Arkansas' Hannahs ready to face former school, Texas Tech
Arkansas' Dusty Hannahs (3) fights for control of the ball against Texas A&M's Alex Caruso (21) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Fayetteville, Ark., Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 74-71. (AP Photo/Sarah Bentham)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Dusty Hannahs' season-long homecoming celebration will take on added meaning this weekend when the Arkansas sharpshooter stares across the court at a stark reminder of his not-so-recent past.
Hannahs, who leads the Razorbacks (10-10) in scoring in his first season back on the court following a transfer from Texas Tech, will get an up-close look at his former team when the two schools meet on Saturday afternoon.
While the game's primary story lines revolve around the Southeastern Conference-Big 12 matchup and two teams desperate to secure postseason berths, there's no denying the subplot of Hannahs vs. the Red Raiders (12-7). The junior left two years ago, returning to his home state and then sitting out last season as required by NCAA transfer rules.
Whatever lingering emotions Hannahs might have about facing his former school, he promises they'll be kept in check on Saturday.
''It's like if you left your high school and you played your old high school,'' Hannahs said. ''It's going to be a different type of feeling, but it's definitely (a game) I've had circled.''
Regardless of Hannahs' performance this weekend, the 6-foot-2 junior has already entrenched himself as a fan favorite in Fayetteville and become a much-needed offensive force for an Arkansas team that began the season without six of its top seven scorers from a season ago. Hannahs leads the team with an average of 16.7 points per game. His scoring average, however, doesn't do justice to how remarkable of a shooter Hannahs has become.
Hannahs shot a combined 36.5 percent (84 of 230) on 3-pointers his first two seasons at Texas Tech, including a 7 of 7 performance from behind the arc in a loss at West Virginia as a sophomore.
This season, Hannahs is one of the top shooters in the country, connecting on 46.4 percent (52 of 112) of his 3-point shots. That's third in the SEC and includes an 8 of 13 3-point performance in a win over Mississippi State on Jan. 9.
''Sometimes, those experiences that you have, going away, can help you,'' Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. ''Because it didn't work out to his liking, he wanted to come back this way, and the timing couldn't be any better.''
Hannahs' most recent long-distance exploits came in Arkansas' 74-71 win over No. 5 Texas A&M on Wednesday night, a game in which the guard hit three more 3-pointers as well as the final free throws to secure the much-needed victory. It was a stirring performance for a player the Razorbacks only lightly recruited out of Little Rock's Pulaski Academy before he signed with the Red Raiders.
''I think he's developed to more than just a spot-up shooter,'' Anderson said. ''That's what he was. To play for us you have to play defense as well, and he's trying to do that. He's getting better at it.''
Hannahs was recruited to Texas Tech by former coach Billy Gillispie, who later resigned and was replaced by current Red Raiders coach Tubby Smith.
After one season playing under Smith, Hannahs decided to transfer and was granted his release – with his first phone call afterward coming from Arkansas assistant coach Melvin Watkins.
Hannahs immediate thought when he saw Watkins' name on his phone was, ''Please be what I think this is,'' and he was offered and accepted a scholarship a week later.
''I remember that day like it was yesterday, and it was one of the best days of my life,'' Hannahs said. ''I got back to my home state and got to play for the Razorbacks, which is the best part about it.''