I was proud of the way we played yesterday, and am excited about the future, but I have become attached to this year’s seniors, and am sorry to see them go. All three players had flaws in their game, but the reality is that is the case for virtually everyone (there is a reason we wistfully talk about Corliss, Joe Johnson, Portis, etc.—these guys don’t come along all that often).
Really, when I reflect on it, I think Moses and Dusty will go down as two of my all-time favorite Hogs, and I really like Manny as well. So, some brief thoughts on each:
Moses Kingsley: I think receiving Preseason SEC POY accolades was the worst thing for Moses because it placed unrealistic expectations upon his shoulders, and caused him to force things and develop some unhealthy habits earlier in the season. That (along with the departure of Jabril Durham), led to some decreased productivity in his statistics. That being said, Moses was a career 1,000 point scorer despite only playing significantly his last two years, and was an absolute force defensively. He should have been Defensive POY this season, and is the best post defender we have had since Oliver Miller (Hill was a better pure shot blocker; not a better defender).
His decision to come back for a senior season made it possible for this team to succeed as it did. My only real regret regarding Moses is that he basically sat on the bench for two seasons backing up Portis, rather than being used at the same time with him. Especially two years ago, I wonder how much better we might have been if we would have worked to pair BP and MK together more rather than using Alandise Harris as our primary 4.
I think Moses could play a little bit in the league, but don’t know if he’ll get the chance or not. The Moses who played against Seton Hall is definitely worthy of a second round pick, though. Regardless, he should be making good money playing basketball for years to come.
Dusty Hannahs: I remember reading on this board from people who said that Dusty would never be able to be an effective player in the SEC, and boy, were they wrong. Watching this guy shoot for the past two years, and even more, watching him develop into more than just a shooter, has been a pleasure. Perhaps the best example of this was this year’s game at Vandy when he couldn’t hit a 3 to save his life but still willed the team to victory with drive after drive down the stretch.
Dusty is a kid who never gave up and always played hard, and you could always tell how much it meant to him to be a Razorback. Thinking back to the shooters* that we have had and I have loved in my years as a Hog fan—Al Dillard, Pat Bradley, Rotnei Clarke, Anthlon Bell—I would take Dusty over any of them for his ability to hit big shots and also score off the drive (this is saying a lot, because I love all the players I just mentioned).
I think Dusty will be a great fan of and ambassador for our program no matter what he does, but I hope he makes some significant money playing in Europe and then comes back and does SEC Network stuff in a few years.
Manny Watkins: I was pretty lukewarm on Manny for quite a while, but what a leader he turned out to be. It got annoying at times to hear broadcasters talk about him being the “glue guy”, but it was just so obvious that that’s exactly who he was. He was not particularly big nor athletic, yet would guard excellent players from the other team and pull down big rebounds. He was not a great shooter, but he hit the shot against S. Carolina that turned around our season, and his sudden discovery of a 3 point shot led to multiple road victories that defined the narrative of our season.
As others have pointed out on this board, we will hopefully have shooters to replace Dusty (CJ?) and interior defenders to ease the loss of Moses (Gafford), but it is not clear where we will find a replacement for Manny’s grit.
All in all, only one of these guys was a scholarship player for four years, but in the end, they gelled together as a wonderful senior class, providing the combination of talent and leadership that this team needed. I think the 2016-17 Hogs will be remembered for years (in a way that the 2014-15 team may not be), and in large part, it will be due to the work of these three young men.
*I am using the term “shooters” here to refer to people who primarily did that. Usually, these guys were also deficient at the defensive end because of a lack of size or athleticism. To me, guys like Mayberry and Thurman don’t really belong in the shooters category because, while they were excellent shooters, they did much more than that.