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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. Wampler ZERO TO FORTY: Arkansas head men's basketball coach Mike Anderson, left, directs freshman guard Desi Sills (0) during the team's practice on Oct. 1 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks will host Midnight Madness Friday night.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The revamped Arkansas men's basketball team has deemed freshman Desi Sills as the Razorbacks' "defensive dog" for his tenacious approach to defense befitting of coach mike Anderson's system.

The 6-2 freshman guard embodies the "Fastest 40" style of defense Anderson desires. The Razorbacks return sophomore center Daniel Gafford, of El Dorado, from last year's team, but not much else. Junior forward Adrio Bailey is the oldest player on the team.

"Desi Sills is going to be our defensive dog this year, I feel," Gafford said earlier this month with Bailey nearby nodding in agreement. "I mean, he brings intensity to the court. He's going to show a lot of things he can do this year."

Anderson agrees.

"Desi is one of those guys that can really get in gaps and create for himself and others," Anderson said. "He can score as well, but more importantly, he has that ruggedness about guarding people. He's got that Doberman mentality, which I love about him. He's a competitor. He's a winner. He has a lot of pride."

Sills was widely known on the AAU circuit along with his 6-5 good friend and fellow heralded freshman teammate Isaiah Joe, out of Fort Smith Northside, but he said he was riveted by Anderson's "Fastest 40" approach.

"I'm here for the Razorbacks," Sills said. "I always wanted to be a Razorback since I was a little boy. Now, I'm here and I'm living a dream.'

sills and Joe immediately started to turn their dreams into reality after arriving on campus. Anderson said they led the preseason conditioning charge up Cleveland Hill, the steep hill north of the Broyles Center.

"Those guys, they didn't stop running," Anderson said. "So, that was pretty impressive. They've had a pretty good camp up until this point."

Midnight Madness, the team's first official practice, will be held Friday in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Gates will open at 9 p.m. and the first 15,000 fans will receive a free poster featuring Chris Walker.

Pre-practice events and games are scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. The Razorbacks will take the court at midnight.

Team members will be introduced before a scrimmage of approximately 20 minutes. The women's team will take the court after the men's practice.

Admission is a non-perishable food item for the Salvation Army of Northwest Arkansas food pantry and Cooperative Emergency Outreach. Allen Canning, of Siloam Springs, has pledged to match all canned good donated at the event.

Midnight Madness will include a free throw shooting contest, 3-point shooting contest and the annual slam dunk competition. The Razorback Pom Squad and Razorback Band are also scheduled to make appearances. Fans can also register at Bob Maloney Ford for a chance to shoot from half court for a prize of $10,000.

Sills was asked about attacking Cleveland Hill with Joe.

"That's my brother," Sills said. "He pushed me and I pushed him. We are going to try to do everything together and try to lead each other. We've been playing with each other in AAU ball since the seventh grade."

The two never competed against each other while Joe played for Northside and Sills played for Jonesboro.

Sills did play against Gafford two years ago when Jonesboro completed a perfect 32-0 season by beating Gafford's El Dorado team for the Class 6A state championship at Bank OZK Arena.

"Coach likes defensive players," Sills said. "So, I ain't thinking offense. I'm here for defense. I can score the ball but it ain't all about me. It's a team effort. So, whatever they need me to do, I'm going to do."

Sills said he brings "a lot of energy" on defense and tries to "be in the right position at the right time." He said he knows what his coach expects.

"It's energy," Sills said. "You've got to go full court and that's what I really like. I like full court pressing and the crowd gives you energy. So, I'm going to feed off the crowd and keep doing what I need to do to help us win."

While carving a role, the rookie knows his place. He's a combo guard that will play some point, but transfer sophomore Jalen Harris will also lead the offense at point.

The third-year sophomore lettered in his freshman year at New Mexico before transferring to Arkansas and redshirting during the 2017-18 season. He practiced daily last year with current NBA guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon.

"He's a great point guard," Sills said. "He's going to be a good leader."

Sills also knows to defer in team matters to established starters Gafford and Bailey.

"You've got two guys who have been here and we're going to follow their lead," Sills said. "We've got to follow their lead. It's a process."

Defensively, though, it seems the process starts with Sills. It always starts with the lead dog.

Sports on 10/11/2018

Print Headline: Jonesboro freshman fits Fastest 40

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