Maryam Dauda

Freshman forward Maryam Dauda, second from right, sits on the bench during the Razorbacks’ Jan. 23 victory over Mississippi State in Bud Walton Arena. Despite tearing her ACL late in her senior season and having to sit out this year, Dauda has become essential to game preparation for the Hogs.

Arkansas freshman forward Maryam Dauda stepped on the UA campus in 2021 as one of the most highly-touted recruits in program history, but injuries have prevented her from joining her team on the court this season.

Upon graduating high school, Dauda was the No. 13 overall prospect and No. 1 post player in the country, according to ESPN HoopGurlz. She was a McDonald’s All-American and was selected to the prestigious Jordan Brand Classic in 2021.

The Bentonville High School star initially chose Baylor, led by legendary coach Kim Mulkey, over the nearby Razorbacks. Following Mulkey’s departure for LSU, Dauda had a change of heart and chose to sign with Arkansas.

“We understood that Baylor was the school that she loved growing up and watching, and that opportunity at that time was the best thing for her, but that changed,” Arkansas head coach Mike Neighbors said in a May 17, 2021, press conference. “We are the best opportunity now.”

Dauda’s relationship with Neighbors was a big reason she decided to stay in Northwest Arkansas, she said.

“I was excited he called me, because he was one of the first coaches that reached out to me,” Dauda said. “Before he even talked basketball, he checked to see how I was feeling. He was just there to comfort, then we talked about the basketball aspect and it was really great. We picked up where we left off.”

Despite suffering an ACL tear late in her senior season, Dauda worked her way into a position where the Arkansas coaches, training staff and doctors felt comfortable clearing her to return to play.

By December, there was growing excitement within the program that she could suit up for the Hogs during the second half of the season. After meeting with coaches and taking advice from her family, Dauda decided to take a redshirt year during the 2021-22 season, giving herself time to heal and better prepare for the grind of a full season of college basketball.

“I just felt with me coming back from an injury, jumping into college ball, I felt I needed the whole year to fully recover,” Dauda said.

But that is not where the story ends. Dauda, along with 6-foot-2-inch UConn transfer Saylor Poffenbarger, have become vital to the success of this season’s team, despite never seeing the floor during a game.

As members of the scouting team, it has been the pair’s duty to emulate the Hogs’ upcoming opponents during practice, and Dauda has taken over the role of imitating the opponent's best player.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to be able to come back and help the team prepare for our opponent,” Dauda said. “It’s a challenge and I give it my all to get them prepared.”

Redshirt freshman guard Elauna Eaton said playing against Dauda in practice is on par with going up against the SEC’s best.

“The way (Dauda and Poffenbarger) prepare us may be better than the actual opponent,” Eaton said. “That’s not to knock any opponent that we’ve had.”

Dauda will have to remain content with helping her team on the practice court this season, but she knows next season will be a special one for the Razorbacks, she said.

“I can’t even put my excitement into words,” Dauda said. “Watching them and going against them in practice, I just keep thinking, ‘Wow, we’re going to be really good next year.”

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