FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford are not Michael Qualls and Bobby Portis. But like those former Arkansas basketball icons, Macon and Barford carry burdens.
And like two years ago, April will go a long way in determining what Razorbacks basketball looks like next season.
Macon and Barford were junior guards in the 2016-17 season. Neither has announced his decision about whether to return for the 2017-18 season. They were major influences on team, helping Arkansas to just its third NCAA Tournament Round of 32 appearance in the past 18 years.
Their return would cement Arkansas in the SEC upper tier. Dusty Hannahs, Moses Kingsley and Manny Watkins are leaving after their senior seasons. In returning, Macon (13.4 points per game) and Barford (12.8 PPG) would provide coach Mike Anderson building blocks.
Macon and Barford took part in the Arkansas basketball postseason awards banquet Monday night inside Bud Walton Arena. Razorbacks athletics did not, however, make them available for comment, fueling speculation and uncertainty.
Barford mentioned “next season” during his speeches at the banquet. And after the team’s NCAA Tournament loss to North Carolina he suggested he would return.
We gone be back. We HOGS.??? pic.twitter.com/2bUZUcfHx8
— By Any Means. (@Jbarford1) March 20, 2017
Macon has been more cryptic. He declined comment on his future following the North Carolina game and hasn’t made a public comment since.
Macon and Barford could declare for the NBA draft and not hire an agent. That would allow them to return to school if they receive feedback saying it’s doubtful they would make an NBA roster. Neither player is currently likely to do so.
NBADraft Express, which lists its top 60 prospects in each class, does not have Macon or Barford among listed juniors. Neither does the site have them among its top 38 SEC prospects.
But a source told SEC Country earlier this year the NBA was far from the only option. Macon and Barford would consider professional opportunities in the D-League or overseas. Multiple sources indicated both showed interest in leaving for the pros in January. But as the season improved, that interest waned.
It is not gone, however.
If Macon or Barford were to be invited to the NBA Draft Combine, they might test their options. Kingsley tested last year. He put his name into the mix, didn’t hire an agent, waited to see if he would receive a combine invitation, got feedback that he likely would not be drafted and decided to return for his senior season. Macon and Barford could go that route.
The draft combine is May 9-14. Invitees usually are announced within a few days of the combine’s start.
The deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft is June 12.
Arkansas, the university and state, anxiously waits.