Mike Anderson retains Hogs top-10 class

April, 13, 2011
4/13/11
12:58
PM ET
The month-long spring signing period began Wednesday, and new Arkansas coach Mike Anderson didn't have to do a thing.

He was done with recruiting for 2011, courtesy of former coach John Pelphrey.

That qualifies as exceedingly rare for a new coach taking over a program in the spring, but the Anderson hire was unique and so too is this Razorbacks' recruiting class.

[+] EnlargeArkansas
AP Photo/Beth HallThousands showed up to welcome Mike Anderson back to Arkansas. He rewarded them by retaining the program's highly touted recruiting class.
Anderson coached at Arkansas as an assistant for 17 seasons under Nolan Richardson and was the interim coach when Richardson was forced out in 2002. He had to find his own way as a head coach, going to UAB then Missouri and becoming a regular in the NCAA tournament at each spot.

Anderson has a 200-98 career record, with six tourney appearances. He was at Arkansas when the Hogs won the national championship in 1994 and made two other Final Four trips in 1990 and 1995.

The recruiting class Pelphrey and his staff put together in the fall, ranked No. 8 in the country by ESPN, had nearly as strong a connection to the state as Anderson did to the school.

Three of the five recruits -- shooting guard Ky Madden (No. 11 SG), small forward Aaron Ross (No. 24 SF) and power forward Hunter Mickelson (No. 8 PF) -- are from Arkansas, and each is ranked in top 25 of his position. The other two recruits -- point guard B.J. Young of neighboring Missouri and power forward Devonte Abron of neighboring Texas -- had already been recruited by Anderson while he was at Mizzou, so that made it easier for him to secure their commitments. Like the Arkansas threesome, Young (No. 4 PG) and Abron (No. 33 PF) are ranked high at their respective positions.

According to at least once source with knowledge of the situation, there are two players in the class -- Ross and Young -- who still have to get eligible through the normal NCAA process. Assuming they do, Arkansas will have a stellar freshman class to build Anderson's base for the next few seasons.

"The top priority was to re-recruit these players," said Anderson. "These are five different players at five different positions. It was important to meet them and their families and let them know what I'm about."

Anderson said there was a natural transition of committed recruits when he took over at UAB and Missouri. Some didn't want to come. Others did. There were holes in the recruiting process that needed to be filled. It happens almost every time there is an opening.

"Timing is everything, and these guys are coming in ready to impact the program," Anderson said. "It was important for me to want these guys to remain here."

Anderson said there were a few elite players in the state, such as current Atlanta Hawks forward Joe Johnson, when he was an assistant to Richardson. But having three top-100 players is not the norm in the state.

"What this shows is the talent level in the state and how the high school coaches are doing an outstanding job," Anderson said. "It goes in cycles, but when I was here it was once every four or five years."

Anderson is fortunate. He doesn't have to spend April and early May trying to fill the roster for next season. He can concentrate on the current roster and implementing his style of play. That's what he was doing Tuesday in Fayetteville. Anderson said the current players on the roster, including leading scorer Rotnei Clarke, are all good to return.

"Lots of things are coming together," Anderson said. "We're going to put together a product that everyone can be proud of."

Anderson didn't have to go through a rough transition -- he slid seamlessly into the job. He has a top-10 recruiting class intact that he didn't sign, but you can bet he has embraced it for its talent and its connection to Arkansas.

Nothing is guaranteed, though. The new coach said he has to change the culture in the program, look for more accountability and of course get the Razorbacks to return to the "Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball," his version of Richardson's old "40 Minutes of Hell."

"Hopefully everyone will be ready for us to have an outstanding season," Anderson said. "We're trying to do everything right on and off the floor."

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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