had his name nowhere to be found. A sudden change of heart between the two or a business decision, they would split their choices. Unthinkable a month prior, Diop landed at Colorado while Fall officially became a Razorback. With a brutal and life altering decision to no longer play alongside a friend, it proves how committed Fall is to Arkansas. The bond with Layden Blocker appeared, but never felt like a solidified action. As it turns out, the two are primed and ready to lead Musselman’s squad.

Ultimate Impact on the Defensive End

The defensive end will be where the impact of the pair carries the most weight. Looking toward the measurables first, Baye Fall sits at a 6 foot 10 spectacle and 205 pounds. Staying on the more lean edge, it has allowed his athleticism to shine. A wingspan of over seven feet, the length alone causes trouble under the basket. 

The majority of his defensive highlights come from pure athleticism which is great for long-term potential. Fall’s footing has been the talk of scouts at both the college and NBA level. Being able to move laterally defending in the paint and on the wing is dream material. Inside, adding that quickness and agility of his steps to his length is nightmare fuel for opposing players. The best way to neutralize that ability would be screens, but Fall has proven to defend pick-and-rolls efficiently.

Odds are that switching on to a quick, adrenaline filled point guard might be a negative. Credit that to gameplan, but the majority of the switches are ones that Fall has proven to handle. With the speed of the game changing at the next level, it will be intriguing to see how well his lateral speed translates along with his need to get stronger.

Holding down the outside is the other half of the duo – Layden Blocker. Recently attaining five-star status, Blocker is a broad six foot two guard who is another athletic freak. As a player who prides themselves on creating tempo, natural aggressiveness often shows on defense. Quickness is the number one word to reflect how chaos is caused by Blocker. As with Baye Fall, most of his defensive ability is based purely on athleticism. 

In high school, Blocker has been slotted recently at point guard, but can match up with twos as well. His switch to point primarily has changed how he approaches challenges offensively. Either way, Layden will likely always be matched up with the best opposing guard. Pestering wing defense is the best way to figure things. His aforementioned desire to create tempo and run the floor always starts on the defensive end. Anything inside the arch is where Blocker has to rely on his basketball IQ and speed. Being a smaller guard, Blocker will often be at a disadvantage inside, especially off pick-and-roll switches. Luckily, Baye Fall will have his back down under. 

Rocking the Rim Offensively 

While the pair combines to have the highest ceiling on the defensive end, that’s not to take away from their offensive potential. For Fall, the biggest question mark for him is overall efficiency in his shot selection. A player with great bounce such as Baye would be expected to have more success in the interior. Considering he has been a high percentage scorer in the paint, that’s not exactly the issue. What has been a notable area of improvement is his positioning on the offensive end. Consistently not being able to penetrate the paint has forced Fall into a ton of settling for shots. Thankfully, Fall is skilled enough to turn those dicey outcomes into baskets one way or another. 

Blocker is a player on the other hand who doesn’t struggle to find his way to the rim consistently. If chaos ensues on the defensive end, it sets Layden up with the ability to run things his way. Fitting the role of a slashing guard, getting to the basket is always at the forefront of his mind. His acceleration alone forces the defense on a break to be on their toes, which allows Blocker to attack either side of the hoop. Not to mention, even at six foot two, dunks look unexpectedly easy in the open floor. Pull-ups when driving are certainly within his arsenal as well. 

Outside shooting is where Blocker needs to shed the most light, but as it stands, won’t need to happen immediately. As a knockdown shooter when left alone, it is merely a prospect creating space with consistency. Going back once again to the benefit of his speed, there is always the looming threat that Blocker will blast to the basket. That fear from the defense will give him plenty of opportunities to drive and kick to a shooter. Possibly loosening up the back end, maybe Fall and Blocker could form a Chris Paul-Blake Griffin type connection at the rim. That aspect will heavily rely on Fall getting bigger and finding space inside at the next level.  

Where Do They Fit in Muss’ System?

To keep it simple, as Blocker meshes into a pure point guard role, it will determine the speed to which the pair takes off. Moreover, the quicker he can become the leader of the entire squad. With current point guard Nick Smith likely being a one-and-done, there will be a vacancy next season with Blocker’s name on it. If the role of point flows seamlessly, then the floodgates can be opened. Two young stars with relentless motors and a desire to run the floor is exactly what Musselman’s scheme demands. Through three games in 2022, the defensive efforts have churned 21.3 turnovers per game.  

With results such as those, that sets up nicely for the arrival of the point guard-forward duo in 2023. Of course, both players will need to become accommodated with the college game. The good news is that where they currently stand, great can turn into something oh so special. 

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