By Nate Allen
Special to the News-Times
FAYETTEVILLE - The SEC’s men’s head basketball coaches recognized Arkansas Razorbacks 6-3 senior guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon and 6-11 freshman center Daniel Gafford naming to their various All-SEC teams released Tuesday by the SEC Office in Birmingham, Ala.
Barford of Jackson, Tenn. was named to the coaches 8-man First-Team and Macon of Little Rock Parkview was named to the coaches 8-man Second-Team. Gafford of El Dorado was named to the coaches’ All-SEC Freshman team.
For the 5-man first and second All-SEC teams voted upon by media, second-year junior college transfer Macon was voted first-team and fellow second-year junior college transfer Barford was voted second team.
The media did not vote on an All-Freshman team.
Before they practiced Tuesday afternoon in Fayetteville and flew to St. Louis where his begin their part of the SEC Tournament as the sixth-seed Thursday night against the Wednesday night winner between 11th-seed South Carolina and 14th-seed Ole Miss, Coach Mike Anderson addressed the honors bestowed on three Hogs.
“Kudos to Barford, Macon and Daniel and well deserved,” Anderson said. “And if you talk to any of those guys it’s because of what the (21-10 team is doing. I think the team has really played well throughout the whole year and I think those guys are a big part of what we do. So I’m sure they say they share whatever accolades that come because it come with how we are winning and playing the exciting brand of basketball we’re playing.”
Though impacting the 26-10 Razorbacks of last season with Macon averaging, 13.4 points and Macon, 12.8, neither made the Coaches 2017-2018 Preseason All-SEC teams.
This season Barford averages 17.9 and 3.9 rebounds while Macon averages 17.1 points and 4.0 assists.
“That's why I say, ‘It ain't how you start, it's how you finish,” Anderson said of his guards All-SEC preseason omissions. “So that's a tribute to those guys and hat they did in the offseason to form what I think is one of the best backcourts in the country. Not only the SEC, but in the country. Then you put a guy like (senior starting guard Anton) Beard in there that complements those guys. It's a tribute to those guys and what they bring to the table. I think they've gotten better. They've developed.”
Anderson was asked about Gafford’s development as a three-times honored SEC Freshman of the Week averaging 12.1 points and a team-leading 6.2 rebounds and by far Arkansas’ leader blocking shots (68).
“Daniel is a very unique player,” Anderson said. 'When he came in here, I think he weighed maybe 220, 215, something like that. He put on like 20 pounds. Getting in the weight room with Adam Pettway, our strength and conditioning guy, this summer was big for him, having a chance to come up here and just get acclimated going against guys his size each and every day. The jump he’s made has been tremendous and that’s a tribute to Daniel and it’s a tribute to our coaching staff.”
Regarding Gafford’s attributes, Anderson said, “As this season has unfolded, he’s gotten better and just being comfortable. Catching the ball in the post with space, he’s making plays happen. He can run the floor. He can block the shot on one end, he can get on the other end and finish. He’s a great rebounder. At 6-11 and as athletic as he is, he is very unique.”
Anderson also addressed moving on minus senior forward Dustin Thomas, dismissed from the team Monday for “violation of team rules,” Anderson said Monday via a press release.
Thomas has started 17 games at power forward but it’s been a by committee position variously alternating Trey Thompson, the 6-9 senior Forrest City grad whose principal role is alternating at center with Gafford, 6-8 senior Arlando Cook, 6-7 sophomore Adrio Bailey, 6-8 freshman Gabe Osabuohien and occasionally 6-6 freshman swingman Darious Hall.
“It’s next man up,” Anderson said. “So that’s why I say it’s important for all these guys to get quality minutes throughout the year because you never ever know in a season that guys may get hurt, you may have foul trouble .. Somebody has got to step up to the plate and keep that car running down the middle of the road and running really efficient.”
Sophomore reserve shooting guard C.J. Jones, sidelined with a knee injury during last Saturday’s 77-67 SEC regular season closing loss at Missouri, apparently is good to go Thursday night.
“He may sprained it a little bit but he practiced yesterday (Monday) and he didn’t say much about it,” Anderson said. “He’ll be available. He’ll be ready to play.”