With all but one of his 2016 signees now on campus, there is no doubt that Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson is smiling and confident about what the future holds
Anderson, whose team will play four exhibition games during a tour of Spain August 6-16, made that clear during an interview with Bo Mattingly Wednesday at the SEC Media Days in Destin, Fla.
“I like my team, let me put it that way,” Anderson said. “I really like my team and I think through the course of this summer we will have an opportunity to work out and practice 10 days prior to going over to Spain and I will have a better picture of what this team could be like.
“I am excited. I have got all my guys on campus. Today was the first day of school and now I am ready to get back and get into what the kids call “The Lab.”
Razorback signees Jaylen Barford (6-5, 210), Daryl Macon (6-4, 180), Arlando Cook (6-9, 215), Adrio Bailey (6-8, 205), C.J. Jones (6-4, 180) and walk on Robert Glasper (5-11, 170) are on campus with Brachen Hazen (6-8, 200) set to arrive in less than two weeks.
“I get on campus on June 13th after my Indiana All-Star week,” Hazen said.
Colorado transfer Dustin Thomas (6-7, 225) and Drury transfer DeShaun Stark (6-5, 185) will be eligible this year and gives Arkansas nine new faces on the roster.
They will join seniors Moses Kingsley (6-10), Dusty Hannahs (6-3, 203) and Manuale Watkins (6-3, 205) along with juniors Anton Beard (6-0, 195) and Trey Thompson (6-10, 250) on the squad.
“I think with this team here, we have a chance to do some special things,” Anderson said. “We have guys that fit what are doing.”
Barford, Macon and Bailey are all junior college transfers, something Anderson felt he needed.
“I thought we needed some seasoning,” Anderson said. “With the guys coming back and the guards we had coming back, I thought we really needed to step it up another notch and get some size with our guards.
“…I also think we have added a lot more depth. Those guys still have to go through the process of getting acclimated at this level, but I just think with the guys coming back – Dusty Hannahs, Moses Kingsley and Manny Watkins – are going to really set the tone.
“The junior college guys are going to be able to follow quicker than say the high school kids, but that is not to say the high school kids can’t.
“But that is why this summer is going to be a big one for our team.”
Anderson took a lot of criticism last season during a 16-16 season that followed up a 27-9 campaign where the Razorbacks made the NCA Tournament round of 32 before losing to North Carolina.
The Razorbacks were left short-handed when starts Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls declared for the NBA Draft and incoming signee Ted Kapita was not academically eligible.
“You have got to have thick skin,” Anderson said. “But with that being said, I know what is in my heart and I know what is getting ready to take place.
“I know what the standards are at Arkansas and what took place and that wasn’t Mike Anderson and that wasn’t Arkansas.
“Now you know what? That makes us even hungrier as we get prepared and those years to come.”
While Anderson loves having an experience squad, he also know that he has to land players whose goal is to play in the NBA – be it sooner or later.
“I think that is a big key – you have got to have players and to win at the level we want to win, you have got to have kids that have pro aspirations,” Anderson said. “You want talented kids and in today’s time, you have to make sure you have a plan A, a plan B and a plan C.”
“With him having a chance to test the waters, but at the end of the day I think he made the right decision to come back and get better and put himself in even better position to be drafted.
“People like winners.”
He also knows that it is not just sports thing where kids are looking for a big pay day quick.
“Everybody is in a hurry and it is not just necessarily basketball. It’s not necessarily just football. It’s in society. Kids graduate now and they want a $200,000 job right off the bat.
“There is a process that you have to go through.”
• • •
Per SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, the SEC will implement a rule where league teams may not schedule a non-conference game with anyone whose three-year RPI average is above 175.
To this point, there has been no clarification when the rule will be put in place this season are next.
Arkansas had five teams on its schedule last season whose RPI was above 175.