Number of greatness: Razorbacks' Gafford strives to live up to No. 10

Posted: November 10, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

Arkansas center Daniel Gafford (10) goes up for a shot during an exhibition game against Central Oklahoma on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- There have been a lot of memorable No. 10s for the Arkansas Razorbacks' basketball team.

Daniel Gafford, a 6-11 freshman from El Dorado who makes his college debut against Samford at 7 tonight in Walton Arena, plans to be the latest to shine for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

TRADITION OF 10s

Freshman Daniel Gafford is wearing No. 10 for the Arkansas Razorbacks this season. Here are some notable No. 10s for the Razorbacks in previous seasons:

player;seasons;comment

Ron Brewer;1976-1978;One of the famed Triplets averaged 18 ppg as senior on 1978 Final Four team

Todd Day;1989-1992;Razorbacks’ all-time leading scorer (2,395 points) averaged 22.7 ppg as senior

Ronnie Brewer;2004-2006;Ron’s son and versatile guard averaged 18.4 ppg and 5.0 rpg as junior

Bobby Portis;2014-2015;SEC Player of the Year as sophomore with averages of 17.9 ppg and 7.9 rpg

NOTEWORTHY Ron Brewer was the No. 7 overall pick by Portland in the 1978 NBA Draft; Day was the No. 8 pick by Milwaukee in 1992; Ronnie Brewer was the No. 14 pick by Utah in 2006; and Bobby Portis was the No. 22 pick by Chicago in 2015.

Four Razorbacks who wore that number -- Ron Brewer, Todd Day, Ronnie Brewer and Bobby Portis -- were first-round NBA Draft picks.

Day is Arkansas' all-time leading scorer with 2,395 points.

Ron Brewer and son Ronnie rank 15th (1,440) and 16th (1,416), respectively, on the Razorbacks' all-time list despite playing three seasons.

Portis was the 2015 SEC Player of the Year as a sophomore and scored 1,047 points in his two seasons to rank 36th on the career list.

Ron Brewer and Day played on Final Four teams in 1978 and 1990. Ronnie Brewer and Portis helped Arkansas return to the NCAA Tournament after absences of four and six years.

Gafford said he feels "a little bit" of pressure to live up to lofty standards set by previous Razorbacks who wore No. 10.

"But I'm here to not disappoint," Gafford said. "I'm here to make a name for myself."

Gafford already is well known by basketball fans, especially in Arkansas.

As a senior at El Dorado he averaged 17.4 points, 16.0 rebounds, 7.7 blocks and 2.5 assists and was rated a consensus top 50 player nationally by recruiting services.

Arkansas needs him to contribute immediately to fill the void left by the loss of 6-10 Moses Kingsley, a two-time All-SEC second-team choice.

But Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson has been careful to temper expectations for Gafford, as he did when Portis arrived in the fall of 2013 as a McDonald's All-American from Little Rock Hall.

"Daniel is not the savior of our basketball program," Anderson said. "Daniel will come in and go at his own pace. That's going to be the big key."

Gafford averaged 11.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 20.5 minutes in the Razorbacks' exhibition victories against Central Oklahoma and Missouri Western.

"I think he's coming along well," Arkansas senior guard Daryl Macon said. "I think he knows he has a lot more to learn, but he's just getting started.

"The competition is going to go up every time we step on that floor, and the thing with him is he just has to go up with the competition. You can't shy away from it."

Arkansas senior forward Trey Thompson said Gafford's athleticism is impressive.

"I've never seen anybody 6-11 jump and run like he does," Thompson said. "He jumps like a kangaroo and runs like a gazelle.

"He gets up and down the court easy, and even his second or third jumps for a rebound or to block a shot are so effortless. He's got stuff you can't teach."

Said senior guard Jaylen Barford: "Daniel is a freak of nature, and he loves to work hard. I think he's going to be a great player for us."

Gafford said he takes pride in his ability to run the floor.

"It's rare to see a big man get up and down the court like I do, so I try and use that to my advantage," he said. "Even if I get pushed on the floor, I get right back up and I'm down the court before everybody else."

Gafford said his speed hasn't been affected even though he's increased his weight from 217 pounds to 235 since arriving at Arkansas in June.

"Where the weight has helped me is playing inside," he said. "I'm better able to stand my ground in the post."

Macon said as well as Gafford has played at times in the exhibition games, it's only a glimpse of what he can do.

"I'm still waiting on Daniel to show y'all Daniel," Macon said. "You all haven't seen Daniel yet for real."

Anderson said Gafford plays with an energy that is contagious.

"You get a big guy that's so active, man, it just goes throughout your team," Anderson said. "He's got a motor.

"He doesn't just block shots, he alters a lot of them, too, and he rebounds above the rim. He's relentless on the boards, and he's got a good pair of hands."

Gafford had 15 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocked shots in 26 minutes in Arkansas' 88-74 victory over Missouri Western. He hit 5 of 6 shots and 5 of 7 free throws.

"That young man is going to be a really, really good player," Missouri Western Coach Brett Weiberg said. "I think he has a little bit of a toughness, kind of the right kind of a chip on his shoulder.

"I really liked how he played. He hurt us."

Gafford appreciated hearing that.

"That means I've got respect from the coaches because of the way I play," he said. "That gives me a good feeling about myself."

Gafford said he began wearing No. 10 at El Dorado because that was Portis' number.

"I actually got to meet Bobby Portis, and I wanted to use my game like his a little bit," Gafford said. "It felt like the number just fit me perfectly."

Gafford said he stays in touch with Portis, who plays for the Chicago Bulls.

"Bobby will text me sayings and advice that pretty much keep me going every day," Gafford said. "I'll use that to help me work and stay hungry."

Anderson said he wants to see continued improvement in practice from Gafford.

"I always talk about taking your practice to the games," Anderson said. "That hasn't changed. I want him to come out with the understanding of bringing your practice to the game.

"If you do that, we're going to be OK."

At a glance

ARKANSAS MEN'S SCHEDULE

DATE;OPPONENT;TIME

Today;Samford;7 p.m.

Sunday;Bucknell;5 p.m.

Nov. 17;Fresno State;7 p.m.

Nov. 23;Oklahoma+;4 p.m.

Nov. 24;UNC/Portland+;TBA

Nov. 26;TBA+;TBA

Dec. 2;at Houston;6:30 p.m.

Dec. 5;Colorado State;7 p.m.

Dec. 9;Minnesota;5:45 p.m.

Dec. 16;Troy^;7 p.m.

Dec. 19;Oral Roberts;7 p.m.

Dec. 27;CSU Bakersfield;7 p.m.

Dec. 30;Tennessee*;TBA

Jan. 2;at Mississippi State*;8 p.m.

Jan. 6;at Auburn*;5 p.m.

Jan. 10;LSU*;8 p.m.

Jan. 13;Missouri*;5 p.m.

Jan. 17;at Florida*;6 p.m.

Jan. 20;Mississippi*;2:30 p.m.

Jan. 23;at Georgia*;5:30 p.m.

Jan. 27;Oklahoma State;5 p.m.

Jan. 30;at Texas A&M*;8 p.m.

Feb. 3;at LSU*;2:30 p.m.

Feb. 6;South Carolina*;6 p.m.

Feb. 10;Vanderbilt*;7:30 p.m.

Feb. 13;at Mississippi*;6 p.m.

Feb. 17;Texas A&M*;3 p.m.

Feb. 20;Kentucky*;8 p.m.

Feb. 24;at Alabama*;5 p.m.

Feb. 27;Auburn*;8 p.m.

March 3;at Missouri*;5 p.m.

Mar. 7-11;at SEC Tournament, St. Louis

*SEC game

+at Phil Knight Invitational, Portland, Ore.

^at Verizon Arena, North Little Rock

Sports on 11/10/2017