State of the Hogs: Uncomfortable Feeling

Mike Anderson thinks the Hogs have grown into men, but now he wants new point guards to take away the comfortable feeling for opposition.

Mike Anderson is like a lot of coaches. They often call their players “kids.” And, sometimes they are like kids, not grown men.

It shows in their play when they are still “kids,” with inconsistency. And, it can show up as losses on the court.

Then, something magical happens with experience. They become consistent and the team takes hold. Coaching becomes apparent.

Anderson was the speaker at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club on Wednesday. Yes, the TD club. But the subject wasn't football, it was Arkansas basketball. The UA head coach did mention his “kids” several times, but he caught himself once.

“We've got the right kids in year four,” Anderson said. “Well, they aren't kids anymore, they are grown men.”

It's that returning experience that led Anderson to tell the TD club that he's got “seven or eight starters” coming back and “depth from one through 13” on the roster.

“We have versatility,” he said. “We have guards who can guard forwards, forwards who can guard centers and that versatility is big. If you play up-tempo, you are going to have to fix things on defense and we have a better idea of what we are doing on defense now.”

The Hogs play their final exhibition Thursday against Pittsburg, Kan., State, before playing host to Alabama State at 4 p.m. Sunday in the season opener. Wake Forest, with Danny Manning as head coach, visits the Hogs on Wednesday.

“I like my team,” Anderson said, then quickly added, “I may not like them as much in another month.”

That was in reference to a tough non-conference schedule that includes trips to SMU, Iowa State and Clemson. Dayton is included in a more difficult home schedule.

“It's a tremendous challenge, one that should get us ready for SEC play,” he said. “But I think our team is ready for a schedule of this magnitude.”

Anderson went through his roster. Obviously, he predicted great things for 6-11 sophomore Bobby Portis. He thinks Michael Qualls and Ky Madden will have big-time seasons, too. The surprise might be 6-8 junior forward Jacorey Williams.

“He's our best conditioned player,” Anderson said. “He's one of our better defensive forwards, too. We'll probably see a lot of zone and he can neutralize a zone. He can get in the gaps, the seams and make plays.

“I think he wanted to catch my eye in our conditioning drills. If we run five laps, he's going to be leading. I noticed.

“Because of his condition, look for him to make some plays finishing on fast breaks. He's going to be out leading the way. He made a commitment in the offseason.”

Anderson talked about finally having all of the pieces of the puzzle. The last piece was probably point guards Jabril Durham and Anton Beard. They played like rookies in the first exhibition, their nerves showing.

“Especially on defense,” Anderson said. “They didn't tighten down on their shooters.

“It's a process. We want quality minutes from our (point) guards. They have to bring more on defense. We want them to make it tough on the other team's guards. We don't want someone to get comfortable with the ball. Our guards have to learn that and they have to get some help from the forwards. But our guards are critical to the season.”

Defensively, Anderson would like those guards to push the opposition towards the shot blockers, Moses Kingsley and Portis.

“Moses can be a nightmare inside,” Anderson said. “We blocked 12 shots in the first exhibition. I think Moses is much improved.”

That length has to come up big on the boards, a place everyone knows was a deficient area last year.

“We look at the loss at Georgia that came down to a play at the end, a game we got beat on the boards by 20,” he said. “Our team has to finish our defense by rebounding. We've got people in place to do it at a high level.”

Anderson does not think offense will be a problem.

“We can score,” he said. “Now, can we make defense a strength?”

With plenty of men on the roster, Anderson should field a strong defensive team.

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