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.
Hogs’ Portis, Kingsley get more time together
Arkansas' Bobby Portis (10) reacts to a foul against Missouri in the second half Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Usually when Arkansas forward Bobby Portis has gone to the bench to get a break this season, he’s been replaced by Moses Kingsley. When Portis has gone back in, Kingsley has come out.
The two 6-10 freshmen rarely have been in the game at the same time, but that changed last Saturday at LSU when Portis and Kingsley got their most extensive playing time together in the Razorbacks’ 88-74 loss to the Tigers.
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said he plans to continue playing Portis and Kingsley together tonight against Alabama even with the return of guard Michael Qualls and Alandise Harris from a one game suspension.
Arkansas vs. Alabama
WHEN 7:05 p.m.
WHERE Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville
RECORDS Arkansas 13-8, 2-6 SEC; Alabama 9-12, 3-5
SERIES Arkansas leads 28-27
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
TELEVISION SEC TV on KATV, Channel 7, in Little Rock, KHOG/KHBS, Channels 40/29, in Fayetteville and Fort Smith and KAIT, Channel 8, in Jonesboro.
Portis and Kingsley shared the court for a combined 8:46 at LSU, including a 6:29 span in the second half when Arkansas had an 18-4 run to cut the Tigers’ lead to 74-68.
“I think that was one of the more positive things that took place, seeing those guys out there,” Anderson said. “I thought they looked good together.
“I think we can see they feed off each other. They continue to really grasp playing at this level against some big bodies.”
Portis had 15 points, 5 rebounds, a career-high 5 steals and 2 blocked shots in 30 minutes going against LSU’s front line of 6-9 junior Johnny O’Bryant, 6-9 freshman Jarell Martin and 6-8 freshman Jordan Mickey. Kingsley had 3 points, 4 rebounds and 3 blocked shots in a career-high 19 minutes.
“They both help us out a lot with their length, and they protect the rim,” Arkansas senior guard Mardracus Wade said. “They’re both energy guys. They come out with the mind-set they want to get stops. That’s what we need to win.
“I like seeing those guys both out there. I think they can contribute a lot.”
O’Bryant, Mickey and Martin combined for 60 points and 25 rebounds against Arkansas, but Portis and Kingsley were able to make plays against them at times.
Portis hit jump shots for Arkansas’ first two baskets after averaging 5.7 points in the Razorbacks’ first three SEC road games at Texas A&M, Georgia and Tennessee. Portis also had a second-half dunk at LSU.
“I didn’t think Bobby was intimidated at all,” LSU Coach Johnny Jones said. “He’s really good around the basket. He can certainly step away from it. He challenged us at the rim as well. He can really run the floor.”
Jones said he believes Portis and Kingsley can be a strong SEC tandem.
“I think they’ll really be great together,” Jones said. “Mike has done a tremendous job with those guys helping them grow, and as they continue to gain experience they’ll continue to get better.”
Portis said he thought he did “pretty well” against the Tigers’ physical front line. He finished 6 of 13 from the field.
“There were some plays I should have dunked the ball instead of trying to lay it up, but that just comes with experience,” he said.
“Bobby played well,” said Arkansas senior guard Kikko Haydar, who scored a career-high 15 points at LSU.“He had some rough times, but he had about five big guys coming at him.
“Bobby’s going to be fine. Bobby will learn. Bobby’s going to be the great player that everyone expects him to be.”
Portis and Kingsley are close friends and were AAU teammates for the Arkansas Wings’ national championship team in the summer of 2012 before both signed with the Razorbacks last spring. They have been eager to be in games at the same time this season.
“Coach is saying we brought toughness and rebounding to the team,” Portis said. “For these last 10 games, I think we’ll play even more together.”
Portis, from Little Rock Hall, is the Razorbacks’ first McDonald’s All-American in 10 years. Kingsley, a native of Nigeria who moved to Mississippi when he was a high school sophomore and played at Huntington (W.Va.) Prep last season, was a top-50 player according to most recruiting services.
“I got a chance to see a lot of those guys when they were in high school and really was impressed with them,” Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said. “I think they’ve really acclimated themselves well to the team.”
Kingsley is averaging 4.7 points and 3.6 rebounds while averaging 11.6 minutes per game. He also leads the team with 35 blocked shots in 20 games.
Portis, the only Razorback to start all 21 games, is averaging 12.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in 26.5 minutes. In SEC games he is averaging 11.4 points and 7.0 rebounds. In Portis’ past three SEC games he’s averaging 16.3 points, including 18 against Auburn and 16 against Missouri.
“I think Bobby is going to be a terrific player,” Missouri Coach Frank Haith said. “He’s got great length and size, and obviously he’s got a really good skill set.
“Just like all freshmen, the more court time he gets, the better he’s going to be. But I think he’s going to be one of the better low-post players in our league eventually.”
Haydar said that as a perimeter player, he liked what he saw inside from Portis and Kingsley against LSU.
“It definitely adds much needed size, and they have chemistry together,” Haydar said. “They’re used to playing together.”
Now the former Wings teammates need to get used to playing together more for the Razorbacks.
Sports, Pages 19 on 02/05/2014