SEC Summer Basketball Notebook: Mike Anderson will have senior-laden team

Justin Rowland, Publisher
Cats Illustrated

Going into the 2017-18 season there's a big question hovering over the Arkansas basketball program: How will the Razorbacks replace players like Dusty Hannahs, Moses Kingsley and Manuale Watkins?

A fair question, no doubt. But don't forget that Mike Anderson returns a senior-laden team that will have plenty of experience once again.



“We lost some tremendous players in Hannahs, Moses Kingsley and Watkins," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson told reporters on this week's SEC teleconference.

But he sounded more optimistic than concerned.

"We'll have six seniors on (their) basketball team (with) Anton Beard being one of the guys who probably has the most experience," Anderson said. "This will be his fourth year coming up. He's doing a tremendous job leading, working hard..."

Anderson mentioned Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon, "two guards who put their names in the draft and came back. ... which I thought was a very smart move to continue their development. I could see them stepping up and becoming even more complete players this year."

But it won't be easy to replace the players Arkansas is losing. Hannahs was the team's leading scorer (14.4 PPG) and was a deep threat who stretched the court. Kingsley was a second team All-SEC pick and one of the nation's top defensive players. Watkins started as many games as Hannahs and while he didn't post big numbers, he was the team's steals leader and facilitated as much as anyone.

Under Anderson, Arkansas calls on a lot of players to contribute. They share the wealth; meaning they share minutes and, usually, the scoring load. That means it might be easier to replace outgoing production and leadership, since so many players on the roster return with game experience.

Incoming four-star center Darius Gaffard could be part of the solution when it comes to replacing Kingsley inside. He suffered a knee injury, but on Tuesday, Anderson said that wasn't holding him back.

"Daniel's doing fine," Anderson said. "He took (health) exams, he cleared, he's been working out. There are probably some things he's got to strengthen in those muscles in his legs."

In Gaffard, Anderson said he believes the Razorbacks have a "tremendous player" who will make a big impact during his time in Fayetteville.

"Daniel Gaffard is long. He's got a 7'3 wingspan, he can run the floor, he's very agile," he said.

He also pointed to Dustin Thomas and Adrio Bailey as part of his next nucleus, or core.

In short, Arkansas is a program with a lot to replace but a program with a lot returning. The question is whether the experienced players who will step into leadership roles can become standouts as opposed to deferring or playing roles.

But, following a second round appearance in the NCAA tournament that nearly saw Arkansas knock off eventual champion North Carolina, Anderson believes his program is moving in the right direction.

"I really do," Anderson said. "I said that at our banquet. I just think, things ... it seems like they feel right."

His returning seniors were a "big cog" in the wheel, he said, and he believes his team will have depth and experience in the backcourt.

"Will it be by committee?" he asked rhetorically. "Will CJ Jones showcase the things he did on the foreign tour trip? I think he's more ready. Can we get Arlando Cook out of that JUCO first year (slump)? ... as a coach you're going to have options and I really like the young guys."

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