Wednesday, February 18, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Jackson, Portis honored

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – An excellent past SEC basketball week for the Arkansas Razorbacks’ men’s and women’s teams reflected in Monday SEC’s choices for SEC Players of the Week.

The SEC Office in Birmingham, Ala. announced Monday that for his part the Razorbacks men winning SEC road games 101-87 on Feb. 10 at Auburn and 71-70 over Ole Miss last Saturday in Oxford, sophomore forward and Little Rock Hall alum Bobby Portis is the SEC Player of the Week

For her part in the Razorbacks women defeating Georgia, 54-48 on Feb. 9 at Walton Arena, playing No.14 Texas A&M to the wire in a 59-55 loss last Thursday in College Station, Texas, and routing Auburn, 54-36 Sunday at Auburn, sophomore forward Jessica Jackson of Jacksonville was named the SEC Co-Player of the Week.

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson’s men moved up to No.18 and No.17 in the AP and USA Today national media and coaches’ polls while advancing to 20-5 overall and to second-place 9-3 SEC going into the SEC Network televised game at 8 p.m. Wednesday against Missouri at Walton Arena.

The Razorbacks will honor Corliss Williamson, their two-time All-American in 1994 and ’95 and the MVP of Arkansas’ 1994 national championship team team, by raising a permanent banner with his name at Walton.

Jackson shares her honor with Kentucky guard Makayla Epps.

Jackson, a 6-3 forward, scored 15 points, with eight rebounds and four blocked shots against Georgia. She then scored 19 with six rebounds against Texas A&M and against Auburn scored 18 points with seven rebounds.

For the week, Jackson scored 52 points with 16 rebounds, an assist, four blocks and three steals. For the season, she averages 13.8 points and 5.8 rebounds.

Now 15-9, 5-7 in the SEC, Arkansas’ women play three consecutive SEC home games at Walton starting 8 p.m. Thursday on the SEC Network with nationally No. 2 SEC leader South Carolina, LSU at 1 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Feb. 26 against Kentucky.

At Auburn, Portis scored 14 points in the first half and 22 for the game while grabbing eight rebounds. At Oxford in Arkansas’ final appearance at the “Tad Pad”, Ole Miss’ Tad Smith Coliseum to be replaced next season with an arena currently under construction, Portis tallied 12 points, five rebounds and a season’s best four blocked shots while becoming the league’s lone player earning SEC Player of the Week honors for a second time this season.

Portis averages a league leading 18.7 points in SEC games.

“If the season ended today, Bobby Portis would get my vote as SEC Player of the Year,” Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy said on Monday’s SEC Teleconference.

Ironically, Portis was honored after an Ole Miss game during which Anderson acknowledged the Hogs strayed from what butters their bread by not getting the ball often enough to Portis.

“Ole Miss had something to do with that and we did, too.” Anderson said.

“At one point in time there I told our guys, ‘He needs to touch the basketball. So that is something we have got to continue to be aware of, especially the advantage he gives us starting inside and kicking it out outside. We started off the game doing that, we started attacking,” he added.

“But the second half I didn’t think we were on the attack. I thought we kind of settled more. I didn’t think the ball was going inside as much as it should have. But that’s something we can correct on that,” Anderson said.

Most impressive to Anderson, Portis didn’t allow not  getting the ball to mean he wasn’t on the ball in other aspects of the game, especially shot-blocking.

“Against Ole Miss I just saw him take another step from a defensive standpoint,” Anderson said. “He became a rim protector.  That’s something I have really been encouraging him to do.  So he is big for our basketball team.”

He is always a big example and not just because he stands 6-11.

For Portis came in starring as Arkansas’ best player last year but never content resting on laurels.

“Last year he came in and was one of the better freshman in the country,” Anderson said.

“But Bobby’s work ethic is something that is really huge in his development.  He wants to be a great player so he is here constantly with the coaches, asking ‘What do I need to do?’ And more importantly he is going out and doing those things. He has gotten stronger, he is playing a lot longer. He is a lot more active,” Anderson said.