The Razorbacks host the Lions tonight at 7 in Bud Walton Arena. Tickets are available at the door. The game will also be on Razorvision, according Arkansas’ sports information department.
“Our mindset is to get these guys out on the floor to play different combinations,” Anderson said. “We want to see how the freshmen play with [junior forward] Marshawn [Powell]. See how [freshman forward] Hunter [Mickelson] plays with him and how [freshman forward] Devonta Abron plays with him, as well as a guy like [senior forward Marvell] Waithe. We’ll see a four-guard lineup, a three-guard lineup to see how these guys perform and how they play with each other.”
If some those names are new to you, don’t feel left out. Anderson’s Razorback program is in transition. Mickelson of Jonesboro and Abron of Seagoville, Texas, are part of a heralded four-man freshman class that includes 6-3 guard B.J. Young of St. Louis, Mo. and 6-5 guard Rashad “Ky” Madden of Lepanto. Waithe is an athletic 6-9 senior, whom former Arkansas coach John Pelphrey seldom used last season.
As with many coaching changes, players opted to leave the Razorbacks program in the summer, most notably sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke. Guard Jeff Peterson and forward Glenn Bryant also exited the program.
What Anderson is most eager to see, though, is how well his Hogs execute the pressure defense his philosophy is built upon.
“We’ve been trying to get our defensive intensity and pressure defense going,” Anderson said. “It will be a work in progress. There will be things we will not be doing well now that hopefully we’ll be doing well later.”
Anderson said the installation of the Hogs’ offense is ahead of the defense at this point, but that defense is where the Hogs’ bread will be buttered.
“If we are going to be really good on defense we’ve got to hone in on the defensive assignments, the intensity, the pressure, making people uncomfortable,” Anderson said. “That’s what we want to do. We got to get it where it becomes automatic for our guys. They are used to doing it at certain periods and then backing up around the three-point line. We want to extend that deeper. We want to be able to take some risks, but to do that you’ve got to know that your teammate has your back.”
Anderson said the pace and pressure is meant to disrupt opposing offenses.
“Our guys have to understand, the pressure is not all about getting steals,” Anderson said. “It’s to disrupt the offense, put the ball in the hand of a guy who is uncomfortable. That breaks a team down.”
Like the squads of his mentor Nolan Richardson, Anderson’s teams play at an uncommonly fast tempo. He’s not backing away from that pace, even though the Hogs only has 10 scholarship players.
“I’ve demanded a lot out of them, and I think they wonder why,” Anderson said of Arkansas’ conditioning work. “They’re are going to get a chance to see why in these exhibition games and in the preconference schedule.
“It’s hard to play 35, 36 minutes at the pace we want to play at. They will be playing 26, 28, 30 minutes. There’s quality minutes and quantity minutes. I like quality minutes where a guy just goes all out.
“With the nervous energy going and playing a game against someone other than ourselves, some of these guys are going to get tired really quick.”
In the Hogs’ Red-White game last Sunday, Powell (35 points) and Waithe (31 points) combined to score 66 points in leading the Whites to victory.
“Marshawn and Waithe, I think they complement each other,” Anderson said, but he also noted that he is not expecting that kind of production in season. “Offense comes and goes. It’s true. I’ve seen it. Marvell scored 31. I know that’s not going to happen every night. But can he get us some rebounds, can he block some shots, can he be a difference-maker on the floor? I think he can.”
Anderson has seen progress in Powell during early practices, who had a stand-out freshman season with the Hogs but slumped as a sophomore.
“I think [Powell’s] ball-skill level is getting better,” Anderson said. “He can put the ball on the floor and make passes, and he can shoot the basketball.”
Anderson currently is looking at junior Julysses Nobles and sophomore Rickey Scott at the point guard spot.
“I think you will see Rickey in a different light than last year,” Anderson said of Irving, Texas, native, who had an injury-plagued first year. “He’s really fast with the basketball. A lot of times you want it pushed, and he pushes it up and is effective with it. He puts a lot of pressure on the defense.
“Ju, he’s a guy experienced playing in the SEC. He’s an experienced guy with the basketball. He can create for us. He’s worked on his offense and shot. He can knock shots down because he is so explosive. It’s a good problem to have a couple of guys who can handle the basketball and they are not the only ones in this group.”
On offense, Anderson wants to see how the different combinations play together.
“I’m looking for some rhythm,” Anderson said. “As we get a chance to play someone else, I want to see if we can do some things in the halfcourt. Do we have the tempo going toward our liking and that means we are pushing the ball.
“I want to see us attack the glass, get second shots and get to the free-throw line. That’s important.”
While Anderson wants his team to push the tempo, he said the Hogs need to value the basketball.
“We want to disrupt and have takeaways and steels, but I would like to see them take care of the basketball,” Anderson said. “It’s going to be very important for us because we are not an overly sized team. We’ve got to rebound by committee. Our guards have to be active. Rickey Scott, Mardracus Wade are going to have to go and get us some rebounds, too.”
Anderson said senior forward Michael Sanchez is practicing and could play some tonight but that his conditioning isn’t up to par because of the time that he has missed recovering from back surgery.