FAYETTEVILLE – Fans accustomed to booing referees on general principles might come out jeering for the Arkansas Razorbacks’ first exhibition game Friday night at Walton Arena, but expect one Razorback cheering the stripe-shirted zebras.
Tip-off is 7 p.m. and part of the season ticket package, though plenty of tickets are available through the UA Ticket Office.
Any official’s officiating is better than his coach’s officiating, Arkansas senior forward Alandise Harris said of the Mike Anderson’s professed “no blood no foul” manner that Anderson officiates the Razorbacks scrimmages during practice.
Harris sounds as elated to have different officials than Anderson and Anderson’s assistants as the forward is elated to play against different opposition than his own teammates who have been officially practicing since Oct. 7 and actually working against on a near daily basis since July pickup games.
“I’m tired of playing with them every day and the way Coach A refs,” Harris, a fifth-year senior from Little Rock Central in his third UA year having transferred and redshirted two years ago from the University of Houston, said. “I’m tired of playing like that every single day. I’m ready to play somebody for real.”
Just how does Anderson ref?
“Bad. Horrible. Horrible ref,” Harris said. “He’s not calling nothing.”
Nor do assistants Melvin Watkins, Matt Zimmerman and T.J. Cleveland, Harris said.
“They’re all on the same level,” Harris said. “Horrible. All three of them, four of them. They all ref. We have four referees and can’t get no fouls.”
New junior college transfer guard Jabril Durham, sitting next to Harris meeting media Wednesday, took humorous pains to disagree with Harris regarding Anderson’s officiating abilities.
“We’ve got great refs!” Durham said. “Great refs! I’d nominate them for referee of the year!Great refs!”
Durham competes for point guard time with freshman Anton Beard of North Little Rock and senior Ky Madden of Lepanto, last season’s leading scorer whom Anderson would prefer playing more off guard as a scorer and complementary ball-handler than constantly handling the ball on the point.
“He’s politicking,” Anderson, said, smiling upon being relayed Durham’s comments. “He’s trying to get some playing time.”
Anderson then explained the method to his “no blood, no foul” officiating during practices.
“Well my officiating is what it is,” Anderson said. “I have got the whistle so it’s my judgment. Sometimes my judgment is not very good for a reason. When you are trying to get your guys to play at a certain level and get them to understand you have got to play through adversity. So I would rather try to put them under as much pressure as I possibly can. So it might be a relief for them to have a chance to go against some guys who get paid for it. I don’t get paid for officiating. So, hopefully we can get some and-ones and get prepared.”
Anderson explained why junior forward Keaton Miles, redshirted at Arkansas last season having transferred from the University of West Virginia, didn’t play during the Razorbacks’ Sunday practice game at Vilonia.
“He twisted his ankle,” Anderson said of during a workout before the Razorbacks bused last Sunday to Vilonia. “It was no breaking rules or anything like that. His ankle was twisted and we wanted to get him prepared and get him saved up as we prepare for this season here.”
Will Miles play Friday night?
“Yeah, he practiced yesterday,” Anderson said before Wednesday’s practice. “So he’s ready to go.”
Arkansas played its annual Red-White game last week at Walton and normally isn’t allowed by NCAA rules to stage a preseason practice game off campus but was granted a NCAA waiver as the game generated canned goods and monetary donations for the ongoing relief efforts for Vilonia which, along with Mayflower, was devastated by a tornado last April.
“It was a great opportunity for us to go down to Central Arkansas and play and a great opportunity for them to see us play, and to help them out with all they have been through within the last year,” Harris said.
Durham, a native of DeSoto, Texas, playing his last two seasons at Seminole (Okla.) Junior College, said Sunday’s Vilonia experience enhances his constantly growing appreciation of Arkansas.
“Everything here is about Arkansas Razorbacks, and I felt that when we were at Vilonia,” Durham said. “And I felt that really this summer. It’s a big family, and that’s what coach talked about. Going to the Vilonia game, it was very family oriented as you can tell. Everybody took us in, and we took them in as well. So like Alandise said, a great opportunity for us to just, you know, make kids and parents and families smile after all they’ve been through.”