What if UA would have had this hoops dream team?

Hawgs Illustrated recruiting editor Dudley E. Dawson looks back at some of the recruits that Arkansas missed on that could have had the Razorbacks going through March Madness instead of March Sadness this year.

Like a lot basketball fans in this state, I spent Sunday rooting hard for former University of Arkansas assistant basketball coach Mike Anderson and his University of Alabama-Birmingham squad to take down the University of Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.

It's not that I have anything against UK - far from it. In fact, one of my best friends is from there and I hate to see him miserable. Plus the Wildcats usually do things with class and character and their fans have always given the UA program its just due.

But Coach Anderson and former UA and current UAB assistant Scott Edgar have both been friends for nearly 20 years now.

Although we only talk occasionally these days, I cheer for their success and loved seeing the joy on both of their faces along with that of former UA manager and Arkansas high school coach Matt Zimmerman.

It was more than just a basketball relationship as Mike and his wife Marcheita and my late wife Laura and I raised our families in the same neighborhood, broke bread away from the gym many a time (gosh his little one could eat) and certainly had a bond that went beyond the bounderies of media-coach.

The Andersons were certainly a great comfort to my family as my wife battled cancer just as I hope that I was some help for them at the end of the contentious Nolan Richardson tenure.

Perhaps that's one reason why I wrote a column right after Coach Richardson's dismissal calling for Coach Anderson to be named the new head coach here - albeit knowing that UA officials and boosters likely weren't going to let that happen because of the way NR went kicking and screaming out the door.

They wanted a clean break , got one and hired Kent State's Stan Heath, who I have all the confidence in the world will soon be sitting in the Sweet 16 limelight that Mike now enjoys with UAB.

It occurred to me going into the NCAA Tournament that if UAB had success that the wolves would come out after Heath, who has gone 21-35 in his two seasons here.

With Anderson going to the NIT last season, the NCAA this season and rolling up 43 wins in that time, it was bound to happen.

What if?

Well, it's a game we can play for an endless amount of time because there are no right or wrong answers.

It's my guess that Arkansas might have had a few more - but not a lot - more wins these past two seasons simply because the Razorbacks would have played more of an up-tempo game for which these these guys were recruited.

I hesitant because I wonder who would have played point guard? Would it have been forwards J.J. Sullinger, who transferred to Ohio State, or Andre Iguodala, who ended up at Arizona?

Would both have stayed if Mike had been giving the job?

They would have been the only two scholarship candidates because of Charles Tatum's knee blowout and because Arkansas had already signed five players and had no other scholarships to offer.

Maybe Mike would have cut someone loose and signed someone else? Doubtful, but who knows? Why stop the what if game there? Would Coach Anderson have signed Ronnie Brewer? Maybe.

Certainly would have had more of a chance than Richardson, who had not been to see him play.

Let's take this what if game a little farther, not just with the coach, but with the following players - all of which I did stories for Hawgs Illustrated on when Arkansas was recruiting them.

What if Coach Richardson would have taken that last home visit with UConn center Emeka Okafor instead of deeming it not necessary?

Would Okafor - the nation's best college player - be the center at Arkansas right now instead of ending up calling a media member for a number so he could tell the Razorbacks he was headed to UConn?

What about power forward Lawrence Roberts, who told me how much he loved Arkansas back in high school? Wouldn't he have been nice to have here? But he was deemed a "Plan B" guy, didn't get the attention and went to Baylor.

What if 6-8 small forward Darius Rice would have chosen Arkansas instead of Miami after a much ballhooyed recruitment saga?

What if Oklahoma State point guard John Lucas, who also went to Baylor, had ended up a Razorback? Arkansas had a shot there as well, but decided against offering.

And what if the Razorbacks threw Jonathon Modica and Ronnie Brewer into the mix to play shooting guard?

Or what if Coach Richardson and Coach Anderson would have went after 6-7 DeMario Eddins a second time instead of bypassing the guy who is now starring for Anderson at UAB.

It might not have mattered if Stan Heath, Mike Anderson or myself were coaching that team. It would have been pretty salty.

Of course, if that collection of talent had made it here my guess is Nolan Richardson would have still been the coach here anyway. There would have been lots of March Madness, no lawsuits and plenty of happy people around.

It didn't happen, but to Heath's credit something good appears close to that happening when you look at who is coming into the program next season.

I'll take my shot next season with Modica, Brewer, Olu Famutimi, Vincent Hunter, Mo Hargrow, Michael Jones, Eric Ferguson, Rashard Sullivan, Preston Cranford, Al Jefferson, Darian Townes, Steven Hill, Charles Thomas, Dontell Jefferson and Marcus Monk.

Mike - wherever he ends up - vs. Stan in something important next year? I'd be loving that.

What if?


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