Basketball season will be here before we know it. While the official season start date will likely be moved back to the week of November 25, teams all over the nation are already practicing and preparing for the most wonderful time of the year.
Here at Arkansas Fight, Ryan Bolding and myself will be previewing a different player each week and what to expect this season. First up is Desi Sills.
#3 Desi Sills – JR. 6-1 202
Sills has had an interesting career thus far at Arkansas. The Jonesboro native was a composite 3-Star ranked #256 in his class. In my opinion, he has outplayed that rank so far in his career. Often times a sub-200 player doesn’t have much of an impact during their first 2 years on campus in the SEC. Desi has definitely had an impact.
As a freshman, Sills played in all 34 games, but saw the floor just 17.1 minutes per game. He came off the bench in relief of Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones. In his first 26 games, he averaged just 3.1 points per game on 40% shooting and 31.4% shooting from 3. Then a switch was flipped.
Arkansas was in the middle of a 6-game losing streak and Mike Anderson needed a spark. So he inserted Sills into the starting lineup for the final 8 games of the season where Arkansas went 4-4. Sills took advantage of his new role in the starting lineup and performed at a surprising level for freshman who had played so little. In those 8 games, he averaged 10.1 points, 1.6 assists, and 1.0 steal per game on 50% shooting with 64.3% from the 3.
As a sophomore, Sills production rose with opportunity, but it didn’t go like most people expected. Through the first 7 games, Sills shot just 6.7% from 3. The new look Eric Musselman offense created plenty of open 3s, but Sills was unable to capitalize. You could see the frustration on his face. It was tough to watch.
But what is forgotten is his production in other areas during those 7 games. He still averaged 9.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.1 steals, and shot an unbelievable 61% from 2.
How he bounced back was impressive. Over the next 25 games, Sills averaged 11.0 points on 44.1% shooting with 39.8% shooting from 3.
Now in year 3, his role changes. Mason Jones, Isaiah Joe, Jalen Harris, and Jimmy Whitt are all gone. He is the leading returner on a team with 12 newcomers. He will be a key leader for this team. His experience in the SEC is something that the newcomers don’t have. His experience playing guard at this level will be key in teaching and leading the freshman playing Division I ball for the first time.
In an interview posted by the official Arkansas Athletic social media accounts, Sills said he was “thankful for quarantine” because he had “fallen out of love with basketball over the last 2 years, but now has fallen back in love with the game.” Sills is known for that “dawg mentality.” I think it will be on full display this season.
What will his on-court role look like? This team is full of talent. There is no questioning that. As a freshman, he didn’t produce much off the bench, but was outstanding when he started. As a sophomore, he started 24 of the 32 games, but put up better numbers off the bench.
So where will Eric Musselman use him? He is the leader of this team in a lot of ways. The addition of experienced grad transfers like Justin Smith, Vance Jackson, and Jalen Tate will put leadership around him, but Sills knows what it means to be a Razorback. In any normal season, Sills would be a guarantee to start, but this is a loaded roster. There have been several argue for him to be the spark off the bench that plays starter type minutes. It’s a good argument to be made.
24 games as a starter last year:
9.4 points on 37.4% shooting with 25.2% from 3.
8 games off the bench last year:
14.4 points on 59.4% shooting with 55.6% from 3.
No matter how Eric Musselman decides to use Desi Sills this year, he is the heart and soul of this team. He’s a fan favorite and has the potential to have a big year.