FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas forward Adrio Bailey said he put in a lot of long nights at the team's practice facility during the offseason.
"Staying up till 3 o'clock in the morning, 4 o'clock in the morning, just knowing that they've got parties going on, but you're making those sacrifices," Bailey said. "Just staying in the gym and working on my game and working on my craft.
"Because I want to play this game for as long as I can play it."
If Bailey keeps playing like he did in helping the Razorbacks beat the University of California-Davis 81-58 on Monday night, his basketball career figures to extend beyond Arkansas.
Bailey, a 6-6 junior, had a career-high 20 points along with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals without a turnover in 26 minutes against the Aggies.
"Adrio was like a veteran out there," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "It's his time."
Bailey is averaging 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 30.5 minutes through two games after averaging 3.0, 2.0 and 11.0 in 58 games during his first two seasons.
Arkansas had six seniors last season, and forward Daniel Gafford grabbed a starting spot as a freshman. Bailey started 16 games, but he was ninth in minutes played.
Bailey became the Razorbacks' most experienced player when guard C.J. Jones -- who would have been a junior after averaging 6.3 points -- transferred to Middle Tennessee State. Arkansas also lost forward Darious Hall, who would have been a sophomore after averaging 5.1 points, when he transferred to DePaul.
Suddenly Bailey found himself as the team's second-leading returning scorer behind Gafford, who averaged 11.8 points.
"It's changed dramatically," Bailey said of his role on the team. "Just from being one of the youngest guys and still learning and still trying to take heed of everything."
Bailey snapped his fingers.
"Then just like that, I'm the oldest on the team," he said. "I've come from -- I'm not saying I was the last guy on the bench -- but kind of like being on the second-team role.
"I'm now more of a vocal leader and more of a show it kind of a leader. It's my role. I'm still learning, too. I teach [the younger players] as I learn, and I learn from them as well."
The most marked improvement in Bailey's game has been his shooting. He's hit 9 of 13 from the field -- including six jump shots -- and 9 of 13 free throws.
Bailey hit 6 of 6 free throws in a 2:01 span to push the Razorbacks' lead over the Aggies to 74-55 on Monday. He finished 9 of 11 on free throws after being 0 of 2 against Texas.
"I really believe he's put in time in the gym and now it's paying off," Anderson said. "He knows he's got an opportunity to play -- as long as he continues to play defense."
Bailey hit the first three-point basket of his career with 8:42 left against UC-Davis to put Arkansas ahead 58-42.
"He's been wanting to make a three for the longest, I can tell you that," Anderson said with a smile. "So it was good to see one of them go in."
It was Bailey's second three-point shot of his Arkansas career. His first three-point attempt was Friday night in Arkansas' 73-71 loss to Texas.
"I hit some in high school," said Bailey, who played at Lakeview in Campti, La. "But that's high school. Then again, when you're working at it, you don't think of it like that."
Sophomore guard Mason Jones, who led the Razorbacks with 21 points against UC-Davis, said it's encouraging to see Bailey perform offensively in a game the way he has been in practice.
"If Coach A lets you shoot the ball in practice, that means he wants you to translate it to the game," Jones said. "So Adrio's just been working on it and working on it every day.
"It's good to see him have that confidence in the game to be able to knock that shot down. Him doing that, it's just building more to his game."
Anderson said Bailey is playing with freedom and instincts to take his game to a higher level.
"Adrio's got a lot of confidence," Anderson said. "I think it's about that more than anything else."
INDIANA AT ARKANSAS MEN
WHEN 2:30 p.m. Sunday
WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville
RECORDS Arkansas 1-1, Indiana 2-0
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
Sports on 11/14/2018
Print Headline: Bailey embraces role of 'veteran'