DETROIT — Arkansas senior guard Daryl Macon’s dream came to a bittersweet end Friday afternoon. He and the Razorbacks were defeated, 79-62, by Butler in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Macon will never play again for the Hogs, which he’d done for two seasons with an immense amount of pride. This being the end to a special chapter of his basketball career is a tough realization for the Little Rock native.
He’d twice chosen to be at Arkansas over other options — once as one of the top junior college recruits in the nation and again when he decided to return for his senior season, postponing pursuit of a professional career.
The program was too special for him to turn down either time. Even now, Macon wishes he could choose Arkansas for another season.
He still wore his Razorbacks jersey as he spoke to reporters nearly 40 minutes after the game. He just couldn’t bring himself to take it off for the final time.
“That’s why I’m holding onto it. I haven’t took it off yet. It just doesn’t seem real that it’s all over,” Macon said. “I don’t want to leave. I really don’t. But I can truly say I enjoyed my time here. This is home to me. This is why I came back. There’s no place like Arkansas.
“I didn’t want to end it like this. Not just me. I know nobody wanted to end it like this.”
Though Friday didn’t go as Macon had hoped, he wasn’t down on himself or his teammates after the loss. Instead, he was in reflection mode.
Macon continually mentioned how proud he was of this team for turning things around after a slow start in SEC play this season. Arkansas started 2-4 before finishing 10-8 and then making a run to the conference tournament semifinals, further proving they weren’t the team that looked destined for the NIT — at best — in mid-January.
“We can’t just say we are disappointed in ourselves,” Macon said. “It was a great run. There was a lot of people that did not think we would be here today. There was a lot of people that did not think we were going to make the tournament and we proved a lot of people wrong.”
Macon even had provided some comedic relief when fielding a question from his favorite reporter — Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Holt asked Macon how much he believes playing at Arkansas has helped his future as a player, stating that surely this wasn’t the end for him on the court. The question, as is often the case with interactions between the two, elicited a brief smile from Macon.
“I’m not retiring, Bob,” Macon joked. “I’ve got to keep pushing. Arkansas really helped me. I think I got my name out there on the map. Everyone’s dream is to play in the NBA, so that’s what I’m shooting for. I’m shooting for the stars. You’re still going to hear about me. I’m not done yet, Bob, so don’t question that.”
Macon averaged 16.8 points and 3.9 assists in 35 games as a senior. He is the first player in program history to be named SEC Player of the Week four times, with three of those coming this season. He also finished his career with more than 1,000 points — one of just seven players in Arkansas history to reach the mark in just two seasons.
“I’m very thankful. Thankful for the fans, thankful for Coach [Mike Anderson] for taking a chance on me, thankful for these teammates for having my back each and every night I go out there,” Macon said. “Like I always say, this is something I’ve always wanted to do. Being able to do this, it’s a dream come true.”