CitiScapes Magazine is Northwest Arkansas' longest running and most widely circulated monthly city/regional lifestyle magazine. 

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Fayetteville, AR 72702


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Finishing What He Started

Senior Adrio Bailey finds success on the road less traveled for the Hogs

By Steve Andrews

Photos courtesy of Razorback Communications


To say March Madness has been a bit too sane in Northwest Arkansas over the past 20 years would be an outright understatement. Not since the bygone days of Hall of Fame coach Nolan Richardson has the University of Arkansas men’s basketball program been nationally relevant when the Big Dance rolls around.


Since 1999, the Razorbacks have tallied only three NCAA Tournament victories, all in the first round. For a proud fan base, where passion runs deep for Hog-calling diehards, those doldrums can take a toll on our emotions. And it’s not just about sports. It affects the collective morale of the region.


New coach Eric Musselman has quickly instilled vigor and hope back into the Razorback program, something not seen in years. As a college basketball writer for most of my career, throughout North Carolina and Arkansas, I can usually identify coaches with that “it” factor for success. Nolan had it. And the “Muss Bus” is showing positive signs.


But, in my eyes, no one has exemplified the heart and soul of this rejuvenation more than an unsung leader who has trudged this strenuous journey for the past four seasons. He’s a player who epitomizes staying the course despite facing huge obstacles – a player who seems to have saved his best for last.


Just a 3-star recruit from tiny Clarence, Louisiana (population: 485), 6-foot-6 forward Adrio Bailey was a virtual unknown in 2016. He had tons of high school success, with undeniable athletic ability, but could he compete in the SEC?


When he first arrived on campus, he was informed that the player who had hosted him on his recruiting visit, the one teammate he had gotten to know, was no longer here. Jimmy Whitt had transferred to SMU.

About six games into his freshman season, I ran into Adrio after a game, sitting with family inside a local Raising Cane’s restaurant. Despite a relatively easy victory for the Hogs that night, he did not get into the game. He sat speechless with his head down in a corner booth. As I walked past, I told him to keep his head up, that his time would come. He nodded and thanked me for the attempted encouragement.


As a number of his unhappy teammates began to transfer to other schools, Adrio – known to friends as Dro – stuck around and continued to grind. With sporadic playing time over his first three seasons, he always stayed prepared and gave everything he had when he got on the court.

Then, heading into this senior season, a new coach arrived. The speculation of transferring crept up once more. Yet again, Adrio remained on board, opting to finish what he began.

Then, heading into this senior season, a new coach arrived. The speculation of transferring crept up once more. Yet again, Adrio remained on board, opting to finish what he began.


Now a starter, he is the most tenured player on the roster this season. He has not logged the most minutes or put up the biggest stats, but he is the most efficient defender on the court. He’s a leader, willing to do the “dirty work” to help his team win, often electrifying the crowd with a thunderous dunk or blocked shot. Yes, he had ample opportunities to throw in the towel and go in a different direction, but he chose to remain true to the path he embarked on four years ago. He chose to remain an Arkansas Razorback.


Adrio has since been named to the SEC Community Service Team and represents Arkansas on the SEC Men’s Basketball Leadership Council. He’s the perfect ambassador for what our university stands for.


I spoke with Adrio again after his recent appearance on Coach Musselman’s weekly radio show at Sassy’s Red House. I shared the story about the night I saw him at Raising Cane’s four years earlier. His eyes lit up, and with a broad smile, he said, “Yeah, I remember that. And I was thinking about transferring that night, too.” I told him I was glad he stayed, then gave him a hug.


I don’t know how this season will play out for the Razorbacks, but no matter what, it’s already been a success. An epic four-year journey is about to come to a contented end, the way it’s supposed to – all because the hero refused to give up.


That feeling of March Madness may not be completely back for the Razorbacks quite yet. But thanks to a path paved by a warrior like Adrio Bailey, things may soon get a little crazier when the Big Dance rolls around again.


Steve Andrews is a career newspaper journalist and sportswriter. He is a transplanted Floridian who attended the University of Arkansas for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Steve and his wife, Tracie, have three grown children, Jordyn, Baylee and CJ. Follow him on Twitter at @Razorbaque or email him at razorbaque@yahoo.com.