Mark left by Hogs' 5 seniors

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, March 18, 2018
Arkansas guard Jaylen Barford reacts after making a shot during a NCAA Tournament game against Butler on Friday, March 16, 2018, in Detroit.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas guard Jaylen Barford reacts after making a shot during a NCAA Tournament game against Butler on Friday, March 16, 2018, in Detroit.

DETROIT -- Daryl Macon was still wearing his Arkansas Razorbacks uniform as he finished doing interviews in the team's locker room at Little Caesars Arena.

His teammates were taking showers or already had changed into their sweats, but Macon wanted to keep wearing his uniform as long as possible.

It was less an hour after Butler had beaten the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville 79-62 in a first-round NCAA Tournament game to end the Razorbacks' season.

The loss also ended the college careers of five Arkansas seniors, including Macon.

So Macon kept wearing his uniform as a way of extending his time as a Razorback just a little bit longer.

"That's why I'm holding onto it and haven't took it off yet," Macon said. "It just doesn't seem real that it's all over.

"I don't want to leave, but I've got to. I don't have any years left."

Macon, a former Little Rock Parkview standout, made the most of his two years at Arkansas after transferring from Holmes (Miss.) Community College.

So did senior guard Jaylen Barford, who transferred to Arkansas from Motlow (Tenn.) State Community College.

Barford and Macon each earned All-SEC honors this season and became the sixth and seventh Arkansas players to score more than 1,000 points in two seasons. They were the first teammates to join the 1,000-point club in the same game when the Razorbacks beat Auburn 91-82 on senior night in Walton Arena.

Barford finished with 1,087 points to rank 33rd on the Razorbacks' career scoring list. Macon is right behind him in 34th with 1,070 points.

The addition of Barford and Macon helped the Razorbacks to a combined 49-22 record -- including 22-14 in the SEC -- the last two seasons with back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.

"Getting back to the tournament two years ago coming from juco," Macon said. "Man, that's amazing if you ask me."

Barford and Macon helped Arkansas bounce back from a 16-16 record during the 2015-16 season.

"They came in and provided what we needed, and that was some leadership and some guards that could put the ball in the hole," Razorbacks senior forward Trey Thompson said. "It's been a great two years with them."

Guard Anton Beard and forward Arlando Cook are the Razorbacks' other seniors who played their final game Friday along with Baford, Macon and Thompson.

"I think they impacted this program in a mighty way," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "They were winners."

The Razorbacks (23-12) made the NCAA Tournament after starting 4-6 in SEC play. They rallied to finish 10-8 in the SEC -- tied for third with Kentucky and Missouri -- and ended an eight-game losing streak against Florida to advance to the SEC Tournament semifinals.

"I can truly say we gave it our all the whole season," Macon said. "It was a bumpy start to conference play, and we turned it around.

"We can't just say we're disappointed in ourselves. It was a great run. We proved a lot of people wrong."

Thompson, who played at Forrest City and is from Madison, called being a Razorback the best four years of his life.

"I'll never forget the people I met and the relationships I've made with all my teammates and coaches," Thompson said. "It's just sad to have it end with a game like this.

"We know we didn't play our best. I have no explanation. We just lost.

"You get into the NCAA Tournament with the ultimate goal to win the national championship. To lose this first one, it's going to be hard going back to Arkansas."

Beard, from North Little Rock, said there were a lot of emotions in the locker room after the Butler game.

"We're sad the way the season ended, but I told the young guys to just keep pushing," Beard said. "When the seniors leave we want the tradition to keep going. I told them keep making the tournament and to keep pushing."

Along with the seniors, it's possible freshman forward Daniel might have played his final game for the Razorbacks. He's projected as a first-round NBA Draft pick, but said Friday he didn't want to talk about a possible professional future, that his focus was on the team and the season just ended.

Gafford said it was a fun season overall -- especially with the seniors -- from summer workouts through all of the games.

"I've learned a lot from every single one of the seniors," Gafford said. "We worked hard together from the Cleveland Hill runs to this moment now."

Macon said he has a lot to be thankful for playing at Arkansas.

"Thankful for the fans," Macon said. 'Thankful to Coach A for taking a chance on me. Thankful to these teammates for having my back each and every night I went out there.

"This was something I've always wanted to do. Being able to do this, it's been a dream come true. Obviously, it's not over for me when I take off this Razorback jersey."

Macon said his goal is to play professional basketball.

"I'm not retiring," Macon said joking with a reporter. "I've got to keep pushing.

"Arkansas really helped me. I think I got my name out there on the map. Everyone's dream is to play in the NBA, so that's what I'm shooting for.

"I'm shooting for the stars. You're still going to hear about me. I'm not done yet."

Sports on 03/18/2018

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