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Future is Looking Bright for Basketball Teams

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Arkansas’ two basketball programs have to look forward to next winter with both of the teams’ seasons ending the past couple of weeks.

 

Men’s

Mike Anderson’s squad will lose four seniors including guards Jabril Durham and Anthlon Bell, both of whom were starters all last season.

The Razorbacks will miss the contributions of their two senior starters, but the rest of Anderson’s squad is young, with six juniors and two sophomores who will need to be ready to carry a heavier load. Returning players include junior transfer Dusty Hannahs and forward Moses Kingsley.

Hannahs was a fan favorite this season after finally getting to play after a year on the sidelines, due to his transferring in from Texas Tech before the season. Hannahs led the Hogs in scoring while shooting just over 43 percent from 3-point land.

Hannahs will have to contribute more than superb shooting next season if the Hogs want to compete at the top of the Southeastern Conference. He produced just under an assist per game this past season and the Hogs will be itching for another playmaker as Durham leaves.

It is not likely that Hannahs could add point guard skills to his repertoire over the course of one last offseason but anything that could get the ball in his hands more often would be a major plus for the Hogs.

Kingsley was the team’s leading rebounder with over 9 per contest and was second leading scorer with an average of almost 16 per game. Next season, Kingsley will be expected to make another small leap, similar to the one he made from last season to this one.

This year, with frontcourt stud Bobby Portis gone to the NBA, Kingsley was the focal point in the paint. His points and rebounds averages jumped up considerably from his sophomore year to his junior one. He produced just three points and two rebounds per game in the 2014-15 season while becoming the best big man on the Hogs this season with his new totals.

Kingsley has the potential to be an even greater asset as the backline of defense for the Hogs. He averaged over two blocks per game this year, over double from the year before. His ability to change the game on defense coupled with his steady offensive play will be something for Hogs fans to watch out for. His continued improvement would mean more wins for Arkansas and a real chance at becoming an NBA draft pick.

Sophomore Anton Beard, who started in 16 of the 35 games last season, was reduced to a smaller role this year. Beard only played in 23 of 32 games the Hogs played this year and started just once. Beard’s lack of availability hampered his productivity which hurt the Hogs offensively. They needed another playmaker and while Beard cannot be an entire offense on his own, his ability to handle the ball and pass with above average vision will be vital to the Hogs next season.

The men’s team will have to pick up the slack internally not only because of their departing players, but because the program missed out on signing the top recruit from the state this past winter when Bentonville native Malik Monk, the No. 8-ranked high school player in the nation, chose to attend the University of Kentucky to play under head coach John Calipari as a Wildcat.

Losing out on Monk brings many Razorback fans back to earth. From the beginning, the inclusion of Arkansas on Monk’s list of preferred destinations felt obligatory. The Hogs will now have to build the team back up to what it was in 2014 with realistic recruiting. Monk’s rejection was not good for the Hogs but at least they are free from just expecting a transcendent star to save the program from mediocrity in the short term. They will have to build like other programs have to.

The Hogs did manage to sign a couple junior-college players in Arlando Cook, Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon. Cook is a four star talent who adds to the Hogs treasure trove of juniors. He averaged 11 points and nine rebounds per game in the 2014-15 season.

 

Women’s

The women’s Razorback basketball team, despite their underwhelming second season under head coach Jimmy Dykes, can look forward to a future with some promise, similar to the men’s team.

The Razorbacks have just one senior departing. Melissa Wolff, Arkansas’ lone senior, led the team in average rebounds per contest with over seven boards a game, but the Hogs should be able to make up for her loss with the growth of their younger players like junior Jessica Jackson and Alecia Cooley.

Jackson led the team in scoring this season and was second on the team in boards per contest. She has maintained her scoring output and has averaged six rebounds per game since her freshman year. Jackson will have to become an even greater focal point on offense for the Hogs next season if they do not want to have another step backwards in the loss column.

Jackson’s frontcourt teammate Cooley has the potential to become the defensive equivalent of what Jackson does on offense.

The Hogs picked up 2016 signee Aaliyah Wilson who was graded at a 97 by ESPN. Wilson is the third player who was rated a 95 or higher to sign with the Razorbacks under Dykes. The other two were Jordan Danberry and Malica Monk who combined to average about 11 points per game while both playing at least 17 minutes per game this season.

Arkansas also signed three star recruits Kiara Williams, Jailyn Mason, Sydney Stout and Yasmeen Ratliff. Williams has a player grade of 90 on ESPN and earned 7A all-state honors this past season at Little Rock Central.

Dykes’ faith in his young players has been a move of both necessity with the lack of experienced players and a willingness to develop important players despite the losses that pile up due to their inexperience. This faith will prove invaluable with Wilson’s freshman year and Danberry and Monk’s sophomore campaign. The future is bright for the women’s team.

 

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