Anderson's early work pays off at Arkansas
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Mike Anderson has been busy on the road and at his new school during the past month.
That work appears to have paid off for the new Arkansas coach, who said Thursday he expects to retain the Razorbacks' highly ranked recruiting class as well as all of the current players.
Anderson left Missouri last month to replace the fired John Pelphrey and has spent much of his first month on the job traveling to visit the school's five signees.
Hunter Mickelson, Ky Madden and Aaron Ross are from Arkansas, B.J. Young is from Missouri, and Devonta Abron is from Texas. All five were recruited and signed by Pelphrey, and Anderson began traveling to visit with them on his first full day on the job. He traveled to Missouri and Texas twice to visit with Young and Abron and their families.
"Right now they're all on board," Anderson said. "So far, so good."
While securing the incoming recruits was high on Anderson's agenda, he placed more importance on keeping the nine players already on campus. One of those included leading scorer Rotnei Clarke, who asked for a release from his scholarship after Pelphrey's firing and before Anderson was hired.
Clarke averaged 15.2 points per game last season for the Razorbacks, shooting 43.8 percent on 3-pointers. However, the sharpshooter has experienced only one winning season at Arkansas -- finishing with 14 wins in each of his first two seasons and 18-13 last season -- and has yet to reach the NCAA tournament.
"When you have a coaching change, there's a lot of questions that go in your mind," Anderson said. "Sometimes, it can be like your whole world is uprooted.
"It's his senior year, and he wants to have a special year. I assured him he is obviously important to what we're doing."
Anderson said after talking with Clarke and each of the players that he expects all nine to return. The nine returning players and five signees give Arkansas 14 scholarship players for next season, one over the limit of 13. Anderson didn't say whether he expected a current player to leave or one of the signees not to make it to campus.
Anderson already has had a chance to put the Razorbacks through individual workouts in the last month. He broke the workouts into four, 30-minute sessions per week and didn't waste any time showing the players what kind of effort was expected.
"I don't think they thought we could get a whole lot done in 30 minutes, but I think they've been pretty impressed thus far," Anderson said. "You talk about 10 minutes into the workout and they're kind of gassed."
He said the players have "started from scratch" with the new staff.
"The slate's clean on all our guys," Anderson said. "What has taken place in the past, that has no bearing on what is going to take place.
"I get a chance to see, on and off the floor, the things that they are about."
Anderson has been so busy during his month on the job that he hasn't had time yet to look for a house in Fayetteville. He said he was leaving the search up to his wife, Marcheita, and that it shouldn't be too difficult considering the Andersons lived in Fayetteville for 17 years when he was an assistant at Arkansas under Nolan Richardson.
Anderson hasn't been the only one busy with the transition from Missouri to Arkansas. He also brought his entire coaching staff from the Tigers with him to Fayetteville, including former Razorbacks' player and current assistant T.J. Cleveland.
"There was no doubt," Cleveland said. "I'm like his shadow. Wherever he was going, whatever he did, I was going to back him and be there for him.
"I think the timing was right, the timing was perfect."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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