FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas basketball coach Mike Anderson had a warning for fans before his team held a short scrimmage in Bud Walton Arena on Friday night.
“Buckle up,” Anderson said.
They found out what he was talking about over the next 20 minutes.
Arkansas’ new-look team, featuring more speed, improved athleticism, and a 16-man roster, raced up and down the floor to close the Primetime at the Palace. The official start to preseason practice began with guard B.J. Young’s quick drive to the basket right off the opening tip. The rest of the scrimmage was highlighted be plenty of transition buckets, 3-point shots and crowd-pleasing dunks.
Marshawn Powell, who is returning from last season’s knee injury, led the way with 15 points in his return to action. Young added 12 points, including his early bucket.
“It felt good getting up and down the floor,” Young said. “I’ve been waiting all day. I’ve been sleeping, waking up, sleeping, waking up. It just felt good going out there and giving the fans a small sample of what we’ve been working on.”
Said Powell: “We got after each other real well (Friday). I feel like with the group of guys we have, we do that every time we play. It’s going to help us get better.”
The showcase wasn’t a picture of perfection by any means — Arkansas will get to work on that starting with the first full-scale practice. But it did fall in line with Anderson’s thinking a day earlier. He’s not quite sure what his team will look like when the regular season begins Nov. 9, but he’s pretty sure it will be an exciting one.
“I have a feeling there will be games you say ‘Whoo’ and some games you say, ‘Woah,’” Anderson said Thursday. “Hopefully we can eliminate the ‘Woah.’”
The scrimmage was just the end of a night that began with both the men’s and women’s teams signing autographs for fans on the arena’s concourse level.
The women’s team then held a 20-minute scrimmage before turning the night over to the men, who held a slam dunk contest and the 20-minute scrimmage.
Five Razorbacks – Young, Alandise Harris, Michael Qualls, Jacorey Williams and Davion Spivey – competed in the slam dunk contest in front of a panel of judges that included former Hogs Pat Bradley, Todd Day and Ron Brewer.
Young turned in the only perfect score, earning 50 points after leaping over a team manager to dunk a ball in the first round. Young said he was a late addition to the contest, entering the mix after being challenged by Anderson to compete.
The sophomore did just that Friday. But it was Spivey who won the title, edging Young (45 points) and Harris (41 points) in the final round.
“Davion was ready,” Young said. “He deserved to win.”