Anderson excited about newcomers on the roster

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson instructs players during practice Friday, March 15, 2018, in Detroit.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson instructs players during practice Friday, March 15, 2018, in Detroit.

When a program has a lot of turnover, the joke is always how fans won't be able to know the players without a roster.

But that just seems like a statement of fact when it comes to next season's Arkansas men's basketball roster, which will have somewhere between eight and 10 new names.

Not only did Arkansas sign six recruits in the fall, but it will mix in redshirt sophomore transfer point guard Jalen Harris (6-foot-2, 164 pounds), a junior college signee with three years of eligibility in Mason Jones (6-5, 205) and probably another addition or two in the current April 11 to May 16 signing period.

There's also the possibility that former Little Rock Parkview guard Khalil Garland (6-5, 198), who redshirted this year, will be either cleared from a medical issue to play or an announcement will be made on his career one way or the other.

That means that sophomore center and projected first-round NBA Draft pick Daniel Gafford (6-11, 234), junior forward Adrio Bailey (6-7, 217) and sophomore Gabe Osabuohien (6-8, 219) will be the only three scholarship returnees who played last season, and that walk-on and fan favorite Jonathan Holmes (5-10, 190) is amazingly the fourth-leading returning scorer.

That roster shake-up no doubt has -- and should -- worry some Razorbacks fans about next season.

After all, you have players returning who scored only 576 of the team's 2,819 points on the season and grabbed 327 of its 1,207 rebounds.

Two of the Razorbacks' top three shot blockers return in Gafford (76) and Bailey (23).

The new start seems to excite instead of worry Arkansas coach Mike Anderson, who will try to get his team to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five years.

"We have a tremendous freshman class coming in and we have a pretty good core," Anderson said on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly earlier this week. "When you can start off with a guy like Daniel Gafford and have Adrio Bailey, a young man who sat out last year in Jalen Harris and a guy in Gabe Osabuohien, who we saw really progress this year, you have to feel good.

"And then a guy like Khalil, we are still waiting for clearance for him. So we have some good guys in place, but I am excited about those that are coming in. I think they are going to bring a breath of fresh air, some eagerness, some hungriness."

All of Arkansas' six fall signees are expected to arrive in Fayetteville in late May -- Fort Smith Northside shooting guard Isaiah Joe (6-4, 180), Jonesboro guard Desi Sills (6-1, 180), Little Rock Parkview forward Ethan Henderson (6-9, 190), Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep forward Reggie Chaney (6-8, 230), Arlington (Texas) Grace Prep forward Jordan Phillips (6-7, 210) and former Oklahoma prep star Keyshawn Embery (6-4, 198).

"I am just anxious to get them here and mold them into what we call true Razorbacks," Anderson said.

It would be foolish right now to try to cement a prediction on what the Razorbacks' record will be next year, but I believe there is enough talent to get back to the Big Dance and for the program, with all the talent and new faces, to trend upward.

That's even with freshman Darious Hall and sophomore C.J. Jones deciding to exit the program stage left.

Interestingly, both of those former Razorbacks played 519 minutes this season, and Hall was expected to be a starter next season.

"I still don't understand, but it is what it is," Anderson said. "They've got obvious reasons why and I think number one, you have to respect that. I think that is the biggest key and why I've always said I want guys who want to be here, who have pride in wearing that Razorback uniform, who want to continue to develop on and off the floor."

Sports on 04/19/2018

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