Mike Anderson doesn't expect to be doing a season wrapup in mid March next season. The Arkansas basketball coach expects to be in the NCAA tournament. And, he expects all the underclassmen on the current roster to return next season.
Anderson was asked specifically about rumors concerning freshman Jimmy Whitt at his season wrap on Monday. Anderson said he "anticipates everyone back" and said next season starts Monday when players return from spring break.
Anderson gave players off from basketball this past week after losing in the first game of the SEC tournament. They went home for spring break this week. He'll meet with each player individually next week.
Whitt averaged 17.2 minutes and 6.1 points this past season. His minutes were 13.8 in SEC play. He started 10 games in the nonconference season, but none in SEC play when Dusty Hannahs took the starting spot on the wing. Hannahs led the Hogs in scoring with 16.5 points per game, scoring 33 in the finale in the SEC tournament, a 68-61 loss to Florida.
"The offseason starts next week," Anderson said. "I anticipate everyone back.
"I will meet with every player after spring break. They've had a two-week window. They worked on the books last week and they had spring break last week."
Anderson was asked if he felt pressure to make the NCAA tournament next year. He's taken Arkansas to the Big Dance only once in five seasons. The Hogs were 16-16 this past season, including 9-9 in the SEC.
"Our standards are tremendously high here," he said. "For us, we are not satisfied with 16-16.
"I don't anticipate talking with you guys at this time next year. We will be in the tournament."
The NCAA tournament?
"Yes, that's the goal," he said. "I expect to be there every year."
The drive to get to the tournament begins with offseason workouts slated to begin Monday. Some of the key pieces to the team arrive in the summer in the form of a highly regarded recruiting class that features three of the nation's top junior college performers. Anderson said there will be an August tour in Spain to jump start team chemistry.
"We've got three junior college players, each of them the best at their position in the country," he said. "We don't have a lot of time. So we want to get the bonding process started. You can go on a summer tour every four years and this is the fourth year. So we are allowed a tour and we will go to Spain.
"You are allowed that 10 days of practice and we are going to use it. It's so important for the new guys. We want to come together quicker than most. We've got to start right now. We can't wait until the fall."
The junior college stars are 6-9 forward Arlando Cook from Connors, 6-5 point guard Jaylen Barford and 6-4 guard Daryl Macon.
"Macon is a scorer," Anderson said. "He's like Bobby Portis, an Arkansas kid who relishes the opportunity to put on a Razorback uniform. He's much like Bobby, a gym rat. Number one, he wants to be here. He's proud of his state.
"He's gritty and tough. He can put the ball on the floor and he can score it. He's long and lanky."
On Barford, Anderson said, "He's a pass first guy. He's considered the best point guard in the country. He's 210 and a beast. He's athletic and can really see. He commands respect from the guys on the floor. He was like that with our guys when he was here."
Cook fills a big need on a team that did not have a small forward.
"He's something we were missing," Anderson said. "He's a quick power forward who go inside and outside. He does the little things like take charges.
"These three guys were the best at their positions in the junior colleges. They are already bonding with our guys. A lot of texting is taking place."
Anderson said the Hogs have good pieces returning, including Hannahs, Kingsley and others.
"Dusty got better during his redshirt season," Anderson said. "He got tougher going against Ky Madden, Alandise Harris and Bobby Portis. He played with more toughness and we saw him get better this season, too. It sets up for a big senior season.
"I think we have the core group set. Manny Watkins is going to be a senior and have a big year. We are excited about the group.
"Trey Thompson got better this year. This was like his first year. And I expect him to make another jump next season.
"Jimmy Whitt, it was typical for a freshman. It's a learning experience. He needs to get stronger. Strength will be big for him. I think it's like all freshmen, it's a process. It was a process for guys like Anthlon Bell and Anton Beard. You just can't rush the process."
Dustin Thomas redshirted after transferring from Colorado. The 6-8 forward had to sit out the first semester because of off the court issues.
"He's hungry," Anderson said. "He's getting better. He had to sit out awhile, so when he got out there for his half season, he was hungry. He's rugged. He was pushing guys around. He still needs to get stronger, but I like his rugged nature. He's mean."