Arkansas Celebrates Banner Basketball Season

Arkansas holds its annual basketball banquet after a season in which the Razorbacks finished 27-9 and returned to the NCAA Tournament after a seven-year absence and sophomore guard Manuale Watkins shares some of his thoughts on roommate Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls

As Bobby Portis’ roommate at the University of Arkansas, Razorback basketball sophomore Manuale Watkins has an up-front look at the decision-making process the All-American is going through.

Should Portis come back and play another year at Arkansas or put his name in the 2015 NBA Draft, where he is a projected top 20 pick?

“Bobby is my roommate so I walk in and go what’s up so I can get the first scoop so I can tell you guys (the media),” Watkins joked after Arkansas’ basketball banquet Monday night at Bud Walton Arena.



“I ask him every day and one day it’s this and another day it’s that,” Watkins said. “I don’t really think he has his mind made up yet.

“Whatever he does, that is my brother and I am going to support him anyway. I would love to have him back here, but if he has to make that step, he can do that. Whatever he does I am going to support him 100 percent and just whatever makes him happy.”

Neither Portis or Razorback junior guard Michael Qualls were available for comment after the banquet about whether they will return for another year or declare for the draft.

Portis is projected as a Top 20 pick while Qualls is seen as a late second-round possibility should he decide by the declaration date of April 26.

“They talk to us a lot, but it really just their decision and they haven’t made anything clear to us,” Watkins said. “They are really torn because they love Razorback basketball, but they have families and stuff that really need them to provide and stuff.

“…I know they love it here, they love college, they love playing for the Razorbacks and I guess we will see soon.”

The banquet celebrated a season in which the Razorbacks finished 27-9 and returned to the NCAA Tournament after a seven-year absence.

All of the player received an NCAA Tournament watch after receiving an NIT one at last year’s banquet.

“We got an NIT one last year and I don’t even know where they one is at anymore,” Watkins said. “I don’t want anymore of those. I want two more and it starts today.”

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said the banquet was a celebration for a great season, which ended with a loss to North Carolina just a step away from the Sweet 16.



“It was a great night,” Anderson said. “Now we kind of turn the page after a celebration of what I thought was a special year.

“I am so proud of these guys. They saw it through our eyes throughout the year. Now that they have seen it, they have tasted it, now it sets the stage for next year and we want bigger and better things.”

He noted that passing out the NCAA Tournament watches was icing on the cake.

“It hadn’t been done in awhile so to see the look in our guys’ eyes was great and we also gave them a plaque with a picture of us in the NCAA Tournament,” Anderson said. “That was special and I think sets the stage of things to come. “That was just the beginning.”

Both Portis and Qualls were honored for being named to the All-SEC postseason first and second teams, respectively.

“In order for us to be that kind of team this year, those guys really had to raise their level of play and guess what? They both did and they were recognized for it,” Anderson said.

Razorback senior Alandise Harris was not at the banquet as he is in Dallas currently in training for an NFL tryout.

“It’s amazing,” Anderson said. “People see his athletic ability. He was one of our better defenders and one of our more aggressive guys, one of our more physical players.

“If he has some hands, he might make somebody a good tight end. But I am sure he wants to pursue the basketball part of it as well.”

Harris – who has already graduated - and Rashad Madden – who plans to graduate after some online classes this summer - were the Razorbacks’ lone two seniors this season.



Madden hopes to continue his basketball career.

“I have some pretty good options,” Madden said. “I have some looks from some NBA (teams) and some great looks overseas as well. Right now I am still in training and getting prepared for the NBA Draft.”

• • •

ARKANSAS BASKETBALL AWARD WINNERS

• Most Outstanding Player Award: Bobby Portis

• Academic Excellence: Moses Kingsley

• Razorback Performance Award for performance in the weight room: Trey Thompson (who went from 289 when he arrived in June to 250 now)

• Free Throw Award: Rashad Madden (86 percent)

• Ironman award for Toughness: Anton Beard

• Razorback HAWG award goes to Michael Qualls (heart, grit, etc.)

• Chairman of The Boards: Bobby Portis

• Service Award for community involvement hours- Keaton Miles (leads all Arkansas athletes in service hours)

• Most Improved Player: Jacorey Williams

• Coach's Award: Manuale Watkins and Moses Kingsley (working hard and motivating teammates)

• Assist Award: Rashad Madden (164 this season and is fifth all-time on the list)

• Rim Protector Award: Bobby Portis

• Defense Award: Alandise Harris


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