Healthy future Razorback Desi Sills striving to follow up hoops perfection

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Friday, October 6, 2017
Desi Sills for recruiting story/column
Desi Sills for recruiting story/column

— After a summer of healing, Arkansas basketball commit Desi Sills of Jonesboro is ready to try and follow up on a perfect campaign.

Sills (6-1, 180), who took his official visit to Fayetteville last weekend, didn't play in most of this spring and summer’s Arkansas Hawks’ AAU circuit to heal up from tendinitis in both of his knees.

“It was the best thing that I could have done to get healthy and ready to have the best senior season that I could,” Sills said. “I feel really good and I think I am a much better player because I spent time once I came back working on everything in my game every day.”

Sills took his official visit to Arkansas with fellow Razorback 2018 pledges Ethan Henderson (6-9, 190) of Little Rock Parkview and Isaiah Joe (6-4, 170) of Fort Smith Northside.

“The visit was wonderful, getting to chill with the guys and get to know everybody’s personality and get to know everything they were doing,” Sills said. “It felt like home. I feel like when I am on the Hill that I am home.”

That trio joins IMG Academy guard Keyshawn Embery (6-4, 180) as current Arkansas commits in the 2018 class.

“I have never played against him, but I have heard he’s a great player and I can’t wait to meet up with him,” Sills said.

Sills is a big fan of Arkansas’ Basketball Performance Center, a practice facility that is open to the Razorbacks 24 hours a day.

“When we get up there, we will all get a thing that allows us to go into the facility and work out 24 hours a day,” Sills said. “It’s great, especially if you have a work ethic like I do. There will be nothing stopping you from getting better.”

Sills enjoyed getting to hang out with the current Razorback players.

“We went to the football game and called the Hogs, chilled with the players and went out to eat,” Sills said. “Later on, they took us to a little kickback and we enjoyed ourselves.”

Sills is the only starter back from a squad that went 32-0 and won the Class 6A state championship last season, although sixth man Tony Hutson played starter minutes.

“As a senior this year, I feel like I am a leader on the team and I am going to put this team on my back no matter what,” Sills said. “I am a dog and I have the heart of a lion, and I am going to get us back to the state.”

Jonesboro head coach Wes Swift was happy to see Sills slow down this spring and summer after several years of year-round basketball.

“A lot of those guys that play junior high and high school and then go into AAU are playing year-round,” Swift said. “Those guys that do that coming into their senior year always seem to be a little worn down.

“I think he is excited and ready to go, fresh mentally and physically, and hopefully this move will help him at the next level.”

Sills didn’t get as much attention this past summer as his fellow Arkansas Hawks teammates, so Swift got lots of questions.

“Since he decided not to play on the circuit all summer, people have been like, ‘What’s up with Desi?’” Swift said. “Well, Desi has been in the gym working his tail off.

“The big thing for Desi was that he was having severe tendinitis in his knees. We went through that with (former Jonesboro point guard) Marquise Pointer, so we had something to talk about as a reference point with him.

“So Desi went through the same process of getting some rest and letting it heal up. He came back after the rest and his knees felt much better.

“Obviously, I am a little bit concerned it may kick back up during the middle of our season, but we will cut him back in practice some to have him ready for the games.”

Swift believes Sills became a better player over the summer.

“You get so many more reps when you are not playing AAU basketball,” Swift said. “When he came back in July, he got a lot more reps individually and in small groups than he would have playing all summer and playing five or six games a weekend where you might put up 35 to 40 shots.

“He was putting up 500 to 750 a day and obviously he wasn’t in a pressurized situation, but he has helped his shot and I think he has become a better handler, too.

“He is shooting at a lot higher rate and with more range. He has worked on simplifying his shot and worked on shooting off ball screens.”

As a sophomore at Jonesboro, Sills averaged 10 points while shooting 53 percent from the field, 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line and 75 percent from the free throw line.

He followed that up with solid junior campaign in which he averaged 15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, two assists and two steals per game.

Like his other Hawks teammates, Sills was disappointed to hear that five-star recruit Reggie Perry flipped his pledge from Arkansas to Mississippi State during the summer.

“When I first heard about it, I was like, ‘Why did he do us like that because we were all supposed to come up here and win the national championship together?’” Sills said. “But then I thought, ‘Well, he just has to do what he has to do.’

“He’s not a bad man to me, but now we are opponents and we are going to have to be turn backs on the court, but we will always be family and friends.”

Sills knows that opposing players and teams will come hard at him this season since he is headed to Arkansas.

“I am going to handle it well,” Sills said. “Everywhere you go, you are going to have haters and everybody is going to try and come after you.

“They also are going to just come after Jonesboro because we had the big season at 32-0 last year and won the state championship. We have a big bull’s-eye on our back, but we just have to handle business out there.”

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