FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Days after being projected to finish fifth in the SEC, the Arkansas basketball team began its 2016-17 preseason in earnest Sunday afternoon at Bud Walton Arena.
The Razorbacks held their intrasquad scrimmage, Red versus White, in front of about 1,000 people, much to their delight after the football team’s lackluster performance on Saturday.
Daryl Macon’s 3-pointer with 45 seconds left gave White a 1-point lead, 113-112, before Jaylen Barford made a pair of free throws about 5 seconds later. White couldn’t counter again, resulting in a Red win, 118-113, in overtime.
C.J. Jones buried a desperation 3-pointer with 5 seconds left in regulation to give White a 2-point lead. Overtime came after Manny Watkins made a buzzer-beating layup.
It was a scrimmage, so more fun than meaningful, with the teams split up with six players on each side. Celebrity coaches Pat Bradley, a former Arkansas player, and Bo Mattingly, local sports radio host, picked the squads.
With two weeks until tip-off of the regular season, the scrimmage gave us an idea of who will be able to contribute this season.
F Moses Kingsley, senior
Well, he’s preseason SEC Player of the Year, so that’s something. He was fine against his teammates Sunday, getting a few easy baskets and mostly handling his defender, Trey Thompson, with regularity. He shot an ill-advised 3-pointer early, though, which isn’t ideal. Really, though, Sunday wasn’t about him. What he brings is consistent and high level.
Sunday: 27 points (8-14 FG, 11-18 FT), 12 rebounds, 3 blocks
G Dusty Hannahs, senior
Hannahs is, for my money, the best shooter in the country. What can turn him into a truly great player, however, would be an advanced offensive skill set. He tried several times to penetrate the lane; the results left some things to be desired. Hannahs made 1 of 8 on 2-pointers Sunday. Still, it was a good sign for a guy who attempted 187 3s last season compared with 193 inside the arc. Regardless, Hannahs isn’t likely to be stopped often on the outside, anyway.
Sunday: 21 points (6-18 FG, 5-10 3-pointers)
Solid SEC starters
G Jaylen Barford, junior
The highest-profile newcomer didn’t look out of place for a second Sunday. He is a clear starter, built like a tank and with a better-than-expected passing game. Several times he made some no-look lasers to teammates for buckets. But Barford’s best games will come when he’s getting to the rim. His girth makes him tough for skinnier guards to stop. Barford has the quickness to beat some of them off the dribble. Plus, when he gets to the line, he’s money, as per his 10-of-10 day Sunday.
Sunday: 23 points (6-15 FG, 10-10 FT), 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 turnovers
G Daryl Macon, junior
Macon has a good shot, not a great one. He has good handles, not great ones. He’s of good size, not great size. His passing is fair, not top-notch. Ostensibly, that’s the junior-college transfer’s entire game: a touch above average. Macon almost undoubtedly will be one of the three starting guards in the backcourt, but he’ll be the quietest with Barford and Hannahs drawing most of the attention. Likely he’ll be somewhere around 12 to 15 points per game with 3 to 4 assists and maybe a couple rebounds.
Sunday: 28 points (9-19 FG, 4-8 3-pointers, 6-6 FT), 4 assists
Fundamental rotation players
F Dustin Thomas, junior
This isn’t Thomas’ first year with the program, just his first on the team. He sat out last season as a transfer from Colorado, but he already looks like the most likely starter at power forward, depending on coach Mike Anderson’s preference for strength or skill from his 4. Thomas has a jumper, which is something that sorely lacked from the spot last season. He’s a bit undersized. If you combine Thomas with Trey Thompson, the duo should be competent. They will be an improvement over what Thompson and Keaton Miles brought to the team last season.
Sunday: 21 points (8-13 FG, 5-6 FT), 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 fouls
G Anton Beard, junior
If Beard can go back to being the player he was his freshman season, Arkansas suddenly is loaded in the backcourt. He looked like it Sunday, doling out 11 assists and rarely taking a bad shot. His best asset is his toughness in defending, but his offensive game isn’t lacking. Beard never will be a 20-point-per-game guy, but 8 per outing seems doable.
Sunday: 16 points (6-13 FG, 1-5 3-pointers), 11 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 turnovers
F Trey Thompson, junior
Early in the second half, Thompson was the trailer on a fast break with Dusty Hannahs 1-on-1 versus a defender. Hannahs went hard to the hoop but missed the shot at the rim. Thompson followed with a tip-in. Thompson, at 6-foot-8 and about 240 pounds, had hustled down to make it happen. That will be his role. He isn’t an offensive threat, though he is the best big-man passer on the roster. As long as he knows that, Thompson will be a fine power forward on a team filled with scoring talent around him.
Sunday: 11 points (3-8 FG), 9 rebounds, 7 fouls
G/F Manny Watkins, senior
I asked Watkins after the scrimmage if we could expect many 25-point outings this season. He chuckled. It might take Watkins three or four games combined to reach that threshold. He isn’t a scorer, even though he said he’s worked on his shooting in the offseason. What Watkins does and what he knows he’s good at is the grime. He is only about 6-3, but he sees more time at the 3 than anywhere else. In dire situations, he can be the 4, where he isn’t totally out of place compared to his size. More realistically impressive than his scoring Sunday were his rebounds: a game-high 14. He also won’t do that often, if ever, but it shows he knows his role and embraces it.
Sunday: 25 points (12-17 FG, 1-7 FT), 14 rebounds
G/F Adrio Bailey, freshman
The comparisons to Michael Qualls are apt. Some will tell you he’s more of a forward than his predecessor, but he’s best on the wing with space to get to the rim. Either way, he’s a slasher at heart. He might not be ready to do a lot this season, but the potential is there. Bailey is the most athletic player on the team. His jump shot needs refinement, but his length and athleticism could make him a stopper. If you check the depths of the internet, you probably can find a similar scouting report on Qualls from his first year in Fayetteville.
Sunday: 9 points (3-8 FG, 0-1 3-pointers), 3 rebounds
G C.J. Jones, freshman
One thing about Jones — he’s not going to lead the team in assists. Not a chucker in the classic sense, Jones still isn’t afraid to let it fly. His upside is as a dynamic scorer. The roster has a few of those already, though, so it’s hard to see him cracking the lineup for more double-digit minutes most nights. If he gets hot in a particular game, which will happen once or twice probably, he could see a night in which he finishes second on the team in scoring. Most games, though, he’ll provide a bit of an offensive punch and some length on the perimeter. Anderson said Jones will have to improve his defense quite a bit.
Sunday: 20 points (8-12 FG, 4-7 3-pointers), 4 rebounds
On the back end
F Arlando Cook, junior
Cook was a top-5 junior-college prospect in last year’s recruiting class, too, like Macon and Barford. He, though, isn’t likely to have the same effect as the two guards. The first time he touched the ball Sunday, he dribbled it off his knee. At half, he had taken 10 shots, 3 more than anyone else on his team. If Cook can play his needed role — physical on the block, hard fouls, shots within 7 feet — he will get some run. If he’s shooting from beyond 15 feet and trying to dribble too often, he’ll sit on the bench a lot.
Sunday: 13 points (6-18 FG), 13 rebounds, 6 fouls
F Brachen Hazen, freshman
Hazen is a tall forward, too skinny to play on the inside, not fast/athletic enough for a full-time perimeter game. That said, he has a little bit of a shot, but it’s mostly one that requires a spot-up. Hazen isn’t likely as a freshman to be able to create his own. If he catches the ball on the run, however, he’s enough of a force physically he can carry momentum to the hole, like he did with a dunk and a fast-break layup in the first half. If he plays, it’ll be a handful of minutes a night, barring some massive development during nonconference.
Sunday: 17 points (6-8 FG, 3-3 3-pointers)