Sills picks A-State as transfer destination

Arkansas guard Desi Sills (3) drives past Baylor guard Adam Flagler during the first half of an Elite Eight game in the NCAA tournament on March 29 in Indianapolis. Sills, a former Jonesboro High School star, announced plans to transfer to Arkansas State on Tuesday.

JONESBORO — Desi Sills will play basketball in his hometown again next season.

Sills, a star on two state championship teams at Jonesboro High School, announced his decision to transfer to Arkansas State in a social media post Tuesday afternoon. He spent the last three seasons at the University of Arkansas, playing in all 98 games during that time for the Razorbacks.

“I’m coming home!!!!” Sills wrote. The post featured Sills in an ASU uniform with First National Bank Arena in the background.

ASU later confirmed that Sills has signed an athletic financial aid agreement to join the Red Wolves. Red Wolves head coach Mike Balado and Sills are expected to meet with media members via Zoom this afternoon, according to ASU’s athletic media relations office.

Balado posted a message promoting a “plot twist” and big news for the Red Wolves just before Sills’ decision was made public.

“We’re extremely excited for our program and community to have Desi joining our team,” Balado said in a statement Tuesday. “It’s great to have a young man who was so successful at Jonesboro High School and the University of Arkansas to come back home and continue to build this program.

“Desi can score in multiple ways, but people don’t give him enough credit for how hard he plays. He brings infectious energy, is a phenomenal defender, he rebounds and he does everything that you would want to help a team win. To add somebody like Desi to the fold makes this team stronger at every position.”

Sills, a 6-foot-2 guard who will have two seasons of eligibility, decided to enter the transfer portal a couple of days after the Razorbacks’ season ended with a loss to eventual national champion Baylor in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. He started 15 games and played in all 32 as Arkansas put together a 25-7 record and made its deepest NCAA Tournament run since 1995.

Initially Sills announced that he would transfer to Auburn, and the Tigers announced him as a signee last month.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of Desi,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said in a statement Tuesday. “I love his toughness and I wish we would’ve had a chance to coach him. It was in Desi’s best interests academically to pursue a different opportunity other than Auburn.”

In transferring to ASU, Sills will join former Jonesboro High School teammate Marquis Eaton in the Red Wolves’ backcourt. Eaton has one year of eligibility remaining after earning second-team All-Sun Belt Conference honors this year.

Eaton and Sills led the 2016-17 Hurricane to a 32-0 record, Jonesboro’s first perfect season since 1954, and Sills powered the team to another state title in 2018.

The Red Wolves, who finished 11-13 this year, have had a quiet offseason. Eaton and Christian Willis, the only seniors on the 2020-21 roster, will return for another season since 2020-21 does not count as a year of eligibility. Forward Norchad Omier returns after earning first-team All-Sun Belt and SBC Freshman of the Year honors last season, while junior guard Caleb Fields and junior forward Keyon Wesley were also starters.

Sills started 15 of the first 18 games this year for the Razorbacks, scoring in double figures 10 times while averaging 7.5 points and 2.7 rebounds in more than 20 minutes per game. He scored 23 points, a career high, in Arkansas’ SEC opener at Auburn and later scored 22 against the Tigers in Fayetteville.

In a regular-season meeting with Oral Roberts, Sills had a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds. He was 5-of-7 from the 3-point line for 15 points in early March at South Carolina.

In the NCAAs, Sills gave the Razorbacks a lift against ORU in the Sweet Sixteen with six rebounds, four assists and two steals in 28 minutes. He played 30 minutes in the loss to Baylor, leading the team with four assists and tying for the team lead with six rebounds.

Sills played 2,237 minutes while scoring 758 points during his Razorback career. He started 24 of 32 games as a sophomore during the 2019-20 season, scoring in double figures during 10 of the last 14 games while averaging 10.6 points per game.

An 18-point game against Indiana in the NIT closed Sills’ freshman season in 2018-19. Sills started the last eight games of the season.

A recreation and sports management major, according to his bio at Arkansas, Sills was on the Arkansas athletic department honor roll for the fall 2020 semester and was named to the 2021 SEC Winter Honor Roll.