Back in Barnhill: Vanover entices with shooting, length

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, October 6, 2019
Arkansas center Connor Vanover (left) talks with coach Eric Musselman during the Razorbacks' Red-White Game on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas center Connor Vanover (left) talks with coach Eric Musselman during the Razorbacks' Red-White Game on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Connor Vanover opened the University of Arkansas' Red-White basketball game by hitting back-to-back three-pointers.

Not bad for a guy who is 7-3.

"I hate to bring it up, but we're a lot different when Connor's on the floor because he spaces it," Razorbacks Coach Eric Musselman said. "He adds a dimension from, obviously, the size factor, but his three-point shooting, too.

"When Connor's on the floor, our passing becomes a lot better, our rebounding becomes a lot better, our offensive flow becomes a lot better."

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Vanover finished Saturday's intrasquad game played before an announced crowd of 4,559 in Barnhill Arena with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals. He hit 5 of 10 shots, including 3 of 6 three-pointers.

So why did Musselman hate to bring up how well Vanover played? Because right now Vanover, a Little Rock native, isn't eligible to play this season.

Vanover played as a freshman at California last season, then transferred to Arkansas after Musselman was hired. He has to redshirt under NCAA transfer rules, but has applied for a waiver to play immediately because of his grandmother's illness.

Musselman said he has no way of knowing when the NCAA will issue a ruling on Vanover's waiver request.

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"I think that we're all approaching it like he's in a development year and he's not playing," Musselman said. "That's kind of how I've put the teams together in practice.

"Then if he's able to get the waiver, that's great. Around the country there's been quite a few guys that have gotten it, and I think he's got as good of a case as anybody. "

Vanover played on a team that outscored its opponent 62-54, but the players switched jerseys at halftime so that they all wore red and white in the first or second halves.

Joining Vanover on the winning team were Isaiah Joe, Jimmy Whitt, Adrio Bailey, Ethan Henderson, JD Notae and Emeka Obukwelu.

The losing team included Reggie Chaney, Desi Sills, Jalen Harris, Mason Jones, Jeantal Cylla, Abayomi Iyiola and Ty Stevens.

It was announced that the players wore different jerseys in each half so they all could play for Team Eddie (Red) and Team Nolan (White). The teams were named in honor of Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson, former Arkansas coaches who were in attendance at the game and introduced to loud pregame cheers.

"To come in and see the atmosphere we had in there just for another Red-White game, it was amazing," Whitt said of playing in Barnhill. "I loved it."

Richardson and Sutton posed for a postgame photo at midcourt after the game with the Arkansas players and coaching staff.

"When we first tossed the idea around [of playing in Barnhill Arena], I don't think we could ever envision that both Coach Richardson and Coach Sutton would be here together," Musselman said. "I'm new to the area, obviously, but understand the significance of what both men did for this state and what they did for the university and the basketball program.

"To be able to have them come in a setting like today, I thought it was really cool."

Chaney, a 6-8 sophomore, had a game-high 19 points. He hit 8 of 11 shots.

"Reggie's going to be a big key to who we are," Musselman said. "He's really strong, he's really athletic, and as we go against SEC front lines, we're going to need Reggie to play really well."

Whitt, a senior graduate transfer point guard from SMU, had 14 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. He hit 7 of 9 shots.

Joe, a sophomore guard who hit a school-record 113 three-pointers last season, scored all 12 of his points in the first half when he hit 4 of 8 from beyond the arc. He was 0 of 5 on three-point attempts in the second half.

"I think fatigue started to set in," Joe said. "You've got to learn how to overcome that. Overall, it was just a bad shooting half for the second half. But in my mind, I'm going to make the next shot, so I'm going to keep shooting."

Cylla, a 6-7 senior graduate transfer from North Carolina-Wilmington, had 11 points and five rebounds. Jones and Sills each scored 10 points. Bailey had eight points and seven rebounds.

The game was played with four quarters consisting of eight minutes, and the team led by Vanover and Joe jumped out to a 44-21 halftime lead.

The team led by Chaney had a 33-18 edge in the second half.

Musselman said the coaching staff tried to divide the teams evenly, but the big difference in the first half was that the team with the lead had a 21-9 rebounding edge.

"The team that got down by a significant margin did not rebound the basketball at all," Musselman said. "I could have gone out there myself and rebounded as well as that group."

In the second half, the team led by Chaney outrebounded its opponent 12-10.

"That was unacceptable," Chaney said of the first-half rebounding difference. "We came out the next half with more of an understanding that we've got to rebound the ball, play more tough."

Players on both teams praised Vanover's game.

"Connor has been playing great," Joe said. "You saw what he can do out there.

"Hopefully he can still get his waiver, but we never know. If he isn't able to get it, we have to learn to work around that, which I think we will do. But if he can play on the court with us, I think it would help us tremendously."

Vanover is the Razorbacks' tallest player by 7 inches.

"The difficulty guarding him is he can shoot, so you've got to stay attached to him," Chaney said. "But he also has good touch down low. So you've just got to be aware of where he's at on the floor."

Vanover averaged 7.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots in 17.5 minutes per game for Cal last season. Over the last three games against Washington State, Stanford and Colorado, he averaged 14.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots in 29.3 minutes.

Musselman said he's seen Vanover show more of his personality since he arrived in Fayetteville.

"I thought when Connor came on to campus, he was an introvert, didn't say much," Musselman said. "Now he's one of our most talkative players."

Sports on 10/06/2019


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