No news is good news, at least for the moment, for Mike Anderson’s Arkansas Razorbacks basketball team.
Anderson spoke to the media Monday to give his thoughts on the Hogs’ 16-16 finish to the 2015-16 season.
Nothing really new came out of the news conference in terms of personnel. Anderson said he expected all the Razorbacks underclassmen to return for next year when asked about the report that freshman Jimmy Whitt was considering transferring and the possibility of junior forward Moses Kingsley leaving early for professional basketball.
Of course, all players are considered to be returning until they officially announce they are exiting. Like all UA students, the players are on Spring Break this week, and Anderson said he would meet with each individually beginning next week to discuss the future.
A new NCAA rule would allow Kingsley to attend an NBA combine of sorts to gain information about his prospects for the NBA Draft and still maintain his eligibility. Kingsley would have up to 10 days before the Draft to withdraw his name and still retain his eligibility as long as he does not sign with an agent.
Anderson said he and Kingsley would discuss the young man’s future in their meeting, and added that they would get Kingsley information on his draft status.
From my standpoint, if Kingsley does opt to go to that combine, it’s not good news for Arkansas fans. Once an athlete gets the NBA in their eyes, the lure is often too strong for them to turn back, even if doing so is obviously in their best interest.
Kingsley can do what he wants, but if Anderson wants to keep him on campus for another year, it would be good to keep Kingsley out of that combine environment and away from other athletes with NBAitis. It’s contagious.
A degree reportedly means a lot to Kingsley; maybe that will keep his feet on the ground. What he needs to understand is that if he is capable of putting up numbers next season like he did this year that consistency will only make him more desirable to the NBA.
The experience, maturity and strength, he can gain with another season at Arkansas would be of great benefit to him. He wore down a bit at the end of the season, and at times, he became frustrated with the physicality of the college game. Those are areas he could improve with another season at Arkansas.
Plus, after garnering all-conference honors this year after entering the season as unknown quantity, he will be regarded as one of the very best players in the league going into next season. Name recognition only increases his perceived value in the NBA Draft. If he returns, Arkansas will no doubt put him at the forefront of its basketball marketing efforts.
As for Whitt, it would be odd for a player as heralded as he was coming into the college game not to consider transferring after the season he had. It wasn’t a bad year, but it wasn’t anything special, either.
However, what Whitt has to understand is that he needs to strengthen his body to be more effective in the college game whether he stays with the Razorbacks or not. His lack of strength hindered him on both ends of the floor. Yes, there is a hitch in his shot, but his lack of strength was his biggest weakness.
Jabril Durham had a strength issue his first year with the Hogs, but he made great strides with his ball strength between his junior and senior seasons, and it helped him to have a fine senior year.
Whitt would be wise to stay at Arkansas and commit himself to improving his strength and skills. He’s going to have to improve both to play effectively at the major college level at Arkansas or not. He might as well do it with the Razorbacks where he has some roots planted in the program and in the classroom.
What Anderson was clear about in the press conference was that he was not satisfied where the Hogs’ finished.
“I don’t anticipate talking to you guys about the season this time next year,” Anderson said. “I expect to be playing in the [NCAA] Tournament.”
That is certainly the hope of every Hog fan. The NCAA Tournament offers great entertainment no matter the circumstances, but it is always more fun when you have skin in the game.
Arkansas has only been in the tournament one time in Anderson’s five seasons and just four times since Nolan Richardson was fired in 2002. Hog fans expected Anderson to turn the program around, and with it still mired in mediocrity, fans face a range of emotions. Some fans are angry, and others are frustrated. Even worse, many are just plain apathetic. A program can only sustain passion for so long without winning at high level.
The Razorbacks did have its best season in two decades a year ago with a 27-9 squad that made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before being defeated by North Carolina.
However, that was a brief respite in what has become a long NCAA Tournament draught. It was not enough to truly stoke the embers of the Hogs’ once great program.
Anderson is excited about the talent and athletic ability his recruits are bringing into the program next year, and he and his staff are evidently still recruiting for this year’s class.
That’s good news because just like Anderson, Arkansas fans expect the Razorbacks to back in the NCAA Tournament next year, too.