Rashad Madden, Rickey Scott and Bobby Portis ...
Razorbacks Basketball Practice Report:
Hogs' frontcourt ahead of backcourt
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson talks to forward Jacorey Williams during a 2012 practice at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Practice on Wednesday was a scrimmage. The squad was broken up into Red and White and played in four-minute segments. Here are some of my observations about the team.
Red Team: F Bobby Portis, F Coty Clarke, F Alandise Harris, G Rickey Scott, G Anthlon Bell, G Michael Qualls, G Fred Gulley, G Kikko Haydar
White Team: F Moses Kingsley, F Jacorey Williams, G Davion Spivey, G Mardracus Wade, G Rashad Madden, G Manuale Watkins, G Dee Wagner
The Red team maintained a double-digit lead throughout the scrimmage and looked better overall.
General Team Observations
The offense looks much more active. The first part of the practice was dedicated to the halfcourt offense, and it looks like Anderson’s read-and-react halfcourt offense has developed a little more among these players. The Razorbacks were often caught flat-footed with no movement in halfcourt sets last season, but the whole offense was more active with more decisive passes. Obviously whether this carries over into the season still remains to be seen.
The matchup zone looks very improved. Both sides struggled to make entry passes against it. The defense looks a lot “longer” with lots of batted balls. It looks like specific attention has been paid to halfcourt offense and defense, which is a good sign.
The backcourt was less impressive than the frontcourt, in my opinion. The positives included Anthlon Bell, who drained a couple of threes but also looked more comfortable in the offense, showing some versatility by driving and pulling up off the dribble. Mardracus Wade was impressive defensively, getting a couple of steals. He spearheaded a couple of fast breaks for the White team as well. If he can maintain his defensive intensity and get his three-point shooting percentage back up over 33 percent (he shot just 29 percent last season) then the team will benefit greatly.
There some negatives from the backcourt. Michael Qualls still really didn’t look like he fit well into the system. He appeared to just kind of be wandering around out there, occasionally driving or taking a pass or scooping up a rebound. He scored 2 points from what I watched (his team scored over 60 while I was watching). I also didn’t see any notable point guard play. Kikko Haydar is easily the best point guard on the team. While he was manning the point, the Red offense was extremely efficient. Madden did a decent job for the White, and the fact that he was working with an arguably less talented half-squad (and certainly less talented frontcourt) may have affected his play. Dee Wagner, Fred Gulley, Rickey Scott, and Wade all took turns manning the point at various intervals but none were overly impressive.
Here’s where the excitement will be this season. The best word to describe the frontcourt is active. Everyone is talking about Bobby Portis, but he’s probably not where the focus should be. Portis was indeed impressive, absolutely controlling the ball around the rim. I hate to compare Portis to a player so up-and-down as Michael Washington, but Portis does remind me of Washington on a good day. His play is very smooth, he grabs rebounds, is a presence defensively, and keeps the ball high, which is an important trait for a big man. Portis was a little finesse though, so I’m worried that on the road opposing big men may be able to out-muscle him and not get called.
The best player on the court in my opinion was Alandise Harris. Numerous times Harris was able to put the ball on the floor and drive into the paint and finish. He showed nice touch on his short-range jumper as well. I loved the way he attacked the basket. He wasn’t a factor in most fast breaks, so I get the sense that he’ll be a halfcourt guy used to attack inside, either scoring a bunch himself or using his game to open up the outside shot. Given Arkansas’ need to get more production from halfcourt, Portis and Harris will be game-changers this season.
Coty Clarke still has a nice jump shot. He’ll be another scoring machine, almost certainly bettering his 7.6 points per game average last year. His defense and rebounding also looked good, but he did turn it over a couple of times. He also committed a few fouls. Jacorey Williams is a player with nice potential. I didn’t see much production, but he looked a little more comfortable in the framework of the offense. He also rebounded well, both offensively and defensively. I’d prefer to see him attack more, as his soft jumper is all he’s got right now.
Finally, Moses Kingsley blocked a couple of shots. He wasn’t as impressive defensively as I anticipated, but he also better offensively than I anticipated. He went up strong a couple of times. I liked his rebounding as well. I thought that last season the guards had too many rebounds. In this practice, I think all the forwards rebounded better, which usually means that the fundamentals of defensive rebounding have improved.
Three I was impressed by
Alandise Harris, Bobby Portis, Kikko Haydar
Three I think may be improved
Mardracus Wade, Rickey Scott, Rashad Madden
Three I was underwhelmed by
Michael Qualls, Dee Wagner, Jacorey Williams