Nate Olson: Anton Beard Commitment Big for Razorbacks


Originally published in April, 2013

The focus on Arkansas men’s basketball the past month has been on the departed. Hogs head basketball coach Mike Anderson got some good news Monday night. Former Little Rock Parkview junior star point guard Anton Beard announced Monday night via Twitter he committed to the Razorbacks. Beard is a senior at North Little Rock this season.

Beard pledged to Missouri early but de-committed in mid-February. He chose the Arkansas Razorbacks over LSU, Tennessee and UMass. Beard also had offers from Florida, Florida State and Georgetown. Beard ranks as a consensus No. 1 instate recruit in the 2014 class. ranks him as a three-star recruit and the 104th best prospect nationally and 26th best point guard. ranks him as a four-star and a Top 100 player nationally.

The news comes on the heels on the announcement earlier this month of the transfer of sophomore forward Hunter Mickelson. He’s the third Hog casualty in a month after sophomore guard B.J. Young and junior forward Marshawn Powell both declared for the NBA Draft.

Anderson could actually use Beard, who has started the past three seasons at Parkview next season. The Razorbacks backcourt was inconsistent at best and loses a double-digit scorer in young. Sophomore Rashad Madden looks to continue to play more point guard, even though he played shooting guard in high school and on the AAU circuit. The point is, they need help there, and Beard is the perfect missing piece.  However, they have to get through next season without him.

Beard’s announcement is big for a number of reasons. First, Anderson protected his territory. With some of the best hoops talent we’ve seen in Arkansas in years coming through the next three or four years, it’s important for Anderson to keep in-state stars at home. He did it with McDonald’s All-American and Little Rock Hall forward, Bobby Portis, who joins the Hogs next season.

Now, he did it with Beard after the highly sought after guard had committed to SEC member Missouri. It looks like the Tigers and Hogs are going to be heated rivals — at least on the hardwood. Considering that Anderson left Columbia to return to Fayetteville and some of the comments and actions of Mizzou coach Frank Haith this year, it’s a safe bet. It would have been a tough pill to swallow for Anderson to see the state’s top recruit wearing black and gold. I’m not sure why Beard committed so early to the Tigers, but in the end he’s going to be a Hog and Anderson will take that.

You can bet other Arkansas in-state recruits like Forrest City junior Trey Thompson, a teammate of Beard’s on the Arkansas Hawks AAU squad, and North Little Rock sophomore KeVaughn Allen, also a Hawk, took notice of Anderson’s relentless pursuit of Beard. Beard should be a good recruiter for Anderson as he pursues Thompson. He will also help with Allen, who he is teaming up with at North Little Rock next year after three years with the Patriots. He could also influence sophomore KJ Hill who joins the NLR roster after transferring from Bryant. Hill could be a D-I football recruit as well.

The 6-foot-1, 170-pounder appears to be the prototypical Anderson guard. Playing against the best Arkansas has to offer in high school and the nation’s best in the summer, Beard has excelled as a physical penetrator who has a nice shooting touch. As a three-year varsity starter, who has played on two state championship squads and semifinalist in 2013, he knows what it takes to win. He gives the Charging Wildcats instant leadership ability when he steps on the floor late next fall. Beard makes them the heavy favorite to repeat as 7A State champions in 2013-14.

With his college choice wrapped up, Beard has a year to get ready for the rigors of the SEC. With the departure of Rickey Scott and Mardracus Wade after next season, Beard must be ready to log major minutes as a freshman. That means getting bigger and stronger and improving his foot speed. Footwork seemed to be the knock with some, but Beard showed an ability to get to the rim time again. Maybe being a little quicker on defense wouldn’t hurt, but he needs to make sure his body is up for the demands of playing in-your-face defense and up-tempo offense. Anderson hasn’t been able employ that style with the personnel he has, part of which is inherited. He sees potential in Beard to play like the guards he had at UAB and Missouri.

Allen’s commitment doesn’t fill a guard court spot for next season or make up for junior college guard Jamal Jones’ (Searcy) decision to attend Texas A&M next year. However, it gives the Hogs an anchor for the very important 2014 Class. Beard is a top player that fits well into Anderson’s system and could lead more elite players to Fayetteville. Some good news indeed for weary Hog hoops fans.

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