Arkansas may already have its first win of the 2018-19 season.
Forward Daniel Gafford, a projected first-round NBA draft pick, is expected to return to school for his sophomore season rather than turn pro, according to a report from Scout’s Evan Daniels.
The 6-foot-11 Arkansas native averaged 11.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game during his rookie campaign in Fayetteville. He shot 60.5 percent from the field.
His return his a major boon for coach Mike Anderson as it was widely expected that Gafford would be spending just one year in school before bouncing to the NBA. This June’s draft, however, looks to be especially strong in big men with Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III and Michael Porter, Jr. leading the way. Next year could potentially be a weaker crop of bigs, which could move Gafford up draft boards dramatically should he have a strong sophomore season.
The Razorbacks went 23-12 last season and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Butler.
While the recruitment of 2016 five-star guard Malik Monk has received the greatest amount of attention within Arkansas’ borders (and rightfully so), he wasn’t the only in-state prospect that Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson and his staff are working hard to reel in. Saturday night it was reported by Rivals.com that the Razorbacks have landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017, with an Arkansas native deciding to end his recruitment.
6-foot-10 three-star power forward/center Daniel Gafford made the pledge despite holding offers from other high-major programs including Kansas, Florida and Vanderbilt. Gafford hasn’t played basketball for all that long, and his play at events such as the Nike Elite 100 Camp and the Nike Peach Jam (Arkansas Wings 16U) led to him receiving added attention on the recruiting trail.
In six games at the Peach Jam, the El Dorado, Arkansas native averaged 13.5 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.
While we’re a long way from knowing what Arkansas’ 2017 class will look like, of Arkansas’ current front court players just one (grad student Willy Kouassi) is in his final season of eligibility. Moses Kingsley and Dustin Thomas (who’s currently suspended) are both juniors, although it should be noted that Thomas will have to sit out the 2015-16 season after transferring in from Colorado.
Trey Thompson is only a sophomore and Ted Kapita, who will be attending prep school for at least the first semester, could join the program midyear.