Anderson insists there's no pressure on Gafford
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.