FAYETTEVILLE — Reports of physical ailments by University of Arkansas summer school-enrolled freshman basketball players Daniel Gafford and Khalil Garland apparently no longer have merit.
Forward Gafford, 6-11 of El Dorado, and 6-4 shooting guard Garland of Little Rock Parkview both are working out with and playing pickup games with their Razorbacks teammates, Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said when asked about both during Monday’s SEC Basketball Coaches Summer teleconference.
It has been speculated that Gafford had leg discomfort and that Garland had not been practicing because of something detected during his physical examinations.
Both had issues to clear.
“Obviously we give all our guys physical exams,” Anderson said. “There’s some things he has got to strengthen those muscles in his legs so he can get a high level. Daniel is doing fine. He cleared so he has been working out and has been going through the workout with no problem at all. He has been working out with our strength and conditioning coaches. We’re just trying to build these guy’s bodies up in the summer and get them ready for the rigors of SEC basketball.”
Regarding Garland, Anderson said, “He had some evaluation tests that took place, but he’s been going through the workouts. We’re just kind of building him up right now, but he’s fine.”
What kind of tests and for what?
“Well, like I said just some tests,” Anderson said. “I can’t speak to the specifics of it. That’s some privacy stuff there. But again, one of the things we make sure we do, we test these guys, overly test them, just to make sure, especially during the summer months. As you can imagine, these are guys coming into this level. They’ve never had the chance to really go through the strenuous activities that we put these guys through. We want to make sure that once they do come up here, they’re ready to go through the various workouts. That’s what it is with Khalil, just precaution, that’s all.”
Anderson described both Gafford and Garland as “good to go.”
Anderson was asked what he projects from freshmen Gafford, Garland and 6-6 small forward Darious Hall of Little Rock Mills.
“ Daniel Gafford, a 6-11 kid out of El Dorado High School, who we think is going to have a tremendous career here,” Anderson said. “Khalil Garland and Darious Hall …those are some of the guys that we’re going to be looking to come in and infuse and give us a little more excitement.”
Three keys to the Razorbacks 26-10 turnaround last season from the 16-16 of 2015-2016, seniors Moses Kingsley, the 6-10 shot-blocking center, shooting guard Dusty Hannahs and cover anybody versatile 6-3 guard-forward Manny Watkins have graduated.
So Gafford, Garland and Hall will be part of making up for what’s been lost.
“I really like the young guys,” Anderson said. “Daniel Gafford, I mean, he’s long. This guy has like a 7-3 wingspan, can run the floor and is very agile. Then of course Darius Hall, a guy that can hopefully fill the void of a guy like Manny Watkins, a guy who can do many things. Khalil is a combo guard who can attack and create.”
None have to arrive pressured to be instant stars.
Anderson starts with a senior base of second-year junior college transfer guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon, both testing the waters then withdrawing their names from NBA draft consideration, second-year junior college transfer forward Arlando Cook, third-year University of Colorado transfer power forward Dustin Thomas, fourth-year point guard Anton Beard of North Little Rock and fourth-year power forward/center Trey Thompson of Madison via Forrest City High.
Returning as sophomores lettering last season as reserves are shooting guard C.J. Jones and acrobatic forward Adrio Bailey.
“Three seniors (Kingsley, Hannahs and Watkins) contributed mightily,” Anderson said. “So we’ve got to have somebody to fill those voids.”
Anderson named names.
“Anton Beard (a starter on 2014-2015 NCAA Tournament team) being one of the guys that probably has the most experience, this will be his fourth year coming up and he’s doing a tremendous job of leading our guys and working extremely hard. Then you have Jaylen Barford along with Daryl Macon. Two guards who put their names in the draft and elected to come back, which I thought was a very smart move for those guys to continue their development. I thought they made tremendous strides in their first year and I can see them stepping up and becoming even more complete players this year. We have a good nucleus of players coming back with C.J. Jones, Adrio Bailey, Dustin Thomas, and some of the newcomers. We (late season) really started to see Adrio Bailey step out of his comfort zone.”