CLINTON — Coach Mike Anderson says the Razorbacks basketball team is ready to take the next step in his third year as coach.
“I thought, this past year, we did a good job of defending the home court, and didn’t do as good on the road,” Anderson told reporters before addressing the Greers Ferry Lake Area Razorback Club in Clinton on Thursday night. “That’s the next step that we’ve got to conquer.”
The Razorbacks are a combined 35-5 in home games under Anderson, but have only two road wins under Anderson.
The third-year coach conceded that the team’s performance has been less than desired away from Bud Walton Arena, but reminded that it’s all part of building the program, which Anderson says is going in the right direction.
“When you’re building a program, you build it the right way,” he said. “The painful part is you have to go through some things.”
While being introduced to the room full of Razorback fans, mention was made of Anderson’s time spent as an assistant under former coach Nolan Richardson, including a 1994 national championship.
The time was referred to Thursday night as “the glory days” of Arkansas men’s basketball. It’s “the glory days” that most fans are reminded of when thinking of Anderson, and the similarity of his fast-paced playing style to his mentor, Richardson.
It’s also “the glory days” that Razorback basketball fans want to see return under Anderson.
“It’s coming,” Anderson told the crowd.
While addressing the audience, Anderson referred to the “monster” that Richardson created through the 1990s, and said if it’s now his job to feed the monster, “get ready to eat.”
The 2013 Razorbacks will be forced to fill voids left by Marshawn Powell and B.J. Young, who both opted for June’s NBA Draft, although neither player was drafted.
Anderson said he expects the voids to be filled by “unselfish play” from multiple players, but mentioned senior forward Coty Clarke and sophomore guard Michael Qualls as players who might fill the voids most.
Senior guards Kikko Haydar, who Anderson said has been named team captain, and Rickey Scott are two other players expected to make more of an impact in 2013, Anderson said.
“(Scott has) been a guy that’s played well for us at times, and at times he hasn’t played well,” he said.
Anderson told reporters that one area that needed to be improved before the season was the team’s size, which he believes was adequately addressed through recruiting, in part by the addition of McDonald’s All-American Bobby Portis, from Little Rock Hall.
“We need size, but not only size, length, athleticism and ability, but guys that can play the way we want to play,” Anderson said. “I think you’re going to see the ‘fastest 40 minutes’ get a little faster, and hopefully, a lot more effective.”
Anderson praised Portis’ work ethic, and said the 6-foot-9 freshman reminded him of a young Corliss Williamson.
“Corliss was a humble and hard-working guy, and I think that’s what Bobby Portis is going to bring to our program,” he said. “(He is) a young man that grew up wanting to be a Razorback.”
Answering questions from the audience, Anderson addressed the concern of point guard by saying he expects the position to be “run by committee,” with minutes split between Gulley, Scott, Haydar and sophomore DeQuavious Wagner.
The Razorbacks begin the season Nov. 15 against Louisiana, at Bud Walton Arena, before participating in the EA Sports Maui Invitational on Nov. 25-27.
Anderson said the “great field,” including Syracuse and California, should serve as an early test for the team.
“It’s going to be a great barometer, and a big test, early on,” he said. “It’s to find out where we are and what we need to work on to get better.