Arkansas using overseas trip to help mesh overhauled roster
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Mike Anderson hasn't forgotten, and isn't ignoring, a difficult last season at Arkansas.
Rather, the Razorbacks coach is simply treating the disappointing 16-16 record as a singular setback in what's been an otherwise growth-filled first five seasons following his return to the school where he was an assistant for 17 years. Anderson will have his first opportunity to see if last season's struggles were an aberration or a sign of things to come when the new-look Razorbacks travel to Spain next week for a four-game exhibition schedule against European competition.
It's a welcome trip for Anderson, who is eager to put last season's up-and-down results behind him, and for Arkansas, which has added an influx of junior-college talent in search of returning to its NCAA Tournament level of two seasons ago.
''I feel the timing couldn't be any better for this kind of trip,'' Anderson said. ''For the junior-college kids, I think this is a real critical time for them to get acclimated.''
The Razorbacks have eight new players on their roster as they prepare for the 12-day trip that will see them play four games in three cities. Among those are three of the top JUCO recruits in the country, guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon along with forward Arlando Cook.
Anderson had improved his win total each year at Arkansas until last season, but the departure of Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Bobby Portis and the offseason arrests of three players for using counterfeit money last summer helped put an end to that streak.
It's a streak, however, a re-energized Anderson believes can begin again with a roster that has the potential to be as deep and talented as any he's had.
''We had momentum going and kind of got knocked off the chart a little bit, that path,'' Anderson said. ''Now we're back on that path, and I think this team has a chance to have some depth, some options. We didn't have options last year.''
The Razorbacks began the first of 10 practices this week in preparation for their trip to Spain. And while the group has gone through much of the offseason together, Anderson believes nothing will help bond his overhauled roster more than full-court action.
Barford and Macon have been two of the most talked about Razorbacks since their arrivals in the offseason, and with just cause. The 6-foot-3 Barford led the country in junior-college scoring with an average of 26.2 points per game last season, while the 6-foot-3 Macon was close behind with an average of 23.9 points per game.
Both know they'll have to prove themselves all over again at the SEC level, and that it's critical to mesh quickly with returners such as sharp-shooter Dusty Hannahs and All-SEC center Moses Kingsley.
Likewise, Hannahs - who averaged a team-high 16.5 points per game - is intent on working well with the newcomers, because ''we're not going to deal with that (losing) ever again.''
Anderson has liked what he's seen so far from the new group, but he said there's still much to teach and he welcomes the upcoming trip as a chance to learn more about the new faces on his roster.
Some of those newcomers, however, are bit more optimistic when evaluating the early practices.
''With this team, I think the Razorbacks are back,'' Macon said.