Harris: Time to Focus on Hogs Who Are Sticking With Anderson's Program

by Jim Harris  on Wednesday, Jun. 29, 2011 2:55 pm  

Julysses Nobles is among the returning players that figured to contribute in Mike Anderson's system. (Photo by Mark Wagner)

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

Can we agree, enough has been said about Rotnei Clarke, Jeff Peterson or Glenn Bryant? When the next Arkansas Razorback basketball player says he can't see himself fitting in with Mike Anderson's program, wish him well and move on. Just don't forget the players already in the program who are looking forward to representing the Hog Nation this season, Anderson's first since returning to the campus he spent 17 years as Nolan Richardson's assistant.

Fans have heard Clarke's name so much the past few weeks, as well as plenty about the incoming freshmen guard talent -- St. Louis' B.J. Young and Lepanto's Rashad "Ky" Madden -- that they may have forgotten about the guard returnees that seem to fit Anderson's high-octane full-court system to a T.

In fact, Anderson had to be happy to see that the previous staff took care of the void of size and speed in the backcourt when they brought in 6-foot-4 Mardracus Wade and 6-3 Rickey Scott in the November 2009 signing class. Also, whirling dervish Julysses Nobles should enjoy wreaking havoc in Anderson's defense and finishing fast-breaks on the other end.

Wade and Scott had up-and-down freshman years with former head coach John Pelphrey -- but then, who didn't have an up-and-down 2010-11? Scott battled various injuries, the most debilitating being a stress fracture that kept him out of the key conference stretch, just when the Dallas product was beginning to get into a groove.

Wade was noted coming in out of Hargrave Military Academy for his ball-hawking defense, and we saw more than a few glimpses of that at times last season.

All three -- Wade, Scott and Nobles -- seemed to be more inclined than other Razorbacks to tough it out with some of the better competition the Hogs faced last year. Wade and Nobles had solid games against supremely talented Kentucky, for example. Nobles didn't always succeed at it, but he wasn't afraid to take the clutch shot, either. At least he possessed the moxie when others shied away from the big moment.

Wade, originally from Memphis, and Scott weren't regarded as dynamic outside shooters out of high school, but were thought to be good enough to make defenses respect them. As it turned out, they struggled mightily even in wide-open situations against zones, not unlike many freshmen tend to do in making the transition to college basketball. They'll be much improved offensively this coming season.

Nobles was an occasional weapon from outside, though far from consistent. But, if the Jackson, Miss., native can improve his total game as much between last season and October as he did from his freshman to sophomore years, Anderson should feel pretty good about a five-man backcourt rotation of Nobles, Wade, Scott and the two incoming freshmen.

Where Arkansas will suffer is not having a strong defensive presence in the post. Delvon Johnson exceeded everyone's expectations last season after a so-so junior college transfer year, but the 6-9 shotblocker and occasional scorer is already done. One more year of eligibility for Johnson might have been perfect for what Anderson wants to do defensively with his perimeter players.

Instead, Arkansas' bigger players will have to gut it out when the games goes to half-court, and Anderson more than likely will want to stretch the defense to keep it from turning into a power game inside the paint. Until freshmen Hunter Mickelson (a slender 6-foot-11 and considered more of a wing player) and  Devonta Abron (6-8 and bulky) are seen in the mix with inside returnees Marshawn Powell, plugger Michael Sanchez and string bean Marvell Waithe, we'd have to consider the Razorbacks to be sorely deficient defensively on the inside against the best in the SEC.

The 6-foot-7 Powell, when he wanted to, could score with anyone in the paint. Unfortunately, Powell only brought his A game against the likes of Kentucky. Usually, he was a non-factor last year in coming off an off-season foot fracture, forcing everything to rest offensively with Clarke. And he's the wild card for the current team under Anderson, missing out on key off-season strength and conditioning work while recuperating from more surgery. He's not even been tested on the demanding run up Stadium Drive and Garland Avenue to Cleveland Hill like the other players.

As we mentioned a couple of weeks back, a basketball player learns just how much he's willing to give to the program when he negotiates the conditioning run originally created by Nolan Richardson, Anderson's mentor.



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