TEXARKANA – A day before meeting with the media in Fayetteville, new Arkansas basketball coach Mike Anderson felt the love from the fans at one of the state's top booster clubs.
Anderson was the guest speaker Wednesday night at the Texarkana Area Razorback Club's annual spring meeting held at the Four State Fair Grounds.
The meeting was postponed from a night earlier because of the weather, but was extremely well attended on Wednesday.
"These fans are so passionate about the Razorbacks and so excited about what we are going to do with bringing excitement and great success back to the basketball program," Anderson said moments before addressing the crowd. "They know we now have pride in being Razorbacks, know we know how to get the program to the top and will work hard to make sure it happens again as soon as possible."
Anderson made it clear that he didn't take the move lightly from Missouri to Arkansas, where he was an assistant to Nolan Richardson from 1985-2002.
"It was a difficult decision (to leave Missouri) because of the program we had produced there," Anderson told the fans gathered. "I'm big on family, and my players are like my family. The familiarity, the tradition here at Arkansas, the fans, the passion, my kids were born in Fayetteville, being in the SEC, and at the end of the day, it was the Call of the Hogs that got me back here. You can take the person out of Arkansas, but Arkansas always remains with that person."
With the hiring of Anderson to replace John Pelphrey and the talent coming in with a class ranked No. 5 nationally by Scout.com, excitement is truly as high as it has been in over a decade.
"Coach Pelphrey did a great job in selling the University of Arkansas to those kids and we were able to go share our vision with them as soon as we were hired," Anderson said. "We worked to show them what we are all about and how much we wanted them to be Razorbacks and represent this great state to the highest standards both on and off the court."
The five signees are all in the process of graduating with a couple prospects having acknowledged they still had work to do on the ACT to be academically eligible.
"All those guys are finishing out their high school year by being very committed to the classroom and taking care of their business," Anderson said. "We should know some time in the next month on where they all are, but we are very positive about them all being on the court for us next season."
If all nine underclassman remain in the program and the five signees all arrive on campus, that will be 14 players for the 13 scholarships the NCAA allots a men's basketball program.
"The numbers always work themselves out," Anderson said.
Anderson and his staff – which he will formally introduce to the media on Thursday – have been able to get to know the players on-court abilities through spring workouts the NCAA allows.
The NCAA allows you to have the full squad on the floor at one time for two hours a week through April 15.
Arkansas did that and was then still able to have four players on the court at one time these last two weeks – with the last session set for Friday. The NCAA basically allows two hours with your team a week.
"We had the full team out there four times a week for 30 minutes and then have been able to get them out there in groups of four these past two weeks," Anderson said. "We finish that up Friday."
Anderson talked in a radio interview right after the hire about how the current Razorbacks were in no shape to go through one of his complete practices during the season. But they have made strides in April.
"These kids had to adjust to how we do things and it was tough on them at first," Anderson said. "I I have been really impressed with how hard they have worked and what we have gotten out of them on the court. From being around us, you know how much our staff can get done in one of our practices and now so do they."
Anderson has stressed to his new players that it really doesn't matter what you did or didn't do while playing for the previous coach.
"We made it clear to them that everybody starts from scratch," Anderson said. "They have all responded."
As have potential recruits and coaches that Anderson and his staff had the opportunity to see while out on the road earlier this month.
They can't go see recruits again until July, but can have talks with them if the recruits come to campus.
"We really did get a great response from the kids and the coaches," Anderson said. "I had a lot of coaches say ‘that Razorback shirt just looks so right on you' and ‘it's great you are back home.' They know we are interested in recruiting in Memphis and Tulsa and a lot of other places.
"But I also want to stress that we plan on being a national program once again and that we plan to go after the top national players," Anderson said. "We will not be settling for anything less than the best."
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