SEC Media Day Report:

Razorbacks not unanimous this time

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, October 19, 2018
Arkansas head coach Mike Neighbors speaks with the media during the Southeastern Conference women's NCAA college basketball media day, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, in Birmingham, Ala.
Arkansas head coach Mike Neighbors speaks with the media during the Southeastern Conference women's NCAA college basketball media day, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, in Birmingham, Ala.

MOUNTAIN BROOK, Ala. — The University of Arkansas’ women’s team was picked to finish 14th in the SEC in last year’s preseason poll.

“We got picked last by the coaches unanimously,” Razorbacks Coach Mike Neighbors said on Thursday. “I had some coaching friends tell me, ‘Oh, I didn’t pick you last.’

“I saw the poll, and I said, ‘Yeah, you did. We were unanimous. Just don’t lie to me. I get it.’ ”

Arkansas did a little better than predicted by finishing in a three-way tie for 11th with Florida and Vanderbilt at 3-13.

The Razorbacks are picked to finish 11th again in poll for the 2018-19 season.

Mississippi State, coached by former Arkansas assistant Vic Schaefer, is picked to win the SEC championship. Texas A&M, coached by Gary Blair — Arkansas’ head coach from 1994-2003 — is picked sixth.

FUN GROUP

Arkansas endured a 7-24 record in Mike Neighbors’ first season as coach, but he said it still was a good experience.

“It was a fun year and a fun group of kids to coach,” Neighbors said. “In today’s world of transfer and find something different, every one of these kids came back.”

Neighbors said there were only six times a player missed practice.

“Unbelievable,” he said. “Our kids just kept showing back up. I think you take that now and you build that into being a little bit better, make a few more shots, it can equal some wins.”



ALLEN GETS GATORS' WORD OUT

Florida guard KeVaughn Allen is speaking up.

Allen, a guard from North Little Rock known for his quiet nature, is becoming more vocal going into his senior season.

“KeVaughn’s come out of his shell a little bit,” Gators Coach Mike White said at SEC media days. “He’s communicating more and has been very talkative in practice.

“He’s matured quite a bit.”

Florida senior center Kevarrius Hayes said Allen is becoming a vocal leader.

“KeVaughn is speaking up, calling out the right plays and switches on defense,” Hayes said. “You hear his voice and it kind of shocks you a little bit.

“It’s good to see him developing that part of his game.”

Allen has 1,297 points to rank 30th on Florida’s career scoring list, but he had a dip in production offensively last season.

After averaging 11.6 points as a freshman and 14.0 as a sophomore, Allen averaged 11.0 as a junior.

White said Allen’s average was deceptive considering the Gators at times had four high-level scorers in the game together with the addition of Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov.

Hudson, who redshirted two seasons ago after transferring from Virginia Tech, averaged a team-high 15.5 points. Koulechov, a graduate transfer from Rice, averaged 13.8 points and senior guard Chris Chiozza averaged 11.1.

“I just thought KeVaughn blended a little bit too much last year,” White said. “But he also showed how unselfish he is.”

Hudson is back as a fifth-year senior, but with Koulechov and Chiozza gone, Allen’s scoring figures to pick up.

“KeVaughn’s being more aggressive in practice,” White said. “Right now he’s playing like a senior, and we certainly hope that continues.”

HOOPS AUDIT?

A trial in federal court in New York has continued this week into accusations by the FBI involving shoe company executives and agents arranging for payments to college basketball recruits and their families.

It’s not a good look for the sport, but coaches asked about the trial at SEC media days said it doesn’t mean every program is dirty.

“Every walk of life — every industry — needs to be audited once in a while,” South Carolina Coach Frank Martin said. “This is our audit, and whatever’s broken, it’ll get fixed.

“I’m not going to sit here and act like I don’t know some of the things that go on in the business. It’s my job to know.

“I’m not into cheating. But I don’t sit at home and whine about the people that do, because they’re the ones jeopardizing their schools, their families, their careers. That’s their decision to make in life. I choose not to go in that direction.

“What I hope is that whatever mistakes are being made — some of the stuff that the public is learning about that some of us kind of knew was going on — gets cleaned up.”

Martin said cheating is not widespread in college basketball.

“The rest of the business operates pretty good,” he said. “It’s not as bad as it’s made out to be … But let’s fix the problems, build on the good and continue to move forward.”

Tennessee Coach Rick Barnes said many programs don’t cheat, but some do and will continue to operate that way.

“Cheating has always been in basketball, as it has been in every sport — and in the business world,” Barnes said. “Regardless of what comes out [at the trial], it’s bad for our game. We all know that.

“Do I think it’s going to stop cheating? I don’t think it will because the people that want to cheat are going to cheat. But what I want to people to understand is, not everybody cheats.

“No one should come up and say it’s widespread in college basketball, because it’s not.”

According to SI.com, defense attorney Casey Donnelly told the court — without jurors present — that the FBI had recorded a conversation between his client — aspiring agent Christian Dawkins — and LSU Coach Will Wade about possible payments to a recruit.

“Certainly it was a little bit surprising,” Wade said of having his name come up at the trial. “I’m not really going to react to what the defense attorney said.

“I will say I’m very proud of everything I’ve done as LSU’s head coach. I have never, ever done business of any kind with Christian Dawkins … That’s what I’ll say about that.”

FOOTBALL GUY

New Georgia Tom Crean previously was the coach at Marquette and Indiana — schools where basketball is the unquestioned top sport.

But Crean said he had no hesitation taking a job at a school where football rules.

“I’ve embraced it,” Crean said. “It wasn’t like Georgia was an unknown football program. I think it’s fantastic.”

Crean’s wife, Joani, is the sister of Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh and Baltimore Ravens Coach John Harbaugh. His father-in-law, Jack Harbaugh, was a long-time football coach at Western Kentucky.

“I’m in a football family,” Crean said. “When you marry into the Harbaughs, you really have no choice.”

YOUNG, BUT GOOD

Alabama freshman point guard Kira Lewis, 17, is the youngest player on an NCAA Division I team roster according to the Crimson Tide media relations office. Lewis, rated as one of the top freshmen in the country, won’t turn 18 until April 6.

“He’s young, but he’s talented,” Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said. “There won’t be any age discrimination. If he help Alabama win games, he’s going to be on the floor.

“He’s fast and he can really flat-out shoot the three-point shot. Every time he shoots it, we think it’s going in. His decision-making is a little bit more advanced for such a young player. He obviously has to put on a little bit more weight. He came in weighing about 160 pounds, and he’s excited because he’s up to 165. I think he’ll eventually get to about 180 and you’ll see him really take that next step.”

ROCKY TOP?

Mississippi State Coach Ben Howland said Tennessee is his pick to win the SEC championship considering the Vols return their top six scorers from a team that shared the title with Auburn last season.

“They’re the best team in our league going into the season, in my opinion,” Howland said. “No doubt they’re the team to beat.”

Kentucky was the media’s choice to win the SEC with Tennessee second.

“There’s no doubt Kentucky is right there with them, and Auburn,” Howland said.“ But [the Vols] return everyone. How are they not the favorite?”

KENNEDY ON TV

Andy Kennedy, who resigned as Ole Miss’ coach late last season, will work as commentator and analyst for the SEC Network this season.

Kennedy said appreciates the opportunity to stay close to the game.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a different perspective.

“I’ve been in college coaching for the last 23 years, and now I’m not part of basketball team. But I’m excited to be part of the broadcast team and stay involved in the game.”

Kennedy said he’s not sure if working in television is a new career path or will be a break between coaching jobs.

“Who knows?” he said. “I’m trying to go into it with an open mind and see where it leads me.”

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