Bob Holt is a sports reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he sits on the board of directors for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
SEC Media Day:
Arkansas seniors' confidence not guarded
Jaylen Barford, of Arkansas, is interviewed during the Southeastern Conference men's NCAA college basketball media day, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Daryl Macon isn't shy about saying what he believes he and fellow Arkansas Razorbacks senior guard Jaylen Barford can do this season.
"We're going to be one of the best backcourts in the country," Macon said Wednesday at SEC basketball media day. "We don't get the respect we should, but we've just got to make sure we keep working and lead this team to another successful season."
Why is Macon so confident in himself and Barford?
"I think it's on paper," Macon said. "We came in from junior college and helped bring a team from 16-16 to 26-10."
Macon and Barford were keys in the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville returning to the NCAA Tournament after finishing .500 the previous season.
"Normally it takes a junior college player maybe a year to find that groove," Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said. "I thought Daryl and Jaylen were the exception, and that was big for our program."
Macon, who played at Little Rock Parkview and Holmes (Miss.) Community College, averaged 13.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 25.2 minutes last season. He shot 45.3 percent from the field (141 of 311), including 38.7 percent on three-pointers, and 86.6 percent from the free-throw line.
Macon scored a season-high 30 points in Arkansas' 98-80 victory over Ole Miss, hit three free throws in the final 1.6 seconds left when the Razorbacks won 71-70 at Vanderbilt and scored a team-high 19 points in a 72-65 loss to North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament.
Barford, from Motlow (Tenn.) Community College, averaged 12.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in 25.4 minutes last season and shot 43.8 percent from the field (174 of 397) and 75.2 percent from the free-throw line (82 of 109).
Barford scored a career-high 23 points twice -- at Missouri and South Carolina -- and had 20 points in the Razorbacks' 77-71 victory over Seton Hall in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
"I don't think anyone can stop us," Barford said of the chemistry he has with Macon. "We play off each other, feed off each other and motivate each other.
"We push each other every day in practice. When we get on the court we tell each other, 'It's go time.' "
Anderson was asked whether he agrees Macon and Barford are one of the nation's top guard duos.
"Daryl and Jaylen feel good about themselves," Anderson said. "I think they're very confident in what they do. It remains to be seen what happens. I think on paper it all looks good and sounds good, but it's just opinion at this point.
"If you're asking me are they better than they were last year? Absolutely. I think they're light years ahead of where they were last year at this particular time. I think they're a lot more comfortable in what we're doing and understanding what it takes to be a tremendous player at this level."
Macon and Barford both entered their name into the NBA Draft earlier this year, but they didn't hire an agent and retained their college eligibility and after receiving input from pro coaches and scouts. They decided to return to Arkansas.
"It was a great process," Macon said. "I actually did it to get feedback so that I could come back and improve my game, and hopefully get drafted after this season.
"The feedback I got was to become a better leader with the team and improve my body."
Macon, 6-3, said he's up to 185 pounds after playing at 175 last season.
"Gaining the right weight is important in this game, especially in this conference, because it's very physical," Macon said. "You've got to be able to stand your ground.
"I feel a lot stronger now, and that helped me spend a lot of time in the gym over the summer trying to get more consistent on my shot and other parts of my game."
Barford, 6-3 and 209 pounds, said he's worked hard to improve his perimeter game after he shot 26.6 percent (29 of 109) on three-pointers last season. He also wants to be better with the ball after having 72 assists and 71 turnovers.
"This year things are slowing down," Barford said. "I've got a feel for everything in the SEC now, so I think I'm going to be all right."
Barford has no concerns about his ability to drive aggressively to the basket.
"I think I'm the best guard in the country in the open floor," he said.
Pat Bradley, a former Arkansas guard who is an SEC Network analyst, said he loves how Macon and Barford play.
"I think they're extremely interchangeable, which is a big advantage," Bradley said. "Both of them can play the point or play the off guard.
"We know how well Daryl can shoot, and Jaylen is improving his jump shot."
Bradley said Macon and Barford's defense is a plus, too.
"To me, it's all about getting after it, and both Jaylen and Daryl proved last year they're willing to defend baseline-to-baseline and rotate," Bradley said. "They understand those things."
Macon said he and Barford are both comfortable handling the ball.
"If Jaylen gets the ball and brings it up the floor, I'm going to take off," he said. "Or if I get the ball and bring it up, Jaylen's going. It's really interchangeable at any point in the game."
An SEC media poll listed 12 players on two all-conference teams, but no Razorbacks.
"I mean, it is what it is," Macon said of the Razorbacks being snubbed. "But that's just someone's opinion. They're not out there on the floor playing us. So I try not read too much into it.
"I can't say I'm shocked, but it's basketball at the end of the day. You've still got to go out there and play. That list doesn't mean anything."
Macon was asked whether he expects himself or Barford to be on an All-SEC list after the season.
"How about we just wait and see," he said with a smile. "Give us a chance to show people what we can do."
Sports on 10/19/2017
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