After getting a chance to his see his team battle  in a secret closed scrimmage against Kansas recently, Arkansas women’s basketball head coach Mike Neighbors is ready to unveil his roster to the public.

Arkansas will host the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in an exhibition game at Bud Walton Arena.

“The value of going against somebody this time of year that doesn’t know your play calls, know your coverages and are not as prepared as a normal opponent would be is exciting for us,” Neighbors said. “I think we are going to be about as healthy as we have all summer long and we are ready to put the uniforms on.

“We’ve got new uniforms this year, the kids are excited and (assistants) Lacy (Goldwire) and Pauline (Love) have put together a really cool reveal….Our kids are excited about playing in front of our fans the first time.”

Neighbors said Arkansas, who opens its season at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Monday Nov. 7,  played well in the scrimmage against Kansas and that he learned some important things about his 2022-2023 squad.

“That we’ve been doing the right thing in the strength and conditioning area,” Neighbors said. “We were in great shape. We were game ready to play, we did not get tired and we were able to function really well at a fast pass. We showed some depth, showed some versatility, but the rebounding was really encouraging because they are a very, very  strong rebouding team.

“They have a really strong front court presence, but we held our own, in fact dominated the glass in the first half. I think we learned that, we learned we were in great shape and that we were working on the right things.”

He also noted the value of his men’s practice team was evident.

“We have an unbelievable group of guys that come in daily and get us ready to compete,” Neighbors said. “We weren’t working against air, we weren’t going against ourselves, we were going against a really challenging group for a couple of weeks and I thought it showed on that Saturday.”

Arkansas is coming off a 18-14 season, 7-9 and seventh in SEC action, and  has been picked fourth by the media and fifth by the coaches in SEC preseason polls.

UAFS head coach Ryan McAdams’ team is picked 12th in the 16-team Lone Star Conference’s preseason poll. 

“We are thankful for the opportunity to compete in Fayetteville for the second year in a row,” McAdams said in a press release. “Facing competition of that level will better prepare us for the season ahead.”

The Lions were 7-18 last season and lost to Arkansas 114-55 in an exhibition contest  at Bud Walton Arena last season.

“They will be organized and have a really good plan,” Neighbors said. “Coach Ryan does a really good job with his team down there. They were good for us as well last year. I hope the same part with Kansas and Arkansas-Fort Smith this year, that will prepare us for the stretch we have got to open the season.”

Arkansas returns guards in senior second-team all-league selection  McKayla Daniels (5-8), reigning SEC Freshman of the Year Samara Spencer (5-7) and junior Riley Langeman (5-9) and forwards Jersey Wolfenbarger (6-5),  Eyrnn Barnum (6-2) and Emrie Ellis (6-3). 

it adds in  newcomers Maryan Dauda (6-4), UConn transfer Saylor Poffenbarger (6-2) and Syracuse transfer Christy Carr (6-1).

“We have got a really solid group of nine players that have really separated themselves and ready ready to compete for those 200 minutes out there,” Neighbors said. “I think the combinations will still be a work in progress. 

“Yes, I have got in mind what I would like to see from the start, but I probably won’t know until game time on Wednesday.”

Neighbors is excited about having Dauda, the former Bentonville star who was out last season with a knee injury, and Poffenbarger, who had to sit out a transfer year, able to play for him this season.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Neighbors said. “I tried (to put them in) several times last year and I know when those moments would have happened. First, they love to play. Both of those play with a smile and a vibe about them. I am excited for our fans to see it.

“Maryam played really well in the exhibition and Saylor is going to be the oldest freshman in the country. She does not look like a freshman although she is. She hasn’t played in a real game since January of her junior year in high school. Count that back. That is a long time for a competitor to be sitting out.

“I hope she plays as well in Bud Walton as she did in our practice game. She played really good.”

Arkansas has length at more positions this season than at any time in Neighbors’ five-year tenure. 

“It gives us size that we have never had,” Neighbors said. “Jersey was a warrior last year playing out of position for us, but Maryam is used to playing around the basket, blocking shots and defending bigs. Her presence was felt immediately against Kansas and their All Big-12 performer.

“Saylor, just because of the position she plays, she is going to be a match up problem on most nights, even when we get into the SEC.”

Neighbors plans to use those nine players in bursts.

“So you have a mix there – three newcomers with Maryam, Saylor and Christy in with those six you are used to seeing in the past,” Neighbors said.  “I would like to play in three- to four-minute stretches so they can get a blow. I don’t like subbing every minute or hockey line changes.

“Wednesday night you will be able to see the first quarter and hopefully that will look like what our first quarter alway throughout the season.”