Spencer’s “U-turn” Against the Hogs Part of Troubling Trend Most Seen in Football

Samara Spencer, Sam Pittman, Arkansas football, Arkansas basketball, transfer portal
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / Craven Whitlow

The latest blows to head coach Mike Neighbors and the women’s Arkansas basketball team came when junior guard Samara Spencer and sophomore forward Maryam Dauda entered the transfer portal on consecutive days.

With the graduation of Makayla Daniels and the transfers of Spencer, Dauda, freshman Taliah Scott and sophomore Saylor Poffenbarger, the Razorbacks are now losing their top five scorers from last season. Poffenbarger and Scott have since committed to Maryland and Auburn, respectively.

Over her three year career at Arkansas, Spencer averaged 13.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2022.

Dauda, a Bentonville native, averaged 10.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game this season. A highly-touted McDonald’s All American out of high school, Dauda redshirted her freshman year with an injury and only averaged 11 minutes per game in her second season before taking on a bigger role in 2023-24.

Apparent Locker Room Issues Revealed as Spencer Reverses Course With Transfer

Spencer’s departure came as a surprise because all signs seemed to point to her returning to Fayetteville for her senior season. Less than two weeks before reports of her transferring came out, the 5-foot-7 guard sat down with Pig Trail Nation for an interview and certainly sounded like someone who was planning on coming back.

When asked by host Courtney Mims for a follow-up interview on the show after the Hogs have more recruits on board, Spencer had this to say:

“That’s perfectly fine,” Spencer said with a smile. “Can’t wait for everybody to see what we have cooking.”

After once again missing the NCAA Tournament, Spencer touched on what she thought went wrong last season, including some constructive criticism for Arkansas basketball coach Mike Neighbors.

“He’s a people’s person, so he’s always trying to please everybody,” Spencer said. “That can be a good thing, and sometimes it can be a bad thing. I feel like just this past year it didn’t really work in his favor, and it happens like that sometimes. Some people aren’t grateful that they have somebody like that in their lives, some people take advantage of it.”

When the season ended, Spencer was quick to seemingly come to the defense of her coach, clapping back at the criticisms being levied towards Neighbors – including some calling for his job.

Looking at this tweet through the 20/20 lens of hindsight, however, it can also be read as Spencer simply sticking up for herself. The post she was replying to mentioned how Neighbors “lost his two best players to the portal,” meaning Scott and Poffenbarger. Perhaps Spencer was simply throwing her name in the conversation as one of the Hogs’ best players – which she certainly has a case for.

Regardless, her departure still comes as a surprise late entry into the portal that puts the Razorbacks in a bind. Although Neighbors hit a home run by landing Arkansas State transfer Izzy Higginbottom, the eighth-best scorer in the country last year, he still has a long way to go to replace all of the production that Arkansas is losing.

The departure of Spencer and Dauda continues a troubling trend of the women’s program bleeding talent. Judging by some comments made by Scott in the weeks since her announcement, it appears there might have been some deeper issues with the team last season.

“Freshman year was NOT for the weak,” Scott said in a caption on her TikTok account. “Wouldn’t wish the type of treatment I got from the upperclassmen on anybody.”

Spencer gave her response in the comment section of the post:

Having an apparent locker room rift between the experienced players and the freshman phenom leading the team in scoring is far from an ideal climate for winning. Poor team chemistry and a house divided would certainly explain some of these head-scratching portal entries.

Going into Year 8 of the Neighbors era with zero NCAA Tournament wins to show for it, the pressure will be on to produce results – or the Head Hog might be in some serious trouble.

Blindsiding Transfers Plaguing Arkansas Football, Too

The women’s basketball program isn’t the only Razorback team faced with surprising departures in the last couple of years, as Sam Pittman has also seen a number of 180s from players and coaches leaving Fayetteville.

The latest of those came on Monday with the portal entry of defensive back Lorando “Snaxx” Johnson. A transfer from Baylor, Johnson tallied 29 total tackles last season along with one interception, which he took the house for a pick-six against Texas A&M.

The junior became a fan favorite for his lovable nickname as well as his pro-Arkansas Twitter fingers on social media. Johnson went viral online back in December for shooting down a Missouri fan suggesting he should transfer to the Tigers after they blew the Razorbacks out 48-14 in Fayetteville.

Johnson going portaling comes as a shock after he publicly announced his return in a hype video posted on New Year’s Day. He was arguably the most vocal and positive voice in the Razorback locker room, and also publicly tried his best to recruit potential transfers to Arkansas.

Arkansas football fans seemed to be confused at Johnson’s departure, and former Razorback linebacker De’Jon Harris even called him out for going back on his decision. In typical Snaxx fashion, he quickly clapped back at Harris’ comment.

On its surface, the situation seems to be a clear case of Johnson wanting more playing time after Tennessee transfer Doneiko Slaughter won the starting job in spring practice. However, Snaxx took to Twitter once again to say otherwise:

Who knows what the real motivation for his transfer might have been, but the unfortunate truth is that this is far from the first time in the Pittman era that a player (or a coach!) has made a U-turn with a surprise defection.

Last offseason, defensive lineman Jordan Domineck announced his return before going back on it and transferring to Colorado after Coach Prime came calling. Offensive coordinator Kendal Briles also seemed to be all-in on Arkansas until he darted for TCU at the last second. Pittman then hired Dan Enos as his successor, and we all know how that went.

The chaos continued into this offseason when wide receiver Davion Dozier publicly asked Missouri players if they had any room for him – immediately after the Tigers finished bludgeoning the Razorbacks. Also somewhat surprisingly, Dozier ended up staying at Arkansas. In this case, simply staying put might have been the more confusing move.

Having multiple players airing out drama like this on social media is certainly not a good look for a program, especially with a head coach in Pittman who’s facing a lot of scrutiny from fans who feel his handle on the wheel has slipped some.

“I had a talk with our team and I said, ‘Hey, if we just don’t lose anybody that we have and don’t add anybody, we’re going to have us a fine football team,’” Pittman said after the spring game.

Johnson is the fifth Arkansas player to enter the transfer portal since then. Good teams tend to keep their problems in house, rather than having them spill out online for all to see. It’s not fair to Pittman for issues with Neighbors’ program to affect the perception of his team, but the fans’ overall frustration with all the apparent U-turning in both programs is hurting both sides nonetheless. 

The Head Hogs need to rein this in to avoid further damaging outside perceptions of their programs.


More from Samara Spencer on Arkansas basketball here:

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The departure of Samara Spencer is also indicative of another troubling trend for the women’s Arkansas basketball program that could hurt Mike Neighbors in the long run:


YouTube video

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