LITTLE ROCK — He’s midway through his college career, and one thing Arkansas Razorbacks junior Desi Sills (6-1 combo guard, Jonesboro) has proven is he’s a strong finisher in the back stretch of a season. The next step for Sills will be providing wire-to-wire leadership in addition to consistent production and impact on the court as a veteran, and on Thursday the SEC coaches supported the notion he will by selecting Sills to the league’s preseason All SEC second team.
Sills was the second-leading scorer with 24 points (he also chipped in 4 rebounds and 3 assists) in the annual Red-White game played last week at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. He split time with both squads, scoring 11 first-half points with the Red team and 13 second-half points with the White team. The Red led throughout before winning convincingly, 103-67.
With the regular-season opener just six days away — a Nov. 25 home game against Mississippi Valley State — Sills is likely to start (he’ll play starter minutes and bring starter value if even he comes in off the bench in a sixth man role) and will lead the charge in year two of the Eric Musselman era at Arkansas as he’ll be the Hogs’ leading returner in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals, and minutes.
With the departures of Co-SEC Player of the Year Mason Jones, Isaiah Joe (he was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 49 in the 2020 NBA Draft on Wednesday), Jimmy Whitt, Jr. (completed his college eligibility last season), and Jalen Harris (transferred to Georgetown), Sills is the sole returning guard from a 5-player backcourt rotation that helped Arkansas lead the nation a season ago in 3-point field goal defense as well as finishing in the top 10 in turnover margin.
Sills finished both of his first two seasons better than he started them, and he was one of four Hogs in double-figures scoring last year as he averaged 10.6 points per game (on 42.5% field goals, including 47-of-143 from 3 for 32.9%, and 64.8% free throws) to go with 3.0 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 31.2 minutes. He got off to a rough 2-of-32 start from distance, but finished 45-of-111 for 40.5% the rest of the way.
In Arkansas’ final game — an 86-73 win over Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC tournament on March 11 — Sills poured in 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, including 5-of-6 from 3. It was his second 20-point scoring outing in the Hogs’ final four games of the season, perhaps foreshadowing that Sills is ready to carry more of the point production load moving forward.
As a freshman in ’18-19, Sills averaged 5.3 points, 1.7 assists, and 1.3 rebounds in 16.9 minutes per game, but he started the final eight games of the season and increased his production to 10.1 points (four games scoring in double figures including a then-career-high 18 points in the season finale at Indiana) with blistering 3-point shooting (19-of-28 from distance for 67.9%) and a leap in free-throw shooting efficiency (13-of-16 for 81.3%) as his minutes also increased to 24.1 per outing.
Sills came to Arkansas in 2018 as part of a 6-player high school recruiting class following an ultra-successsful career at Jonesboro, where he led the Hurricane to back-to-back 6A stat titles (’16-17 and ’17-18).
A list of the 2021 SEC Men’s Basketball Coaches Preseason All-SEC team follows:
First Team All-SEC
John Petty Jr. – Alabama
Keyontae Johnson – Florida
Brandon Boston Jr. – Kentucky
Javonte Smart – LSU
Trendon Watford – LSU
AJ Lawson – South Carolina
John Fulkerson – Tennessee
Yves Pons – Tennessee
Second Team All-SEC
Herbert Jones – Alabama
Desi Sills – Arkansas
Scottie Lewis – Florida
Olivier Sarr – Kentucky
Devontae Shuler – Ole Miss
Dru Smith – Missouri
Jermaine Couisnard – South Carolina
Savion Flagg – Texas A&M
Scottie Pippen, Jr. – Vanderbilt