November means the start of basketball season, and Mike Anderson’s sixth team at Arkansas will have a much different look than what we saw last year. Everywhere you look on their social media accounts, there is “The Fastest 40 Just Got Faster,” so is that really the case? Last year’s entire incoming recruiting class is already gone, and only five players return from last year’s team. Despite that Anderson and the players have talked about how they think that this team will be significantly deeper and more experienced than last year. How is that? Well three of the top six JUCO recruits are on the hill, as well as some talented freshman and a transfer. Anderson has done well getting productive players in unconventional places, Coty Clarke and Jabril Durham were JUCO guys, Alandise Harris and Dusty Hannahs were both transfers. With that in mind there is this breakdown to familiarize yourself with the plethora of new players for when you tune into your first Razorback basketball game of the year and ask “who’s that?” about all five guys on the court.
The Returners – Anton Beard, Jr. (6-0, 198); Manuale Watkins, Sr. (6-3, 222)
If the games in Spain are any real indication, these two will be Anderson’s first choices off the bench this season, and they may not exclusively be playing point guard. Depending on different game situations and match ups we could see any combination of these guys and the wing players on the court. Those situations will be the key for who among these two plays when because their production was pretty similar last season, here are some stats from last year, guess which is which.
A: 19.7 mpg, 5.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.75 A/To, 0.8 spg
B: 20.9 mpg, 7.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.40 A/To, 1.04 spg
Player A is Watkins, and B is Beard, Watkins is a little more consistent while Beard is a little more dynamic but both bring a similar impact to the game. For Watkins, the biggest question will be if he can become a consistent offensive threat and improve from his 54% he shot at the free throw line last year. Beard had a good outside shooting year his freshman year at 35% from deep, but dropped to 29% last year. It will be interesting to see if missing the first half of last season impacted him and if that number rebounds or not.
The Newcomers – Jaylen Barford, Jr. (6-3, 202); RJ Glasper, Fr. (5-10, 168)
Barford might be the most exciting of the newcomers. He was the top ranked JUCO recruit coming into college basketball this year and he put up some huge stats there. He seems to be the most likely starter in place of Jabril Durham, who ran the floor well without scoring much. Expect Barford to do the same but as a much bigger scoring threat. Barford has nearly 20 more pounds on him than Durham did and because of that plays much more physically. In some highlight videos he showed the ability to both attack the rim and back down smaller point guards and hit the turn around jumper.
Glasper was probably going to be at the end of the bench this season anyways, but Anderson announced he will undergo surgery soon and the former high school teammate of Trey Thompson could very well end up redshirting this year.
On the Wings:
The Returners – Dusty Hannahs, Sr. (6-3, 210)
Dusty will have the greenest of green lights this season. The school record for most 3’s in a season is 102 and that could be in jeopardy this year. For reference, Dusty hit 81 3’s last season. He and Bell on the floor together were a unique problem for defenses, it will be interesting to see if Beard or one of the new guys can step up to be that second guy.
The Newcomers – Daryl Macon, Jr (6-3, 185); Adrio Bailey, Fr. (6-6, 204); C.J. Jones, Fr. (6-5, 175)
We’ve already covered that Macon, another JUCO transfer, can shoot the dang ball. Right now he looks the most likely to fill the starting spot left open by Bell’s departure and is the most likely to play like him as well. Macon will fire plenty of threes and get a good amount of steals as well.
Many, including Mike Anderson, have made the comparison that Adrio Bailey is similar to Michael Qualls and it’s easy to see why when looking at film of him. It’s important to take note that he isn’t going to step onto campus and be 2014-15 Qualls throwing down dunks left and right, he’s explosive but his lateral quickness could use some work. Expect Bailey’s numbers to look a lot more like Qualls’ freshman year stats rather than his junior year.
C.J. Jones has been NBA Jam-levels of on fire in his exhibition appearances so far. Jones averaged more points than minutes on the Spain trip, which is absurd. He also shot 75 percent in the Red-White game. Clearly he isn’t facing the same defensive pressure that he will in games, but those numbers certainly are eye-grabbing.
In the Post:
The Returners – Moses Kingsley, Sr. (6-10, 230); Trey Thompson, Jr. (6-9, 265)
We know what Moses brings to the table, him having a similar year to last year would be great but if he takes another step forward he could bring havoc to some games this year.
Thompson will be in the game to play defense and grab rebounds. He won’t score much, he only took 2 shots a game last year. I think we see a couple games where Anderson experiments and puts him and Moses in the starting lineup together, but I think he ends up in his best role of being the defensive anchor when Moses is taking a breather.
The Newcomers – Dustin Thomas, Jr. (6-8, 225); Arlando Cook, Jr. (6-8, 215); Brachen Hazen, Fr. (6-8, 195)
Thomas sat out last year after transferring from Colorado where he spent his freshman and sophomore seasons. His numbers don’t stand out, he averaged 4 ppg and 2.5 rpg and started sporadically, but he is the high post type of guy who could compliment Kingsley well. On the trip in Spain he started in three games alongside Kingsley. Put Thompson on the court with Moses and you have a traffic jam under the basket. Thomas can step out from the basket and knock down a jumper and give some lanes for guards to drive and cut into.
Arlando Cook is the third highly ranked JUCO player brought in this season. He is built more like Thomas than the two back to the basket post players. He shot very well in Spain and looks to be the most likely to be a second scoring threat from the forwards.
Hazen didn’t get a ton of time on the court in Spain but Jeff Long gave us a great catchphrase for him already.
He looks to be a prototypical stretch 4, if he gets meaningful time expect a lot of pick and pop action and was effective in the Red-White game, going 3-3 from deep.
Overall this team looks deeper and more talented than last season’s group. A lot of the newcomers fit Anderson’s Fastest 40 style better as well. The key to their success this year will be how quickly and effectively they play together and find their roles on the team successfully.