Anderson eyes remodeling of Razorbacks program

The smell of a fresh coat of paint hung throughout Bud Walton

Arena on Wednesday.

The sprucing up was part of an offseason of work inside

Arkansas’ basketball home, though it’s only a small part of the

”remodeling” coach Mike Anderson faces in his first year.

Anderson left Missouri in March to return to where he helped

lead the Razorbacks to the 1994 national championship as an

assistant coach under Nolan Richardson. His arrival was a

homecoming of sorts, and it was treated as such – with an estimated

5,000 Arkansas fans greeting Anderson during his introduction as

former coach John Pelphrey’s replacement.

It’s a honeymoon that Anderson said has carried throughout the

offseason and to now, with the Razorbacks set to begin practices

Friday.

That was then, however, and this is now. And now means the harsh

reality that Arkansas basketball isn’t the perennial power it was

during Anderson’s first go-around at the school. The Razorbacks

were 18-13 last season, missing the NCAA tournament for the third

straight year.

”This is a new era,” Anderson said. ”What took place here the

last few years, that happened. Now we’re at another point in

Razorback basketball history, and my goal is to take it to the

top.”

Arkansas also saw a steady decline in attendance in Pelphrey’s

four seasons – from 17,148 his first season to 12,022 in 18 games

last season in the 19,200-seat arena.

Anderson was 111-57 in five seasons at Missouri, including an

appearance in the final eight in 2009. The Tigers were 23-11 last

season, losing to Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA

tournament. He was 89-41 in four season at Alabama-Birmingham

before that and has no doubt that the Razorbacks can return to one

of the Southeastern Conference’s elite teams.

”We’re remodeling some of the offices; we’re gonna remodel the

mindset of our players,” Anderson said. ”And at the same time,

remodel our fans and get them engaged.

”Our fans have always been a part of Razorback

basketball.”

Anderson’s remodeling job could have the feel of a total

makeover this season. Seven former players left Arkansas after last

season, including three who transferred to other schools.

That includes scoring leader Rotnei Clarke, who initially said

he would stay at Arkansas before transferring to Butler during the

summer. Clarke averaged 15.2 points last season and shot 44 percent

on 3-pointers.

”I always say, `I don’t worry about what I don’t have,”’

Anderson said. ”We’re going to work with the players that we do

have, and we’re going to field a team that’s going to be

competitive.”

The Razorbacks, who have only 10 scholarship players, return

only 45 percent of last season’s scoring and are counting on

forward Marshawn Powell to help offset the roster turnover. Powell

averaged 14.9 points per game as a freshman before a foot injury

before last season limited his effectiveness.

Powell averaged 10.8 points per game last season, and his

rebounding average fell from 6.7 per game as a freshman to 4.5 last

season. The junior said he’s nearly fully recovered from another

foot injury after last season, and he’s enjoyed a fresh start under

Anderson.

”We appreciate coach just spending that time and working with

us and giving us time to adjust to his system,” Powell said. ”I

just can’t wait. I’m excited; I’m ready.”

A talented group of four incoming freshmen are also being

counted on for the Razorbacks, though Anderson warned, ”They’re

not gonna be the savior.” The highly recruited group includes Ky

Madden, Devonta Abron, B.J. Young and Hunter Mickelson, and Madden

said they’ve blended quickly with the upperclassmen.

”We don’t come in and think that we are the best, you know,”

Madden said. ”… We’re not Superman or (anything). We’re just

here to help. As far as I’m concerned … I’m Robin.”