Arkansas looks for improvement under Anderson
Mike Anderson has refused to shy away from the past since he was
hired at Arkansas.
The Razorbacks coach has reminded followers consistently about
the school’s 1994 national championship, one he was part of as an
assistant to then-coach Nolan Richardson. Anderson has also made it
clear he thinks the Razorbacks can return to that level – starting,
perhaps, with a trip to the NCAA tournament this season.
Arkansas started quickly before fading late last season,
Anderson’s first since leaving Missouri, and missed the tournament
for the fourth straight year. The injury-depleted Razorbacks lost
nine of their final 12 games to finish 18-14, a mark Anderson hopes
to improve on this season behind a reloaded and replenished
It’s an expected improvement that Anderson hopes is another step
toward his eventual goal.
”My focus is unbelievable in terms of getting Razorbacks
basketball to the highest level,” Anderson said. ”There’s a
standard here, and I understand that. Myself and my staff have been
working night and day to make sure we’re doing all the right things
to change the culture and get our guys on the same page we
Anderson thought he had his foundation set last season with
forward Marshawn Powell and electrifying guard BJ Young. Powell
only lasted two games before missing the rest of the season with a
torn ACL – opening a leadership role for Young, who averaged a
team-high 15.3 points per game as a freshman.
After an offseason of rehabilitation for Powell and Young’s
decision to bypass the NBA draft, both return this season. The duo
is expected to lead an overhauled roster that features seven new
”We’re certainly looking forward to preparing for year two and
building on some of the things we did in year one,” Anderson said.
”Obviously, we want to address some of the concerns or things we
didn’t do well in year one, and that is to get some depth and more
guys who fit what we’re doing.”
Arkansas played much of last season with only eight scholarship
players because of injuries. Anderson said the lack of depth played
a role in the late-season swoon, keeping the coach from playing as
much high-tempo and swarming defense as he likes. The result was a
Razorbacks defense that was worst in the Southeastern Conference,
allowing an average of 69.7 points per game.
To counter the lack of numbers this season, Anderson added four
freshmen along with a trio of transfers. Anderson liked what he saw
from the freshmen – Michael Qualls, Jacorey Williams, DeQuavious
Wagner and Anthlon Bell – during a four-game exhibition series in
Italy, and the new faces have been welcome relief for the
”Definitely,” Powell said. ”We’re going to need numbers
playing in the system we play in.”
Powell only played in two games last season before injuring his
right knee in practice, averaging 19.5 points and shooting 71
percent from the field in his limited action. The junior didn’t
have much of an opportunity to play and mesh with Young, but he
paid close attention to the sophomore’s game – particularly during
the summer trip.
”I feel like him and I will work well together,” Powell said.
”He’s a very speedy and heady guard, and I’m just going to play
off of him and see how I can make it work.”
Young, who is expected to see time at both shooting and point
guard this season, wouldn’t say if he decided to return to college
with the intention of leaving after this season. However, he was
adamant about his excitement of playing with Powell.
”I felt like if I came back I could help the team improve on
stuff that we did last season,” Young said. ”With the new talent
we had coming in and the coaching staff being under them for
another year, I feel like we can rise up even more from where we
were at last year.”
A lack of size was an ongoing problem last year for Arkansas,
which was outrebounded by an SEC-worst 3.8 rebounds per game. The
6-foot-7 Powell is expected to provide help in that area this
season, as is 6-7 junior-college transfer Coty Clarke.
Anderson had hoped to receive another boost in Houston transfer
and Arkansas native Alandise Harris, but the 6-6 forward – who
averaged 13.3 points and 6.4 rebounds last year for the Cougars –
was denied immediate eligibility by the NCAA and must sit out this
Regardless of who plays, the Razorbacks will have to play well
quickly against a nonconference schedule that includes Arizona
State, Syracuse, Oklahoma and Michigan. Arkansas will also face an
18-game SEC schedule for the first time – including a trip to
Anderson’s former school, Missouri, on March 5.
”We’ve got to come out with it from day one, in terms of
bringing the energy, bringing the focus,” Anderson said. ”I’m
anxious to see how this team develops, but I’ve just got a feeling
it’s going to be an exciting team.”