Thursday, July 03, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Hoop Hogs adding five newcomers


FAYETTEVILLE – The six Arkansas Razorbacks basketball newcomers ought to be well acquainted with practicing among the returning Razorbacks before preseason practice officially starts in October.

One of the newcomers, 6-7 junior forward Keaton Miles, already is used to the returnees, having practiced with the Razorbacks throughout the 2013-2014 season as a redshirting transfer from West Virginia University.

Meanwhile, Dusty Hannahs, a Pulaski Academy graduate who transferred to Arkansas after lettering two years as a shooting guard at Texas Tech, gets a head start on his Arkansas redshirt year. Hannahs works out with the Razorbacks this summer in the voluntary pickup games and conditioning workouts, plus the limited structured summer basketball workouts that the NCAA allows.

The workouts provide the first taste for this upcoming season for three incoming freshmen, including 6-10 forward Trey Thompson of Forrest City; 6-4 shooting guard Nick Babb of Arlington, Texas and 6-0 point guard Anton Beard of North Little Rock. There is also 6-1 transfer point guard Jabril Durham, formerly of Seminole (Okla.) Junior College.

“Right now, summer is in full effect and we’re able to bring all our guys here on campus,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said on this week’s SEC Basketball summer media teleconference. “The last one, which was Nick Babb, got here this past weekend. With the eight weeks of individual instruction, two hours a week, we’re able to get in and do some individual stuff and develop. It’s just good to see a lot of returning guys, eight returning guys from last year, with the new guys as well. We have five new players coming in with Keaton Miles, the guy that sat out for us last year.”

The returnees include senior three-year letterman guard Ky Madden of Lepanto via East Poinsett County High; senior one-year letterman and former University of Houston forward Alandise Harris; junior two-year lettermen guards Michael Qualls and Anthlon Bell; 6-8 junior two-year letterman forward Jacorey Williams; 6-10 sophomore lettermen big men Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley and sophomore walk-on guard Manuale Watkins.

Portis, the Little Rock Hall grad who made second-team All-SEC, and Qualls, the jumping jack often found on ESPN SportsCenter highlights last season including the game-ending follow-up dunk that beat Kentucky, have not been with the team all summer. Portis was invited to an elite big man’s camp and Qualls to an elite skills camp.

“I think it’s a tremendous experience for these guys,” Anderson said. “I don’t know if we’ve had two guys have the opportunity to go to two different camps.”

Anderson was asked about both individually.

“Bobby was pitted against some of the same guys at his position – big guys,” Anderson said. “So it gave him a barometer of where he is and some of the things he’s got to work on. It was a great experience, good exposure for him.”

And Qualls?

“Michael is en route to getting back right now,” Anderson said. “But all signs are that some positive thing are taking place for him in terms of getting exposure and playing against some of the best players in the country. Hopefully it gives them the mindset to come back and really go to work.”

Anderson appreciated that Portis approached last season unaffected by the McDonald’s High School All-American hype accompanying him.

“We talked about Bobby coming in that he didn’t have to be the savior,” Anderson said. “But his speed was, he was second-team all-conference. The thing I like about Bobby is he wants to be a great player. He’s a gym rat. He’s dedicated to improving.”

He’d better be because opponents will have a renewed dedication against him.

“He’s going to be a marked guy this year,” Anderson said. “People know who Bobby Portis is.”

This season, Portis literally will reach new heights.

“He’s almost 6-11 now,” Anderson said. “I think the guy is still growing. So now it’s just a matter of him getting his body strengthened and getting better from a skill standpoint. That’s something he’s doing each and every day.”