Arkansas Razorbacks

Marcus Paige, Anton Beard
Associated Press

Beard set to make return to action for Arkansas after arrest

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Arkansas point guard Anton Beard will make his return to the court on Saturday after missing the season’s first nine games following a summer arrest on forgery charges.

Beard, named to the Southeastern Conference’s All-Freshman team last season for the Razorbacks (5-4), was arrested in July after Fayetteville police said he was seen using and exchanging counterfeit $20 and $50 bills.

He entered a pre-trial diversion program last month in an attempt to avoid prosecution, and Saturday’s game in North Little Rock with Mercer (8-2) will mark the end of his semester-long suspension.

“He feels grateful to have the opportunity still to be here,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “I am sure there are a lot of things he wants to correct. How do you correct that? By going out and doing the right thing. So, it’s a life lesson for him.”

Beard averaged 5.8 points in 18.9 minutes per game last season for the Razorbacks, who were 27-9 and finished runner-up in the SEC. He started the season’s final 16 games, including a pair in the NCAA Tournament, and he shot 35.2 percent on 3-pointers while also averaging a steal per game.

The 6-foot point guard wasn’t made available to speak publicly before his season debut, but Anderson said he’s been practicing with the Razorbacks for the last two weeks in preparation for his first game.

Arkansas has struggled at times this season to replace last season’s SEC Player of the Year, Bobby Portis, as well as second-leading scorer Michael Qualls. The Razorbacks were 2-3 following a pair of losses to Georgia Tech and Stanford in New York, but they have won three of four games since.

Without Beard, point guard Jabril Durham has flourished while averaging a team-high 30.8 minutes per game. The senior is second in the country with an average of 8.1 assists per game, and he’s also averaging nearly two steals per game.

Anderson said while Beard’s return will cut into Durham’s minutes somewhat, he expects both to become more efficient with their play – and that the two are likely to see action at the same time as Arkansas tries to extend its winning streak to three games.

“He’s not the savior,” Anderson said of Beard. “He’s just going to be a guy that’s going to come in and try to get back into the rhythm of things, because right now our guys are playing at a pretty good level.”

Arkansas lands four-star junior college forward Arlando Cook

Mike Anderson
Associated Press
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One week after announcing that he’d de-committed from Nevada, one of the top junior college prospects in the Class of 2016 has decided to play his college basketball in the SEC.

6-foot-9 power forward Arlando Cook, currently a sophomore at Connors State College in Oklahoma, announced via Twitter Thursday afternoon that he will sign with Arkansas when the early signing period begins later this month. Cook averaged 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game as a freshman, and his commitment is an important one for a program that currently lack front court depth.

Cook joins fellow forward Adrio Bailey in Arkansas’ 2016 recruiting class to date. The Razorbacks took a hit to their front court options during the summer as it was announced that Ted Kapita was not cleared to join the program. Originally expected to attend prep school and join Arkansas in 2016, Kapita wound up signing on with the ill-fated AmeriLeague whose CEO was none other than convicted con man Glendon Alexander (he went by the name of Cerruti Brown in this endeavor).

That took Kapita out of the equation, and with Kennesaw State transfer Willy Kouassi being in his final season of eligibility Mike Anderson and his staff had some significant holes to address in their front court rotation. Current juniors Moses Kingsley and Dustin Thomas (Colorado transfer; sitting out this season) will be available in 2016-17 as will redshirt freshman Trey Thompson.

But Arkansas needed another option, especially one who can hit the ground running and be a key contributor immediately. Cook’s verbal pledge takes care of this issue.

Arkansas lands three-star Class of 2016 forward

Mike Anderson
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Arkansas picked up its third commitment in the Class of 2016 as three-star forward Adrio Bailey pledged to the Razorbacks.

A native of Louisiana, the 6-foot-7 Bailey took his official visit to Arkansas over the weekend and becomes the first high school player to commit in the current Razorback class.

Highly-touted junior college guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon currently make up head coach Mike Anderson’s recruiting class and Bailey gives them some much-needed size. A forward with developing wing skills, Bailey can play above the rim and he’s also versatile enough to make plays all over the floor. With the way Arkansas plays, it should be a good fit for Bailey’s strengths.