Arkansas' Anderson pleased with newcomers
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Mike Anderson was every bit as excited to see Arkansas on the court during a recent trip to Italy as he was the sights.
The Razorbacks coach liked what he saw on both accounts, most notably from a talented group of newcomers and the progress of junior Marshawn Powell -- who missed most of last season after tearing a ligament in his right knee last November.
Arkansas was undefeated during its four-game series against teams from Italy and Lithuania, winning by an average of 22.3 points per game.
Anderson, 18-14 in his first season with the Razorbacks, is counting on the early work to pay off when the team returns for preseason work in October -- particularly for the seven newcomers on the roster.
"What the trip does to me is we've identified, we've seen some of these guys on display, and they've practiced," Anderson said. "So, now when we get to the individual workouts and October, hopefully we can bypass some of the things we would normally do and really get into it."
Anderson was especially interested to see Powell take the court in a game for the first time since injuring his knee in practice last season. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 19.5 points in two games last season before his injury and was admittedly fatigued during practice during Arkansas' preparation for its European adventure.
Powell saw limited action in three of the Razorbacks' four games on the trip, scoring six points in the first two games before sitting out the third. He then closed with a 10-point effort in the last game against an Italian all-star team.
"It was good to have Marshawn out on the floor," Anderson said. "I kind of thought he got the cobwebs out.
"Mentally, getting him back on the floor, I thought that was huge for our basketball team. Our guys actually fed off of that."
Powell wasn't available to talk Tuesday, but sophomore BJ Young -- who led Arkansas with 15.3 points per game last season -- said he showed flashes of scoring ability as well as the ability to run the offense through him.
"That's one person that I'm not really worried about, Marshawn, because he works hard," Young said. "I'm sure he wants to get back on the court and show everybody else that he can come back from the injury."
Four players averaged in double figures for the Razorbacks on the trip, led by junior Mardracus Wade's 15.8 points per game. Young added 15 per game, and was joined by newcomers Coty Clarke (14.3) and Michael Qualls (11.7).
The 6-foot-7 Clarke is a junior college transfer and led Arkansas in rebounding with 8.3 per game, a welcome addition for a team that was last in the Southeastern Conference in rebounding margin last season. The Razorbacks lost nine of their final 12 games last season and missed the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year.
"There's some things I liked, some I didn't like, but I think we can build on the things that really took place," Anderson said. "The key now is putting those pieces together and seeing how they formulate as a team. We will certainly use this experience to help our basketball team."