The founder of the Arkansas Hawks AAU program wonders if Mike Anderson still has the ears of his players.
These days, Bill Ingram’s opinion on the state of the basketball Hogs matters more than ever. Talent-wise, after all, the key to its future lies within Ingram’s Arkansas Hawks AAU program in the form of these five verbal commits to Arkansas:
- Ethan Henderson (LR Parkview; 4-star via 247Sports, c/o 2018)
- Justice Hill (LR Christian; Class of 2019)
- Isaiah Joe (Fort Smith Northside; 3-star via 247Sports; c/o 2018)
- Reggie Perry (Thomasville, Ga., 4-star via ESPN, c/o 2018)
- Desi Sills (Jonesboro, 4-star via 247Sports, c/o 2018)
— Kevin McPherson (@ARHoopScoop) January 27, 2017
— Desi sills (@_luckylefty3_) January 28, 2017
But will this class, currently ranked No. 10 in the nation by ESPN, actually make it to Fayetteville? The question seems apt in light of the last couple of weeks. The Hogs, who had been a lock for the 2017 NCAA Tournament, have tumbled onto the bubble according to college basketball betting lines after suffering three horrendous losses within a four-game stretch to Oklahoma State, Missouri and Vanderbilt.
Ingram, like so many other Hog fans, is concerned with Arkansas’ lack of consistency under the coaching of Mike Anderson and his staff. This is Anderson’s sixth year and the team is stocked with plenty of talented recruits. Yet the team lurches in effort and execution from one night to the next, unable to find a groove of consistent success. Indeed, Arkansas appears to have regressed from earlier in the season from a defensive intensity standpoint. The players still haven’t developed enough consistent offensive flow and chemistry to prevent momentum-killing droughts.
Bill Ingram: In actuality the [in-state talent] of these last two or three years, leading up to the next two or three years, it’s at an all time high. It as high as I’ve ever seen it before. And these guys can compete on a national level… And what we expect is we expect to keep our in-state kids home. And I don’t know if we’ve always been like that, so that’s nothing new. We expect to keep our in-state kids home. Our kids have gotten a lot better and we expect them to be a part of that program. And help that program to win games.
And this is the thing that I think bothers me more than anything is: We’re still asking for you to be 3rd or 4th [in the SEC]. We’re thinking if you’re in 3rd of 4th place, and that means you may be good enough to get to the NCAA tournament, and anything that happens from that point. But I want us to get to the point where we’re asking you to be No. 1 or 2. Every year. And now we working on third and fourth. And so, I think the fans have been extremely reasonable.
… I’m still hungry for that No. 1 or No. 2 but we’re accepting No. 3 or No. 4 and we not getting there.
No one is happy and I understand why. And we have to do better in then all our programs. We have to be better on our football program. I mean, we shouldn’t be at this point in our programs because we have a great fan base.
I look at schools like Butler. Man, they got a neighborhood fan base in Indianapolis. Not a statewide fan base, not even the whole city of Indianapolis. But, they got a neighborhood fan base. And they’re consistently ranked in the top 25 and for the last, what you want to say, five, ten years? So there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to be a top 25 program every year and competing for SEC championship. I just feel like that.
Bo Mattingly: What do you think is the biggest issue or question that Mike Anderson is facing right now?
Bill Ingram: Well, the biggest question is, I think, what if he’s lost the team? And when you have losses like this to a Missouri team — probably no one on that team could start for Arkansas. And then when you come back and you under a huge amount of pressure, and you perform like that against Vanderbilt. First question that comes to people’s mind is whether you still have the ears of the players and if they’re listening to you?
The above excerpts have been lightly edited for clarity