Gafford draws praise, comparisons to Portis on court

By: Nate Allen
Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Arkansas freshman center Daniel Gafford answers questions during the Razorbacks' annual media day Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas freshman center Daniel Gafford answers questions during the Razorbacks' annual media day Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Call it political correctness or simply good taste, but it seems, other than on Jerry Springer, the freak shows linked to carnivals and circuses have declined.

Except with Razorbacks men's basketball. The calliope plays on say the Razorbacks when Daniel Gafford practices at Walton Arena.

"He's a freak," Arkansas senior power forward Trey Thompson said of the true freshman forward flash from El Dorado. "I don't know a 7-footer who can run and jump like he can. He just bounces like a kangaroo."

At 6-11, 234 pounds, Gafford is standing an athletic cut above any budding talent of similar size that 6-9, 265-pound senior Thompson has played with or against.

"I've never seen anything like it," Thompson said. "He's like a gazelle. He gets up and down the court easy. And he jumps so well."

And so persistently.

"His second and third jumps are so easy and effortless," Thompson said. "He's going to be great. He's going to help us on offense and the defensive end."

Thompson, the Forrest City product, was a freshman at Arkansas when Bobby Portis was named SEC Player of the Year. Portis, who also stands at 6-11, starred for Mike Anderson's squad before entering the NBA, where he plays for the Chicago Bulls.

"They are different players," Thompson said. "Bobby was more of a complete post guy who could score. Daniel doesn't need the ball in is hands to be effective. He's long and athletic."

When he signed Portis and later Gafford, Anderson knew he had something special on both occasions.

Anderson believes what was special about Portis then and what's special about Gafford now is the need to be nurtured and not rushed.

"There's no pressure," Anderson said. "I said this about Bobby when he first came in and I say this now: Daniel is not the savior of our basketball program. Daniel will come in and go at his own pace. That's why you've got seniors."

Arkansas' upperclassmen include Thompson, power forward Dustin Thomas and guards Jaylen Barford, Daryl Macon and Anton Beard, who helped the Razorbacks go 26-10 last season.

As a freshman, Portis produced plenty, averaging 12.3 points and 6.8 rebounds. He improved to 17.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per contest as sophomore before turning pro.

Anderson believes Gafford's own pace also will fit neatly into what his elders set.

"Trust me," Anderson said. "If there's any indication what's taken place throughout the summer and what's taking place in practice right now, he will impact our team. He's a sponge (soaking up basketball knowledge), just trying to get better at protecting the rim while running the floor like a guard."

There is one Portis-Gafford comparison absolutely identical: Both -- Portis of Little Rock Hall and Gafford of El Dorado --were nationally coveted Arkansans who were only interested in playing at Arkansas.

"I've always wanted to come to Arkansas ever since I started playing basketball," Gafford said.

Sports on 10/11/2017


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