FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Arkansas basketball had its first go-around in front of a live audience Friday night at the team’s annual Red-White scrimmage.
The White won the exhibition, 95-69. They were led by 23 points from freshman Daniel Gafford and another 17 from senior guard Daryl Macon.
The rosters did not appear especially evenly matched. White had Macon, Gafford and guard Jaylen Barford. Those three are arguably the best three players on the team. The Red’s leading scorer was CJ Jones, who averaged just 2.4 points in 21 games last year.
The outcome of the game was practically irrelevant. Mostly the Red-White scrimmage provided an opportunity for the public to see the team live for the first team. Gafford and freshman Darious Hall drew a lot of attention, especially Gafford.
Gafford was a top-50 recruit in the Class of 2017. A 6-foot-11 center, he is the most highly touted high-school recruit the school has landed since Bobby Portis in 2013.
Arkansas plays its first real exhibition game on Friday, Oct. 27, against Central Oklahoma. The regular season begins Friday, Nov. 10, against Samford.
What went well for Arkansas
Daryl Macon looks like an All-SEC player
Macon put his name into the NBA Draft this past offseason but pulled it out before the deadline. His return gives Arkansas a dynamic wing scorer who can both shoot from 3-point range and drive to the basket. Macon was adept at both Friday night, shooting 6 of 14 from the field and 4 of 10 from 3. The numbers were even higher until the final few minutes when the game so out of hand there was a bit more of a tendency to chuck. His demeanor all offseason has been that of someone with something to prove, too. If he plays like it against other teams, the Razorbacks have a bona fide star.
The frontcourt is long and athletic
Gafford looks at least 6-10 (teams tend to overstate the height of their players), but he probably isn’t the whole 211 pounds he’s listed, either. His arms are long enough, too, you could see him becoming an elite college basketball shot-blocker. He isn’t just the kind of defensive player who picked on the 6-5 centers of Arkansas 5A basketball. Fellow freshman
Fellow freshman Darious Hall has the freakiest, in the best possible way, length. He’s mostly a wing player, not a post, and he could be a shutdown defender on the wing. Curious to see how he defends heavier, more inside-oriented players this season
What didn’t go well for Arkansas
Frontcourt lacks offensively
Gafford can be a scorer, but his range is limited. His shot is flat and is far too easily blockable for a player his size. He gets close enough to the hoop, he’s nearly automatic. It’s just going to be difficult for him to do that against teams with real centers and power forwards.
Trey Thompson is the best passer on the team but also is not a good shooter. He and Dustin Thomas are best when they are distributing the ball from the high post and at the elbow versus taking jumpers. And Thomas has a tendency to take them. His problem is form. Thomas has shown in practice he is a capable mid-range player and can pop a 3 now and again, but last season his mechanics held him back – he has a tendency to fade away and float off to the side.
Hall and Adrio Bailey, likely a starter or at least a regular, are clunky. Neither have great ball-handling skills on the wing and both have mechanical jump shots. They’re at their best when going hard to the basket. Both are supremely athletic and might be the best two dunkers on the team. It’s just going to be difficult for them to get all the way to the rim to get those shots unless their handle improves.
This is not a great shooting team
Macon is a good shooter. CJ Jones can be. Hardly anyone else on the roster looks like they’re going to be great from 3-point range.
Few teams shot the 3-pointer less often in the country last year than Arkansas and that was with ace Dusty Hannahs on the roster. Count on that number to go lower this, too. This is a team whose best bet is to spread the ball, move the ball and get open lanes to the basket. If they have to rely on jump-shooting, they’re going to be in trouble a lot of nights. They shot just 11 of 40 from range on Friday.
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