FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson Monday announced fifth-year senior forward Dustin Thomas has fulfilled his disciplinary suspension and been restored to the 3-0 Razorbacks basketball team going into the three-game Phil Knight Tournament that starts Thursday in Portland, Ore.
Anderson also lamented a public report, transmitted by two Northwest Arkansas TV stations based on a Fayetteville Police report, a police report since admitted erroneous by Fayetteville Police Department, that Arkansas senior guard Jaylen Barford allegedly had been cited Sunday for possible shoplifting.
The FPD had initially revealed the shoplifting citation then rescinded the report as erroneous in an apologetic press release.
Barford was present but not the one cited when another person reportedly was cited Sunday at the Walmart Neighborhood Market on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Fayetteville.
Issuing a public apology, the Fayetteville Police Department tweeted Monday : “The information that Mr. Barford was cited in the shoplifting was wrongly reported to news media. The Fayetteville Police Department regrets inaccurate information was released and apologizes to Mr. Barford.”
Anderson lamented that Barford’s name was publicly linked to a misdeed he didn’t commit.
“We obviously live in a society of social network and everybody wants everything instantly,” Anderson said. “There were some erroneous statements made today about Jaylen Barford. As someone told me, it's just like the tooth paste in the tube. You get it out there, then it goes out and just spreads. Obviously there was some erroneous reporting on Jaylen Barford and as a coach, obviously you get that kind of information and you're taken aback. But that's the society we live in.”
Regarding Thomas, suspended by Anderson for Arkansas’ two exhibition victories and its first three regular-season games, victories at Walton Arena over Samford, 95-56; Bucknell, 101-73 and Fresno State, 83-75, Anderson said the 6-8, 225 forward has been practicing and is activated starting with Thursday’s 4 p.m. CST ESPN2 televised game in Portland against the Oklahoma Sooners.
The Razorbacks are bracketed to play either defending national champion North Carolina or local host the University of Portland on Friday and after a day off conclude the tournament Sunday against either Michigan State, DePaul, UConn or Oregon, the four schools in the other bracket at Portland.
“Dustin Thomas will be reinstated for this game,” Anderson said. “He's had a lot of energy in practice, I know that. And he's had some pretty good practices.”
Thomas’ 6-8, bulky presence could be especially important because while 6-9 senior Trey Thompson of Madison via Forrest City High has been at times effective and 6-10 freshman Daniel Gafford of El Dorado sometimes spectacular, 25 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocked shots against Fresno State, both have been foul prone. Gafford fouled out against Samford and Bucknell.
Thompson played only 10 minutes amassing four fouls against Fresno State.
“What helps from that department is you're got an experienced guy,” Anderson said. “He's a fifth-year guy who's been here. So hopefully we'll get a guy out there with experience, somebody that's hungry. We know his versatility is really big for our basketball team. I think he's worked on really shooting the ball and maybe can stretch the floor a little bit more. His ball-handling, his rebounding, his tenacity hopefully will be an asset.”
Thompson and senior guard Daryl Macon of Little Rock Parkview, Monday’s media available players, both lauded Thomas’ recent practices.
“ I think he has gotten a lot better on both ends of the court,” Macon said. “I wouldn’t say he’s going to be rusty. Probably his conditioining will be the main factor.”
Thompson said Thomas is raring to go.
“I know he’s pretty hungry and has been talking about it,” Thompson said. “He just can’t wait to get back out there with us. Like Daryl said, I think the biggest key will probably be his game conditioining and timing of the game and just getting back into that flow.”