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Gafford to return for sophomore season at Arkansas

Gafford to return for sophomore season at Arkansas

By KURT VOIGT, AP Sports Writer

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Daniel Gafford was an afterthought in the eyes of many NBA draft observers when he arrived at Arkansas.

It didn't take long for the 6-foot-11 forward to emerge as one of the best in the Southeastern Conference — and a top NBA prospect.

Gafford put his professional future on hold on Monday, announcing on Twitter he will return to the Razorbacks for his sophomore season. His decision ends speculation about whether he would leave after one year, and it provides a boost for an Arkansas program coming off its third NCAA Tournament appearance in the last four seasons.

"The NBA might be in my future, but Fayetteville, Arkansas, is where it's at," Gafford said. "I'll be back in here for another year, playing in Bud Walton (Arena) for you guys."

Gafford was selected to the SEC's All-Freshman team after averaging 11.8 points and 6.2 rebounds. He also shot 60.5 percent from the field and had 2.2 blocks in 22.6 minutes per game.

His athleticism and ability to dunk in traffic quickly drew the attention of scouts, and Gafford was projected by many to be picked in the first round of this year's draft had he left Arkansas. He finished with a team-high 76 dunks, more than six SEC teams.

Gafford was selected as the SEC Freshman of the Week three times this season, joining Bobby Portis and Patrick Beverly as the only other Razorbacks freshman to earn the honor that often.

"Obviously this is great news for us," coach Mike Anderson said. "He's the centerpiece to what we are doing here, and this gives him the chance to build on the tremendous freshman year he had. Daniel is a special player and the sky is the limit for him."

Gafford declined to address his future after Arkansas' first-round loss to Butler in the NCAA Tournament, and he offered few public hints about his decision before Monday's announcement.

As his draft projections began to rise early in the season, Gafford told The Associated Press how important it was for him to take care of his family financially in the future. At the same time, he knew that future might become more secure if he waited a year to leave Arkansas.

"If I continue to work hard, pretty soon I might be the No. 1 pick," he said. ___ More AP college basketball:; and ___ Follow Kurt Voigt on Twitter at @Kurt_Voigt_AP

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