Arkansas hasn’t become a power since Mike Anderson took over the Razorbacks’ program following the 2011 season. This hasn’t unfolded on a national level, and not even in the SEC. The Razorbacks have been mediocrity personified, appearing in only one NCAA Tournament in 2015 and winning a mere 61 percent of their games, 55 in the SEC.
Yet, despite the absence of on-court success, Anderson is recruiting as well as ever at Arkansas.
Collectively, Anderson’s 2017, ’18, and ’19 classes have earned eight pledges, which had drawn headlines entering November. How has a coach who’s led his team to the big dance only once in five seasons lured talent to Fayetteville at such an impressive rate?
While Arkansas has become an increasingly fertile recruiting landscape, Anderson is effectively harvesting the Natural State’s homegrown talent.
Of Anderson’s eight Razorback commits among his three ongoing classes, seven are in-state recruits. The entire three-man 2017 class consists of in-state talent, which may prove to be an accomplishment as is, considering a duo that elected to remain home over prominent programs.
Four-star power forward Daniel Gafford, an El Dorado (Ark.) native who ranks as the nation’s No. 36 player per the 247Sports composite, chose Arkansas over a bundle of offers including Kansas, Virginia, Florida and Vanderbilt.
Four-star Parkview Magnet product Khalil Garland also chose Arkansas over a list of arguably more lucrative options, such as Texas A&M, Oregon, Baylor, Connecticut and Florida. Garland said, “I just followed my heart,” of his pledge to Arkansas, a sentiment similar to four-star 2018 small forward Reggie Perry, the lone out-of-state commit and part of a unique dynamic Anderson used to his advantage.
Despite being a Thomasville (Ga.) native, Perry’s time on the AAU summer circuit has been spent with an Arkansas powerhouse: the Arkansas Hawks. Perry’s AAU teammates include four of the Razorbacks’ five other commits—three from the 2018 class and the lone 2019 pledge, with three-star 2017 wing and Little Rock product Darious Hall being the exception.
From a single AAU team, Anderson has reeled in Perry, then a trio of three-star talents: power forward Ethan Henderson, shooting guard Isaiah Joe and point guard Desi Sills. He also landed with 2019 point guard Justice Hill, who said, “I want to recruit some boys to come up there with me so we can help Coach Anderson win again.”
As a result of his in-state recruiting success, and efforts with one summer circuit team in particular, Anderson’s 2017 class ranks within the top 20 in the nation, while his 2018 and 2019 classes rank No. 1 and No. 7, respectively. Additionally, Anderson has reached such feats without pursuing a single five-star prospect, though he has landed the state’s top two 2017 talents and top three in 2018.
Anderson has executed a “take care of home” recruiting approach. Arkansas is still a legitimate potential landing spot for Little Rock’s Connor Vanover and four-star wing Rodgerick Brown, who is just 30 miles across the Mississippi River into Tennessee.
There may be bigger fish in the pond, but without much on-court success to bait top-tier talent, Anderson has lured as much as one can ask out of the pond in his own back yard.