Anderson envisioning fresh start following recent transfers

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: April 10, 2018 at 1:18 p.m. - Updated: April 10, 2018 at 1:33 p.m.
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson points to players during a game against Tennessee on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson points to players during a game against Tennessee on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, in Fayetteville.

— Nothing surprises Mike Anderson anymore when it comes to transfers in his program or across college basketball.

He said as much at Arkansas’ end-of-season basketball banquet at Bud Walton Arena Monday night in his first public appearance since the Razorbacks’ first-round loss to Butler in the NCAA Tournament on March 16.

Anderson announced on April 4 that freshman Darious Hall and sophomore C.J. Jones had been granted their released from the program, ending speculation since Arkansas’ season-ending defeat in Detroit.

No restrictions were put on either player’s transfer, a university official confirmed, and no reason was given for their departures. With that said, Anderson, entering his eighth season at Arkansas, has turned the page and is eager to begin a new chapter.

“It's amazing. Every year somebody's … Everybody's not going to be happy,” Anderson said. “But at the same time, I want guys that are committed to being Razorbacks.

“We've got a tremendous recruiting class coming in to go along with the pieces that we have here. It's like a fresh beginning. A new beginning. So I'm all about guys that want to be here.”

Senior guard Daryl Macon said Hall and Jones’ decision to transfer is one they will have to live with, right or wrong, but he stands behind them 100 percent.

“These things happen all the time. I’m not the type to shoot those guys down,” Macon said. “Those are like little brothers to me, and I’m like a big brother to them, so I’m going to always be there. My door is always open and my phone is always available for those guys.”

Last week, Arkansas gained the commitment of Connors State’s Mason Jones, a 6-5 guard who averaged 15.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as a freshman, filling one of the two open scholarship spots for 2018-19.

Jones, who will have three years of eligibility, was also considering Washington and BYU. As for the other scholarship opening, Anderson said he and his staff plan to target the best player they can.

“That's what we do. Obviously, we can use some size,” he added. “But we'll take our time and we'll bring in the right person. We're still recruiting. We never stop recruiting.

“It’s amazing, with so many kids transferring. You get a lot of people get in their ears. Hopefully they’ll listen to the coaches, coaching staff and teammates. You've always got to be in that recruiting mode.”

Anderson’s biggest recruiting win, though, came when freshman forward Daniel Gafford announced he would return to school for his sophomore year. Gafford, an All-SEC Freshman Team selection, averaged 11.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and set the program’s freshman blocked shots record (76) in this season.

Gafford spent spring break mulling over his decision with those he trusts most and informed Anderson of his intent to return on March 26, just 10 days after finishing with 7 points on 2 of 9 shooting and 5 rebounds in the loss to Butler.

Jaylen Barford believes Gafford made a great decision in coming back for another year.

“It was a great decision to make. He's happy to stay here,” he said. “He enjoys being in college. There's nothing like college basketball. … I think he’ll be a plus for them next year.

“I’m waiting to see what he’s going to do next year.”

Discussion

Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.