By Nate Allen
Special to News-Times
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas Razorbacks senior forward Dustin Thomas began the 2017-2018 basketball season on disciplinary suspension and now ends it dismissed from the team.
In a Monday afternoon statement issued through the UA’s sports information department, Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson announced the dismissal of the 6-8 forward from Texarkana, Texas and 2-year Razorbacks letterman transferred from the University of Colorado.
“Senior forward Dustin Thomas has been dismissed from the team effective immediately for a violation of team rules,” Anderson said via the statement. “It is a privilege to represent the University of Arkansas as a student-athlete. We will continue to hold the student-athletes in our program to a high standard on and off the court.”
Neither Anderson nor the UA explained the specifics of Thomas’ dismissal.
Thomas is dismissed with the Razorbacks beginning postseason play in Thursday night’s SEC Tournament game in St. Louis against Wednesday night’s winner between South Carolina and Ole Miss.
Suspended for the season’s first three games, all nonconference, Thomas also was not used, though not listed as suspended, in two SEC home games, ironically South Carolina and Ole Miss of which one will be Arkansas’ opponent Thursday night.
Thomas played 26 games, starting 17, for the 21-10 Razorbacks. He averaged 5.0 points and 4.0 rebounds. While inconsistent, Thomas had some big games this season including 10 rebounds in the 87-72 SEC loss to Kentucky at Walton and nine points and 10 rebounds in the 66-65 SEC/Big 12 Challenge victory over Oklahoma State at Walton and 11 points in the 76-73 SEC victory at Alabama.
Thomas’ most significant Arkansas performance was scoring 13 points with five rebounds and a blocked shot in Arkansas’ 77-71 first-round NCAA Tournament victory over Seton Hall last season.
Thomas arrived at Arkansas as a redshirting transfer from the University of Colorado in 2015 but was also disciplinary suspended from team activities for that 2015 fall semester along with since permanently reinstated now senior guard Anton Beard.
With Thomas out, Anderson now as the starting forward Thursday night likely will select from a quartet of 6-9 senior Trey Thompson, more often used as the alternate for freshman center Daniel Gafford but sometimes employed in tandem with Gafford, 6-8 senior Arlando Cook, 6-7 sophomore Adrio Bailey and 6-8 freshman Gabe Osabuohien as the forward to go with his regular four of Gafford and senior guards Jaylen Barford, Daryl Macon and Beard.
St. Louis native Cook will have a hometown incentive if Thursday becomes his third start of the season.
He was asked about coming home to St. Louis last week as and Arkansas’ then six scholarship seniors were made media available the day before the Razorbacks’ Senior Night victory over SEC co-champion Auburn at Walton Arena.
“Oh man, I can't wait,” Cook, a second-year junior college transfer said. “Getting to go home and play, it's big. It's big. I'm going to have lot of family there, a lot people that haven't gotten to travel to see me play. Now they'll get to see me play.”
What was Cook’s reaction learning this year’s SEC Tournament was moving from Nashville?
“I actually saw it when we were at the SEC Tournament last year,” Cook said. “It was in one of the books. I went to Coach and said, 'Senior year, it's going to be in St. Louis. Aw, man, I was excited beyond excited. I called my mom and told her right away. She was excited, too. I'm going to have a lot of family and friends there. I can't wait.”
Anderson was asked about Cook on Monday morning’s SEC Coaches teleconference.
“I’m sure for Arlando it’s good to come home,” Anderson said. “But more importantly, Arlando is one of those kids that it’s about winning and whatever he can do to help team. Hopefully he can go out and play very much like he did on Senior Night. He had a bunch of people on Senior Night and hopefully there will be a good carryover.”
Anderson also was asked Monday for an update on sophomore reserve guard C.J. Jones injuring a knee during Arkansas’ 77-67 SEC regular season finale loss to Missouri last Saturday in Columbia, Mo.
“He got some treatment yesterday (Sunday),” Anderson said. “He should practice today and we’ll see how it comes out, but it’s not serious at this point.”