University of Arkansas

Attacking The Rim: A Brand New Direction

The loss of Bentonville star Malik Monk to Kentucky was certainly a heartbreaking one for Arkansas head basketball coach Mike Anderson, his staff and Razorback fans, but those counting him and the program out might want to look closer before doing so.

If you want to be sad or frustrated or even downright angry about Bentonville’s Malik Monk deciding to don Kentucky Blue instead of Arkansas Red, go right ahead.

I’m certainly not going to tell the passionate Razorback fan base how it should react over a particular situation.

I get the fact that is tough to see one of the homegrown ones turn his back on you, especially when he is arguably one of the best the state of Arkansas has ever produced.

There is no doubt that in the one year that he is likely to play college basketball, what has now been dubbed The Monk Brand would have helped the Razorback program both on and off the court in terms of his play and national perception. 

I do find it a bit disingenuous there is so much faux outrage from Kentucky fans and media and even a couple national writers who seem bent on taking shots at the hurt feelings of those in Arkansas.

It was certainly Twitter at its absolute non-finest on both sides of the aisle on Wednesday. 

There were threats against Monk and his older brother and former Arkansas athlete Marcus Monk, threats from Kentucky fans and even their beat writers to Arkansas fans and broadcasters and others just looking to stir things up.

As much as this was a heartbreaking decision for Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson and his staff, I am certain of one thing and that is they did everything they could to land the young man within the rules.

There’s actually not anything else they could have done within the rules for the Monk camp, who - regardless of what the narrative may be nationally - gave Arkansas plenty of reasons to believe there was more of a possibility of marriage than a parting of the ways after a long courtship.

It certainly didn’t help anybody’s mindset that on the same day as The Monk Brand went public with their decision to go to Kentucky that Akron downed Arkansas 88-80 at Bud Walton Arena in a game that was not really an upset.

After losing two NBA players, Arkansas is clearly in rebuilding mode – no ifs, ands or buts about that.

It’s not the same Razorback squad that beat Kentucky twice in 2014 or the one that lost to the Wildcats twice in 2015.

But as much as the Monk family decision was a blow, it has always been about what Arkansas was going to get around him if Malik and Marcus and his mother Jackie decided to follow the heart and not the head.

Be very clear, you should go wherever you want. You owe nobody anything.

Fortunately for Arkansas, it has indeed signed one of the nation’s top 2016 players even if he isn’t the one playing his hoops nearby.

That would be McMinnville, Tenn., Motlow State Community College point guard Jaylen Barford (6-5, 210), the nation’s top junior college player who just extended his streak of games with at least 30 points to six.

He’s not only leading the nation in scoring at 30.1 points per game, but also averaging 7.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

Barford even dropped in a game-winner during his current spree as he hit a shot the buzzer to down Volunteer State CC 88-87 last Saturday. 

He followed that up with 30 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals in an 85-66 win over Snead College on Tuesday night. 

Barford is hitting 62 percent from the field, 40 percent from the 3-point line and 81 percent from the free throw line so far this season.

He is simply the real deal and very likely the next player that Arkansas will send to the NBA.

Barford is a legitimate NBA prospect and is one of three top-flight junior college players that Anderson has signed in the 2016 class.

He’s also landed former Little Rock Parkview and pure-shooting Holmes, Miss., Community College shooting guard Daryl Macon (6-4, 180), the nation’s No. 2 junior college prospect. 

Macon is tearing it up as well and was just named the MACJC Player of the Week after averaging 31 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists and 2.5 steals while knocking down 10-of-17 3-pointers.

He is averaging 23.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists while shooting 41.9 percent from 3-point range and 84.6 percent from the free throw line for Holmes (5-0).

Arkansas also added Warner, Okla., CC power forward Arlando Cook (6-9, 215) – the nation’s fourth-best junior college player.

Cook is averaging 15.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game for Connors (6-1).

The Razorbacks also signed  Campti, La., Lakeview forward Adrio Bailey (6-8, 205) and the stated intent is to add some bigs in the spring.

Arkansas does not have the number one class in the country, one that Kentucky now has with the addition of Monk to its one and done collection.

The Razorbacks clearly have not gotten on the one-and-done train, something Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski used to rail against, but has recently purchased a ticket.

When you throw in former Arkansas star Bobby Portis leaving for the NBA after a couple of seasons, it seems that the Razorbacks have moved in a new direction for 2016.

Not to mention, 2017 Arkansas commit Daniel Gafford, a 6-10, 220-pound junior center who is viewed as an NBA prospect.

Let’s call it two-and-done. 

Will it work? Only time will tell. 

But there were plenty of people counting out former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson after his first year.

Anderson, who has never had a losing season as a head coach, is a disciple of Richardson and one thing is for sure.

They don’t walk around with a chip on their shoulder when you count them out.

It’s more of a Redwood.

He's loading up with some toughness that hasn't been seen around here in awhile-since his mentor was leading the program to the national championship.

I sure wouldn't bet against him.

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