More than anyone, Arkansas head basketball coach Mike Anderson knows how much he lost off of last year’s 27-9 basketball team that won the program’s first NCAA Tournament game in seven year.
Star sophomore Bobby Portis was a first-round draft choice of the Chicago Bulls and junior Michael Qualls signed a free agent deal with Oklahoma City after getting injured right before the draft.
Seniors Ky Madden and Alandise Harris are both slated to play professionally in Poland and Japan, respectively, and power forward signee Ted Kapita didn’t get approved by the NCAA Clearing House and has since turned professional.
If that wasn’t enough, senior-to-be Jacorey Williams was booted from the program in August and sophomore Anton Beard and junior transfer Dustin Thomas suspended due to off-court legal issues.
“It’s year five for me here and I have seen some tremendous progress,” Anderson said. “I have told some people earlier that we are not going backwards.
“I know we lost quite a few players and if you look at last year’s team, eight players have moved on so what takes place this year?
“Well, it is an opportunity for some other guys to step up.
“…“We won 27 games last year and the guys who are returning know what it took to get there, and trust me, their work ethic has been descriptive of that. When I say that we are not going backwards, we are going to be product out there that is going to be a Razorback one, they are going to fight and scratch and claw and give themselves a chance to win.”
Arkansas began practice Monday morning at 6 a.m. - in the new Arkansas Performance Center - without Beard and Thomas.
“Unfortunately we are starting practice a couple of players down and that is Anton Beard and Dustin Thomas,” Anderson said. “I can’t say much about it because the legal process is taking place.
“But those guys are in school and doing what they are supposed to do in the classroom right now.”
Anderson made clear he still considers the two part of the program.
“They are still actually a part of our team, they are just not on the team right now,” Anderson said. “…They are able to continue to work and do things on their own that hopefully they can be reinstated.”
Anderson admitted to being blindsided by the arrest of Williams, Beard and Thomas on counterfeit charges.
"I think if you're in it long enough, you're going to have some of those things take place," Anderson said. "I was kind of blindsided by some of it, I'll say that. ... When it happens, I think the measure of, not only the person but the program, is how you deal with it. And I think we're dealing with it in the right way.
"..It's unfortunate that we had some individuals that, No. 1, they (did) some things that hurt the team. But at the end of the day, let's see how these other guys respond."
He stressed again he plans to look forward and not behind.
“I guess for a lot of people it could be one of those ‘what is going to happen next?’ But for me I was here for 17 years so I have seen the good, I have seen the bad, I have seen it all.
“It was just like when I came in and said you have got to have patience with me and I think it is the same thing with this team.
“This team will start out as one type of team early on and throughout the course of the year you will see a team that has to be one. That’s going to be our motto – We Are One.”
Arkansas will certainly be an underdog in general this season.
“It is a challenge and I think that is what youget into coaching for,” Anderson said. “It is a challenge and it is a great opportunity.
“Our guys have experienced a lot of winning and I think they enjoyed it.”