An­der­son in­sists there's no pres­sure on Gaf­ford

El Dorado News-Times - - Sports - By Nate Allen Spe­cial to News-Times

FAYET­TEVILLE - Call it po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness or sim­ply em­pa­thetic good taste, but it seems other than on Jerry Springer the freak shows linked to car­ni­vals and cir­cuses de­cline

Ex­cept with Ra­zor­backs men’s bas­ket­ball. The cal­liope plays on at the Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville say the Ra­zor­backs when Daniel Gaf­ford prac­tices at Wal­ton Arena.

“He’s a freak,” Arkansas se­nior power for­ward Trey Thomp­son said of the true fresh­man for­ward flash from El Do­rado. “I don’t know a 7-footer who can run and jump like he can. He just bounces like a kan­ga­roo.”

At 6-11, 234, Gaf­ford is listed a shade un­der 7-feet stand­ing an ath­letic cut above any bud­ding tal­ent of sim­i­lar size that 6-9, 265 se­nior Thomp­son has played with or against.

“I’ve never seen any­thing like it,” Thomp­son said. “He's like a gazelle.

He gets up and down the court easy. And he jumps so well.”

And so per­sis­tently.

“His sec­ond and third jumps are so easy and ef­fort­less,” Thomp­son said. “He’s go­ing to be great. He’s go­ing to help us on of­fense and the de­fen­sive end.”

Thomp­son out of Madi­son via For­rest City High was a UA fresh­man three years ago when cur­rent 6-11 Chicago Bulls for­ward Bobby Por­tis starred for Coach Mike An­der­son’s Ra­zor­backs as an All-Amer­i­can sopho­more named the SEC Player of the Year.

“They are dif­fer­ent play­ers,” Thomp­son said. “Bobby was more of a com­plete post guy who could score. Daniel doesn’t need the ball in is hands to be ef­fec­tive. He’s long and ath­letic.”

An­der­son knew he had some­thing spe­cial upon sign­ing both Por­tis and Gaf­ford.

Like fine wine, he be­lieves what was spe­cial about Por­tis then and what’s spe­cial about Gaf­ford now needed and needs to be nur­tured, not rushed.

“There’s no pres­sure,” An­der­son said. “I said this about Bobby when he first came in and I say this now: Daniel is not the sav­ior of our bas­ket­ball pro­gram. Daniel will come in and go at his own pace. That’s why you’ve got se­niors (in­clud­ing Thomp­son, power for­ward Dustin Thomas and guards Jaylen Bar­ford, Daryl Ma­con and An­ton Beard help­ing last sea­son’s Ra­zor­backs go 26-10.

On his fresh­man pace, Por­tis pro­duced plenty, 12.3 points and 6.8 re­bounds, and im­proved to 17.8 points and 8.9 re­bounds as sopho­more be­fore turn­ing pro.

An­der­son be­lieves Gaf­ford’s own pace also will fit neatly into what his el­ders set.

“Trust me,” An­der­son said. “If there’s any in­di­ca­tion what’s

taken place through­out the sum­mer and what’s tak­ing place in prac­tice right now, he will im­pact our team. He’s a sponge (soak­ing up bas­ket­ball knowl­edge), just try­ing to get bet­ter at pro­tect­ing the rim while run­ning the floor like a guard.”

There is one Por­tis-Gaf­ford com­par­i­son ab­so­lutely iden­ti­cal.

Por­tis of Lit­tle Rock Hall and Gaf­ford of El Do­rado were na­tion­ally cov­eted Arkansans in­ter­ested only in Arkansas.

“I've al­ways wanted to come to Arkansas ever since I started play­ing bas­ket­ball,” Gaf­ford said.

For re­cruit­ing vis­its, the freak show’s act was never seen on any stage but Fayet­teville.


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