FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Razorback basketball team has been the talk of the state.
The Hogs have won 12 of their last 13 games ahead of their showdown against Kentucky on Saturday. In fact, the only thing higher than the field goal percentage is the fashion.
It takes all about two minutes watching a Razorback basketball game to see that Eric Musselman wears his emotions on his sleeves.
But the truth is, short sleeves is all the Head Hog wears. It all started when Muss decided suits were not for him.
“To be honest with you, one of the biggest decisions ever was when I was at Nevada," Coach Musselman said. "Wearing a polo in the NCAA tournament five years ago. I went to the NCAA to make sure I could do that. Got the thumbs up and never looked back.”
What goes better with a polo, than a pair of brand-new sneakers? That’s where Muss and the marketing team got an idea.
“How could we come up with a theme that was meaningful for wearing these shoes," Coach Musselman said, "that way instead of just 'hey we’re going to paint shoes with a meaning behind each message that we wear.'”
Musselman didn’t have to recruit long to land his big commit.
Marla Burleson is an art teacher in Riviera, Texas who was elated to receive the call.
“Muss happens to be so great to work with," Burleson said. "He lets me have a lot of creative space which is wonderful for an artist.”
“I think that’s the cool thing is you try to find somebody that is really good at their craft and the key is 'do they love it?'” Coach Musselman said.
One thing was clear, the fans loved it. Shoes celebrating players past and present as well as legendary coaches.
“For sure I called Coach Richardson and I texted him," Coach Musselman said. "He’s so cool and humble. He just said that’s cool, now go win the game.”
With his shoe collection growing and growing, there is one pair of shoes that stands out with images that go beyond basketball.
“Growing up in San Diego, California and you understand and know the story behind the Little Rock Nine," Coach Musselman said. "To me that was by far the easiest shoe theme to come up with.”
For Burleson it was an honor to create the design.
“He had just told me it was the Little Rock Nine and it was special," Burleson said. "I researched it to make sure I could make it special, and I thought by putting the Little Rock Nine, it would make it much more effective and much more sentimental.”
Musselman even brought his team to Central High School for a chance to walk a mile in their shoes.
“We went in there as a team and spent a lot of time watching and they did a great job kind of explaining the history of everything to our basketball team, so these are probably as special of shoes as we have worn all season,” Coach Musselman said.
That season is far from done. The Razorback currently rank in the top 20 but Musselman’s shoe game is second to none.
“Every time a recruit comes on a visit or a mom or an AAU coach," Coach Musselman said, "everybody wants to grab the shoes and look at them. They’re amazed at the attention to detail, and it’s really helped us on a national stage.”