Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Daniel Gafford declares for NBA Draft
Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford celebrates after beating Mississippi 74-73 during an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, March 2, 2019 in Fayetteville. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas sophomore forward Daniel Gafford has declared for the NBA Draft and will not play in the NIT, Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson announced Monday.
Anderson added that Gafford is hiring an agent, meaning he will forego his remaining eligibility. Anderson has given the El Dorado native his full support.
"He could have left last year and had an opportunity, but he came back, developed and got better and I think he's going to be a first-round draft pick," Anderson said. "...He came here with a dream and he's going to have an opportunity to realize it."
Jonathan Givony, a draft analyst at ESPN, slotted Gafford at pick No. 29 to the Golden State Warriors in mid-February. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic has Gafford going No. 27 overall to the Brooklyn Nets in his pre-NCAA Tournament mock draft.
Gafford was a consensus first-team All-SEC selection this season after being the only player in the SEC to finish in the top five in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, blocks and offensive and defensive rebounds. He was also named to the All-SEC defensive team last week and averaged 16.9 points on 66 percent from the floor and 8.6 rebounds in 32 games.
Gafford finishes his Arkansas career with a 14.3 point-per-game scoring average on 63.5 percent shooting, which ranks second overall in school history, 7.4 rebounds and 141 blocked shots. In SEC games only, he shot a program-record 62.1 percent.
According to HoopLens, Arkansas outscored its opponents by a combined 206 points this season with Gafford on the floor. The Razorbacks were minus-123 without him.
“I can’t thank Coach Anderson and the Razorback coaching staff enough for two great years in my development both as a player and person,” Gafford said in a statement. “It has been a fun ride, but the time has come for me to move on to the next stage of my career and declare for the NBA Draft. Growing up in this state, I dreamed about playing at the University of Arkansas. It has been an honor to wear that jersey and represent this state.
"Thank you to everyone at the University of Arkansas, thank you to Razorback nation and, most importantly, thank you to all my teammates that have pushed me, supported me and helped make me the player I am today.”
Anderson said he and Gafford talked throughout the season about the possibility of declaring early for the draft. At the end of the day, it's his decision, he added.
"I just remember Dan as a ninth grader coming to our camp," Anderson said. "To see him be in the conversation of being a first-round draft choice, I think that bodes well in him coming in and doing the things he’s done. ... I’m supportive of what Daniel wants to do. I’m supportive of what he wants to do. That’s Dan’s decision and I’m fine with it."
Anderson is eager to see a number of players step up in Gafford's absence, including Reggie Chaney, Gabe Osabuohien and freshman Ethan Henderson, who has played just 28 minutes this season. Anderson is looking for Henderson to be more assertive and aggressive when he gets his chance.
"Defensively, I think he can do some things," Anderson said. "I think he’s got to be engaged the whole time he’s out there on the floor. I think there are days in practice where you go, ‘Whoa, why is this guy not playing?’
"Then there are some days you go like, ‘I see why.’ I think that’s just about consistency. When you look at this team, you’ve got a lot of that."
Arkansas travels to Providence on Tuesday to face the Friars, which enter at 18-15 overall. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
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