Coach Mike Neighbors enters his sixth season as the head coach at Arkansas and this season he has a short but loaded roster this season with four returning starters. Coach Neighbors said in todays press conference that he felt his team has peaked too soon in previous years so he wanted to give them a couple extra weeks to get situated before they started camp.
Senior Makayla Daniels has started all but four games in her career at Arkansas. She will run the offense at point guard.
Coach Neighbors likes to call her a points guard because she can give you buckets on any given night.
“You’re not going to see anything new with Mak,” said Neigbors. “The ownership and the voice she talked about. She’s always been a reluctant talker, a lot of times she had a dominant personality in the room. I would anticipate seeing a kid who’s not looking over the sideline for a play. She’s going to be calling her own plays a lot.”
Alongside Daniels you have the reigning SEC Freshman Player of the Year, Samara Spencer. Spencer, a sophomore from Ft. Lauderdale, (Fla.) avergaged 12.2 points per game and started in 27 games. She had to step up last year when Daniels went out and that includes a season high 22 points against Missouri on the road.
Down low you have Jersey Wolfenbarger who will have a huge impact on rebounds and second chance points. Wolfenbarger, who played in 30 games last season, starting 23, earned herself SEC All-Freshman team and averaged 7.2 pts and 4.3 boards per game. Having more depth inside this season will allow her to be more of a stretch 4 or even sometimes at the 3 spot depending on the lineup.
Erynn Barnum comes into her Senior year played a key role in the starting rotation last year. Barnum was averaging a double-double before being set back due to injury. She adds depth and length to this roster and has really grown her confidence on the court the last three seasons and will be pushed by Dauda but will make both players better.
Arkansas had two transfers who sat out last year one due to injury and one to eligibility (mid season transfer). Maryam Dauda, the Baylor transfer, is from Bentonville. She out all last season with an injury but comes back home to Arkansas. Dauda will give the Razorbacks a huge spark inside not only with rebounding but will also be a scoring threat.
“[Dauda] will be a problem,” said Neigbors.
The other transfer, Saylor Poffenbaefer, came in from UCONN. The 6-2 redshirt freshman transfered in mid-season but saw action in 12 games there before coming to Arkansas.
Neighbors polled the team and they all stated that they felt like they just needed one more piece to the team and they got that in 6-1 Chrissy Carr. Carr a 6-1 senior guard from Syracuse started in all 29 games and averaged 11.7 points per game. Carr said she has learned just as much from Makayla as she has been able to help the team in her transition to Arkansas.
“It took a little bit to get used to the terminology here,” said Carr. “They were speaking in a different language.”
Arkansas returns two key role players on the defensive side of the ball in Emrie Ellis and Rylee Langerman. Both stepped up big when they were called upon. Ellis is improving her offensive game and is already gaining more confidence in her shooting ability. Coach was asked if she grew in the offseason and he said she just walks around with confidence and her shoulders back which helps her thrive when she is on the court.
Langerman is that dog that will claw and fight for every loose ball and rebound. The 5-9 junior from Norman, Okla. played a huge role in the rotation last season. She is the “glue girl”. As much as she impacted the team on the court her smile and personality off the court is even brighter. No matter what she does she always has a smile on her face and gives it her all.
This team coming off back to back first round exits but have assembled an exceptional group of talent to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Getting all the restrictions of COVID behind them they are looking to make some serious noise not only in the SEC but becoming a household name in the nation.