Mike Neighbors discusses departures of Scott and Poffenbarger, addition of Higginbottom

Arkansas head coach Mike Neighbors is shown, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, during the second half of a basketball game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. (Charlie Kaijo/NWA Democrat-Gazette)

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas women’s basketball coach Mike Neighbors on Wednesday discussed the departures of guards Taliah Scott and Saylor Poffenbarger to the NCAA transfer portal, along with the addition on Izzy Higginbottom from Arkansas State. 

It was the first media availability for Neighbors since the portal opened Monday. He discussed the Razorbacks’ opening game of the Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament on Thursday at Tulsa, along with his team’s portal happenings.

Scott as a freshman led Razorbacks in scoring with 22.1 points per game. She missed several games at the end of the season due to what was described as a family emergency at her home in Florida. 

“Taliah’s situation, it's been in the works for a while, and it's something that just like I've said before, it's nothing that anybody on the planet could control,” Neighbors said. “So I hate it. I hate the situation, but it's the best for her and her family. When she came up here, [she] got a great hug on the way out the door.

“I wish her nothing but the best and [we will] keep her and her family in our thoughts wherever she lands — hopefully it's not someplace we have to play against.”

Poffenbarger, a redshirt sophomore in 2023-24, averaged a double-double with 10.2 points and 11.2 rebounds.

“Saylor’s [situation] was a little different [than Scott’s],” Neighbors said. “They're all different. That one was more toward the end of the year starting to come down and a buildup of things. They're all really different [and] they're all handled differently.

“Some you have a lot of communication with, some you don't have any communication with. Some you feel like you have answers for, others you're blindsided by, and you be just like everybody else and start to speculate. I would never share intimate details about any of my players….When it comes to that, those are all things that we dealt with as a team, but they're all different.”

The Razorbacks announced the signing of Izzy Higginbottom on Wednesday. The 5-7 guard from Batesville averaged 22.2 points this season at Arkansas State. Her scoring average ranked eighth nationally.

According to Neighbors in the press release announcing Higginbottom's signing, when he saw her name in the portal he sent her a text message reading, “I got it wrong the first time around.”

The seventh-year Arkansas coach elaborated on that during his media availability.

“I devalued how much she wanted to be a Razorback, and that's a mistake,” Neighbors said. “And that's why I sent it to her…. Coach [Frank] Broyles, was he the one that talked about winning with Arkansas kids? I know Coach [Houston] Nutt said it as well, but I probably lost a little sight of that because I got caught up in the rankings or the stars, or whatever it was.”

Higginbottom scored 27 points when Arkansas defeated the Red Wolves 82-67 on Nov. 17 in Jonesboro.

“After she hung 27 on us, [Arkansas guard Makayla Daniels] comes in the locker room going, ‘Coach, she's really hard to guard now,’” Neighbors said. “I just think it's a testament to her and her family. They never stopped working [and] they never stopped having their love for the Razorbacks.

“So when I saw her name go in there, that's the text I sent her, and she responded immediately. And when I said, ‘Hey, let's try to get you up here sometime this week.’ [She] was like, ‘Well, how about today?’ It’s like OK, then I know exactly where we're at with this whole thing.”