The Razorback squad has potential, but coaches are still finding where to place players.
FAYETTEVILLE — Of the 13 players on the Arkansas basketball roster, all 13 can play. And that isn’t a smoke-blown statement. It’s a real possibility.
Yes, they would play with varying degrees of promise and potential, but on day two of the Razorbacks summer practice, a few weeks before they head to Spain for a four-game exhibition stretch, it was clear everyone out there, at the very least, belonged. Only one player on the roster is a walk-on, and with the way coach Mike Anderson rolls his units during the season, the regular Arkansas rotation could be as many as 12.
Of course, July 26 practice looked about how you think a July 26 practice would look. Things were a little rusty. Not so much to cause any concern or panic — more like it’s just quite clear it’s not yet December.
And that’s what these couple weeks are for. The Razorbacks have eight new players on the roster, so melding them is more than coachspeak “chemistry.” It’s actually important. Roles won’t be wholly established in July, or even August in Spain, but they’ll become more clear as Anderson and the coaching staff sees what he has on-hand.
In the meantime, if you don’t to wait, this is, in real terms, the beginning of what each player will bring to the roster. We begin with the projected starting five.
Moses Kingsley, 6-foot-10, senior
If you need to be told what Kingsley can do at this point, you’re a newborn or spent the last year living under a rock. The improvement he made from his sophomore to junior year, without Bobby Portis in front of him anymore, was nothing short of incredible. Kingsley nearly averaged a double-double at 15.9 points and 9.2 rebounds a game. Even modest improvement off that could make Kingsley an All-SEC player if not the league Player of the Year. And his role is important as he’s the only capable scorer in the frontcourt right now.
Dustin Thomas, 6-8, junior
Thomas is the likely starter at power forward. He isn’t a beast of player down there a la Trey Thompson (6-9, 265 pounds), but more of the Keaton Miles mold. Thomas has more offensive upside than Miles, as he can step out and hit a mid-range jumper with ease. And despite this being Thomas’ first season playing, he spent last year practicing as a transfer, so he knows the system. He can run the floor and has versatility, but don’t expect a huge increase in production from the 4.
Dusty Hannahs, 6-3, senior
Shot-making and attitude. That’s Hannahs. And it’s exactly what Arkansas needs. His game developed last year as the year wore; he started attacking the basket more often and with better results. But Hannahs is a shooter, maybe the best in the country. He was chucking from 30 feet off one foot and swishing them Tuesday afternoon. Hannahs came off the bench at times last year and it’s possible he does so again this year, but unlikely. Arkansas will want scorers and Hannahs can fill it up.
Daryl Macon, 6-3, junior
Macon can do what Hannahs can’t: play superior perimeter defense. Macon isn’t built like his old high-school teammate Anton Beard, he isn’t a grinder, but he’s rangy and frustrating. The flip side is maybe better - Macon makes shots. His release is a bit funky and somewhat slow, but the ball comes out smoothly. Macon will shoot the 3 and from mid-range. He may need a bit more bulk to become an SEC-level slasher, but his body would fit more weight, no problem.
Jaylen Barford, 6-5, junior
Arkansas hasn’t had a point guard like Jaylen Barford in…well, my lifetime, anyway. Barford isn’t a pure point. He’s not Eric Ferguson or Kareem Reid. He’s a combination guard who is comfortable passing or getting to the rim. Think Dontell Jefferson with far more offensive skill (it’s often forgotten, by the way, Jefferson played in the NBA after leaving Arkansas). Barford is built like a tank. Everyone asked Tuesday about defending him remarked at his strength and size. Expect to see him at the free throw line a lot. Don’t expect to see him take a lot of shots longer than 16 feet. But he won’t have to, either, with the rest of the roster.