Newcomers On Point During Summer Work


FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson has spent part of the offseason taking a look back at game film from the 2013-14 season.

One thing that stood out to him is how much his team relied on guard Ky Madden.

“Ky did a lot of things for us,” Anderson said. “Sometimes things didn’t work out because he had to do too much. But now you’ve got some help along the way.”

Arkansas has big plans for Madden, the team’s leading returning scorer, as he prepares for his senior season. But Anderson said Monday he’s hoping the guard won’t have to serve as the team’s primary ball handler once again with two point guards on campus getting acclimated to the Razorbacks.

North Little Rock High’s Anton Beard and junior college transfer Jabril Durham are expected to handle point guard duties for the Razorbacks in 2013-14. Their addition is expected to move Madden — who ran the point last season — into his more natural position as a shooting guard.

“I think they fit what we’re doing,” Anderson said. “I think it’s easy to put them out there, and they get a feel for what’s taking place. Familiarity is what they’re doing right now. Getting familiar with the players we have, the weapons we have.”

Beard, who played at North Little Rock High, is the most decorated player in Arkansas’ 2014 signing class. The 6-foot guard, who averaged 19.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 3.8 steals a game last season, also continues the recent trend under Anderson of Central Arkansas players joining the Razorbacks.

Durham began his college career at Lubbock Christian before transferring to Seminole State (Okla.) College as a sophomore. His Division I basketball stock rose in the spring after averaging 21.2 points, 6.7 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game.

“I really think he’s going to be one of the real bright spots when you talk about a guy that’s already played a couple of years of basketball,” Anderson said. “I think his strength is he’s a guy that can create for others. I think he’s one of those guys that commands leadership. He talks. He won’t back down from anybody.”

Arkansas forward Bobby Portis said both point guards have made an impression this summer as the Razorbacks prepare for next season.

“I like Jabril Durham a lot,” Portis said. “He always looks for me when he drives. He’s just not going in there trying to shoot it every time. Anton is young but he’s tough, too. He’s a hard-nosed kid. … I think it will help (Madden) out a lot because Coach A can move Ky to the two and let him shoot it more from the wing.”

Madden led Arkansas in scoring (12.7 points), assists (2.8), free throws (119) and free-throw percentage (82.1 percent) last season. He also ranked second in minutes (26.3 a game) and fourth in steals (0.8 a game).

The arrival of the new point guards doesn’t mean Madden’s ball-handling duties have ended. Anderson said Madden — who will be the leader of a young backcourt that also includes junior Anthlon Bell, sophomore Manuale Watkins and freshman Nick Babb — still will be valuable with the ball in his hands.

But Anderson said he won’t be forced to create for himself and others this season.

Instead, those duties will fall on the new point guards. Anderson believes it will make a big difference for an Arkansas team trying to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

“This year we look for (Madden) to take another step,” Anderson said. “But having him with some other guards that can man the point, especially when you need to get somebody in sets, you need to make plays, I think we have some other guys.

“Now it puts him a wing. Now I think you’ve got a double threat. You’ve got a triple threat when you’re taking about the guards that we have now.”