Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Anderson: Razorbacks looking for playmakers
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson yells instruction sot his players Wednesday, March 13, 2014 during their SEC Tournament game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
FAYETTEVILLE - Ky Madden led Arkansas with 91 assists this season while helping the Razorbacks to a 22-12 record and an NIT berth, but point guard isn’t his natural position.
“I thought Ky had the ball in his hands a lot, and there were times when he had it too much,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said Wednesday while recapping the season. “He was trying to create for himself and for others.
“You push him to an off guard position, then I think he’s a lot more effective.”
The arrival of point guards Anton Beard and Jabril Durham and shooting guard Nick Babb next season should help the Razorbacks be more productive on the perimeter,along with the return of Madden, Michael Qualls and Anthlon Bell - who combined to hit 142 three-point baskets this season.
Having more options with ball-handlers and shooters - players who can create scoring opportunities for themselves and others, as Anderson put it - may be what the Razorbacks need to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008.
“We didn’t do a good job of getting into the gaps and attacking,” Anderson said of Arkansas’ struggles on offense, especially against zone defenses. “There are times in a game when you’ve got to have somebody that you can put the ball in their hands and they can get you into something and make plays.”
Anderson isn’t allowed to comment on Durham, who has committed to Arkansas after averaging 21.2 points and 6.7 assists at Seminole (Okla.) State Junior College but hasn’t yet signed a national letter of intent.
Beard and Babb signed with Arkansas last November along with forward Trey Thompson.
Beard, 6-1, is rated the No. 19 point guard and No. 92 overall prospect in the nation by ESPN. He averaged 19.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.8steals and 2.2 assists as a senior while leading North Little Rock to the Class 7A state title.
“I like his toughness,” Anderson said. “He’s a gym rat and has a good basketball IQ , and he wants to be a Razorback. He wants to be here really, really bad.”
The 6-4 Babb - whose older brother, Chris, plays for the Boston Celtics - is rated the nation’s No. 36 shooting guard by ESPN. He averaged 13.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists for Arlington (Texas) this season, was named the District 3-5A MVP and has been selected to play in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches All-Star Game.
“We’re real excited about him,” Anderson said.
Thompson, 6-9 and 260 pounds, averaged 19 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists while leading Forrest City to the Class 5A state title. He is rated the No. 31 power forward in the nation by ESPN and will join an Arkansas front line that includes 6-10 sophomores Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley.
“He’s a guy with size and a great pair of hands,” Anderson said.
The signees need to continue to progress this summer when they arrive on campus, he said.
“As they get ready to make that next step, this summer is going to be important for those guys to come in and get acclimated not only with the surroundings and the university, but with their teammates,” Anderson said. “I thought that was big here with this team - the bonding that took place.
“I think as those guys come in, our guys will open their arms up to them and they will get a chance to learn their ropes before we get to fall.”
Another newcomer for the Razorbacks will be 6-7 junior forward Keaton Miles, who redshirted this season after transferring to Arkansas from West Virginia. Anderson said Miles recovered from a wrist injury that slowed him early in the season and that he helped make practices more competitive.
“Once he got cleared to practice, you saw an athletic, slashing forward,” Anderson said. “He’s rugged. When he gets in there he doesn’t mind banging.
“He can run the floor, but I think he’s going to learn how to run the floor like we want to. He’s a guy that’s got a nose for the ball.”
Sports, Pages 22 on 04/03/2014