Courtesy: Walt Beazley, UA Athletics
The Arkansas Razorbacks begin a three-event sneak peek at the forthcoming basketball season at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Bud Walton Arena with the annual Red-White Scrimmage.
On Friday, Nov. 1 the Razorbacks face Missouri Southern and on Nov. 5 Northeastern State in exhibition games before opening the season Nov. 8 against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville at the arena, which is entering its 20th season of service for the Razorbacks.
Admission is free to Sunday’s Red-White contest, but Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson has asked fans to donate at least one nonperishable food item as part of a food drive. Doors open at 2:30 p.m.
The Arkansas women’s basketball team will be introduced at halftime and both squads will be available for autographs on the arena concourse after a short break following the scrimmage.
The first 500 students to arrive through the regular-student entrance on the east side of the arena will receive a free Hog Wild Hoops T-shirt.
The Red team will feature Rashad Madden, Alandise Harris, Bobby Portis, Fred Gulley, Kikko Haydar, Manny Watkins, and Moses Kingsley who other than Kingsley played their high school basketball in state. Kingsley did play AAU basketball with the Little Rock-based Arkansas Wings.
The White squad, composed of Mardracus Wade, Ricky Scott, Coty Clarke, Anthlon Bell, Jacorey Williams, Michael Qualls, Dee Wagner and Keaton Miles, all played their prep basketball out of state.
“We split up that way for fun, but it seems however I’ve divided the team in practice, there has always been competition,” Anderson said.
Anderson, who is entering his third season as the Razorbacks coach, believes his program has progressed in his first two seasons, pointing to the Hogs 18-1 home record last year, which included victories over Kentucky and Missouri with the only loss being to Final Four participant Syracuse.
The next phase of the rebuilding project is for his Hogs to become competitive away from the friendly confines of Walton Arena. The Razorbacks went 1-9 on the road last season.
“It’s time for us to shift to the next level,” Anderson said at Arkansas’ media day event on Thursday. “We established that it’s going to be tough to beat the Razorbacks in this building. Now, we have to take this show on the road. I think we have some pieces now to help us do that.”
One of the keys to becoming better on the road was adding size to the basketball team. With freshmen Bobby Portis (6-10, 242) and Moses Kingsley (6-10, 230) and junior transfer Alandise Harris (6-6, 237), the Razorbacks should be more formidable inside the paint on both ends of the floor.
“We filled some needs with our recruiting in terms of size,” Anderson said, “and not just size, but big guys who can play the way we want to play. Guys who can protect the rim and give us a presence inside.”
Portis was a McDonald’s All-American as a high school senior, who is has inside-out skills. He is aggressive around the rim and runs the floor like Anderson needs his forwards to do. Kingsley plays more with his back to the basket, but is also athletic and a solid shot blocker.
Harris was the best player on a Houston team that defeated the Razorbacks, 87-78, at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock during Anderson’s first season as Arkansas’ head coach. Harris scored 18 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in the game and had a put-back slam dunk that made the No. 1 spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Day.
“He’s a man,” Anderson said of Harris. “We can put the ball in his hands and expect him to deliver. He’s a face-up forward, who is going to go to the line a lot. That will help us on the road and at home.”
Anderson said Qualls has elevated his game on the defensive end, and observed that Madden has seriousness about his game this season.
When asked about the team’s outside shooting, which was a weakness last season, Anderson pointed to improved passing.
“Good shooting is a result of good passing,” Anderson said. “Shooting is about rhythm. We have better passers and that will create better shots.”
Anderson said he feels like his team is composed of winners, players who are willing to do whatever it takes to win. He has also noticed that more players spend time on their own working on their game than in the past.
“This is our third year,” Anderson said. “The blue print is in place. Now, we have to go out there and do what we do.”
Publicly, that begins Sunday with the Red-White scrimmage.