FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson refused to put pressure on Bobby Portis, but there was no denying the highly-touted freshman’s importance to the Razorbacks before the 2013-14 season began.
The good news for Arkansas is that Portis lived up to the billing and the Little Rock native was recognized for his efforts Tuesday.
Portis, who has started every game and ranks second on the team in scoring, earned multiple Southeastern Conference postseason honors. He was named second-team All-SEC and also landed a spot on the conference’s All-Freshman team.
The teams, which were voted on by coaches, were announced before the SEC Tournament begins today. Portis was the only Razorback to receive a postseason honor, but teammates said earlier this week the recognition was deserved.
“I think what he’s done this year is huge,” Arkansas guard Fred Gulley said. “It’s really tough for a freshman, regardless of the accolades they come into college with, to be able to come out here and perform the way he has.”
Portis is the only Razorback to start 31 games and averages a team-high 27.3 minutes. He’s also averaging 12.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals a game. Portis leads Arkansas in field goal percentage (52.9 percent).
“He came in and went at his own pace and we can see, this guy, he wants to be a player,” Anderson said. “He doesn’t want to be a good player, he wants to be a great player. I think he made great strides from the first day to where he is right now.”
Portis, who has scored in double figures in 20 of Arkansas’ 31 games, was named SEC Freshman of the Week twice this season. The second honor came after he set the Arkansas freshman scoring record with a 35-point performance in the 65-58 win against Alabama on Feb. 5.
He became the sixth Arkansas freshman to earn All-SEC honors, joining a group that includes Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman (1993), Joe Johnson (2000), Patrick Beverley (2007) and B.J. Young (2012). Portis also is the 15th Arkansas player to earn SEC All-Freshman honors and is the first since Young in 2012.
“He’s just so humble and he works so hard each and every day, day-in and day-out,” Arkansas guard Mardracus Wade said. “Guys just look up to him just to see what he does every day, and he keeps this team going. With Bobby out there, it keeps a lot of people at bay, you know, teams doubling him leaves us shooters wide open and leaves us lanes to cut. He’s been a big tribute to the team.”
Florida, which went 18-0 in conference play, nearly swept the individual awards that were handed out by the SEC’s coaches Tuesday.
The conference recognized Billy Donovan (Coach of the Year), Scottie Wilbekin (Player of the Year), Patric Young (Defensive Player of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year) and Dorian Finney-Smith (Sixth Man of the Year). Kentucky forward Julius Randle was named the SEC’s Freshman of the Year.
Wilbekin and Randle joined Alabama’s Trevor Releford, Florida’s Casey Prather, LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant, Missouri’s Jabari Brown and Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McCrae as first-team All-SEC performers.
Portis was one of 10 players named second-team All-SEC, joining Young, Auburn’s Chris Denson, Georgia’s Charles Mann, Kentucky’s James Young, LSU’s Jordan Mickey, Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson and Jarvis Summers, Missouri’s Jordan Clarkson and Vanderbilt’s Rod Odom.
Portis, Randle, Young and Mickey were the only freshmen among the 18 players named to the SEC’s first or second teams Tuesday.
“No question I think he’s one of the better ones in our league,” Anderson said of Portis. “He’s one of the better ones in the country. We’re glad to have him in a Razorback uniform.”