Nate Allen Sports
FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas Razorbacks basketball players Daniel Gafford and Adrio Bailey were both honored Monday by the SEC Office in Birmingham, Ala.
Along with South Carolina center Chris Silva, Gafford, 6-11 sophomore center from El Dorado, was named SEC Co-Players of the Week.
Bailey, a junior forward from Campti, La., was named to the All-SEC Community Service team for his good works bettering the community in Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas.
Gafford, certainty to be named to the various All-SEC teams to be announced this week as he leads the SEC in rebounding,. 8.7 average, and field goal percentage, 208 of 315 for 66 percent, is fourth in the league in scoring, 17.0 average, and third in blocked shots, 64.
In last Wednesday’s 84-48 rout of Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn. Gafford scored a game-high 20 points, blocked four shots and grabbed four rebounds. He outdid himself in last Saturday’s 82-70 victory over Alabama at Walton Area double-doubling with 29 points and a career high 16 rebounds.
“I think he’s very deserving of it,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said Monday before his 17-14, 8-10 SEC in the Razorbacks practiced Monday at Walton preparing for their noon Thursday SEC Tournament game against the Florida Gators in Nashville. “The other night (against Alabama) was fine of those nights when he took it to another level scoring wise, defensive wise, rebounding the basketball. He’s had some periods in some of the games where he hasn’t played his best basketball. But it wasn’t because of lack of effort.”
Anderson noted as a sophomore star Gafford contends against a mob designed to stop him whereas last season he was the freshman that the opposition teams initially discounted as they geared to battle 2017-2018 All-SEC seniors since turned pro guards Daryl Macon and Jalen Barford.
“You think of last year and the role he was in, It was totally different than this year,” Anderson said. “Now he’s on the top of everybody’s scouting report. And I thought he stepped up to the plate. I think he’s matured a lot in terms of being THAT guy. And I think his best basketball continues to be in front of him.”
Media available before Monday’s practice, freshman guard Desi Sills of Jonesboro and Bailey both marveled at Gafford’s performances.
“I just feel like Daniel Gafford is playing like Daniel Gafford,” Sills said. “Like what he’s supposed to be doing. He is the head honcho of this team, and wer’e following his lead.”
Bailey, recalling Gafford coming of age during last season, said “It doesn’t surprise us” that Gafford’s march accelerates in March.
“ Dan knows what’s at stake,” Bailey said. “He knows it’s March. March means basketball fever. That’s the time of the year, so not only Dan, but every player has turned it up a little bit. Because we know what’s at stake. We’re trying to go as far as we can.”
In Florida’s 57-51 victory over Arkansas in the Razorbacks SEC home opener Jan. 9, Florida Coach Mike White recalled how elated the Gators coaches were with the “good job” again Gafford.
“ I feel like he we did a good job and he had 9 (points) and 12 (rebounds,” White said on Monday’s SEC teleconference. “That’s how good the guy is. And they do a good job of giving him the basketball and he’s a bear to keep off the glass. He changes the game defensively. He can guard one through five. He switches on the point guards and he blocks shots at the rim. You always have to be cognizant of where he is on the court offensively and defensively.”
Bailey is honored for a variety of good works from serving on the UA Student-Advisory Council and the SEC Men’s Basketball Leadership Council to a variety of local charities like Full Circle Food Pantry and Hoops for Hope and reading to schoolchildren and participating in educational programs.
“I’m proud of Adrio,” Anderson said. “He’s an impact on the community. He’s very involved so that says a lot about him. The growth that he’s had as a person is unbelievable.”
Bailey has proven himself a selfless team player, moved out of starting role he’s had for 24 games recently to provide the lift off the bench that the Razorbacks could have used back when Florida’s bench outscored the Razorbacks’ reserve 10-0 in that 57-51 Gators victory at Walton.
“ Adrio wants to be the best player he can be,” Anderson said. “At the same time, he’s going to do whatever it takes to help this team win. He’s been to the (NCAA) tournament the two years he’s been here. So, he knows what it’s all about and he knows what it takes. So, he’s trying to help lead these young guys by example.”
Editor’s Note: The Razorbacks are in Nashville for the upcoming SEC Basketball tournament. Arkansas plays Florida in their opening round game Thursday.