The talent of the Razorbacks star power forward will be talked about for a long time in the state of Arkansas.
Although Arkansas finished the regular season at 17-14 (8-10), Daniel Gafford still had a very impressive season in 2018-19. With a 29 point, 16 rebound performance, that all but solidified him as an All-SEC performer.
Today, the AP honored their first team players. Along with Gafford, the list included Kentucky’s PJ Washington, LSU’s Tremont Waters and Mississippi State’s Quinndary Weatherspoon.
An authoritative dunker, he mastered himself as a rim protector, Gafford knows how to get to the basket with a variety of moves. He may not have had as many O.M.G. moments that he captured in his thrilling freshman campaign but what he did do was learn to create for himself. Just look at the steal, the presence of mind to dribble the ball in the open floor as a big man and finish off the glass that is impressive and unprecedented for a player his size. His high school coach, Gary Simmons, once said he was “an incredible athlete.” Incredible could be an understatement there coach. Although he did have quite the imagination in the way he described Gafford’s dunks. “He cocked that thing back here and dunked hard,” said Simmons.
Gafford is a once in a generation athlete in our state, especially in the south Arkansas town of El Dorado that does not have many major D-1 athletes come out of the town or Union County. The latest basketball star that I can remember was James Anderson of Junction City, who played his collegiate ball at Oklahoma State from 2007-2010. For a time, football was king in El Dorado but when two high D-1 basketball players hooked up on the Wildcat Arena court, no one could stop the tandem of Gafford and Cal State Bakersfield guard, Czar Perry.
In his decorated two year career, Gafford played in 66 games and started 57 of them. He made 63% of his field goals, 14 points per game and 7 rebounds and two blocks per game. Those numbers are dim considering the growth and improvement he had this season in every statistical category. This season, he recorded 17 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. He also had a jaw dropping 70+ dunks this season.
Gafford is a finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabaar Award, will finish first in the SEC on field goal percentage, offensive rebounds, total rebounds block percentage and fourth in points per game. These numbers are similar to the ones put up by former Razorback, Bobby Portis, but that team finished better than this team. That unfortunately hurts Gafford’s chances for SEC Player of the Year.
Arkansas fans care a lot about the basketball program and have at times been a little more than too critical at times towards Gafford and this team. That is a little unfair and fans should see that. After all, Gafford did not have to come back to Arkansas this season. He could have left after last year but the way things ended, he wanted to come back. The man is loyal to the school, his coaches and his fans when he did not have to be. That in itself speaks a heck of a lot more than anything he will ever do on the court in the NBA.
There is at least one more game left this season for Gafford to leave more of a mark at Arkansas. Thursday at Noon the Hogs will tip-off against Florida in the SEC tournament. With Gafford’s WILL and WANT to win, you know Arkansas will not go down without a fight. Speaking of fight, the Arkansas Ladybacks showed the state, there is always fight in the heart of a Razorback!
Go Hogs. Go Gafford. Grab that Gator by the tail!
Because there is no reel made for Gafford in 2019, here is last season’s just to relive the excitement of the man, the myth, the legend. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_3Tj-hXUgxc