Arkansas basketball players have been hidden from public view for the last three months, but they haven't been idle. That's the word from Brent Lale, the conditioning coach who has guided many of the Hog cagers in the weight room this summer.
"We've had a great summer with our basketball players," Lale said. "We've had guys like Dionisio Gomez and Michael Jones gain weight and become much stronger, and you've got some like Blake Eddins who have dropped some weight. These guys have worked hard this summer."
Jones, the redshirt freshman forward from Little Rock, was up to 222 pounds earlier this summer and after some heavy-duty basketball work with a private trainer, will enter preseason conditioning at 217 pounds.
"We've got another couple of months to put a little more weight on Michael, but what's there is good weight right now," Lale said. "He's much stronger."
Eddins appears to be much slimmer than he was last year when his back muscles tightened as the season progressed.
"I was too heavy last year," Eddins said. "I tried to get stronger last summer and did bulk up. But, it wasn't good for my back. It was a tough season. I've done a lot of running this summer to get back to my old weight.
"And, I've done a lot of shooting in the gym. I've spent much more time on my shot. I've missed a lot of the pickup games because the team was playing at the same time I had a summer school class, but I've still played a lot in other games. But, mostly I've shot a lot. I know to play, my shot has to be falling. I've concentrated on that, and not so much about gaining strength. I know the key for me is to hit shots. I think I'll do that this summer."
Eddins is impressed with what he's seen of the Arkansas newcomers, guard J. J. Sullinger and forward Berry Jordan.
"Both of these guys are going to help us," Eddins said. "They can play. Sullinger is smooth and Jordan can sky."
Eddins said he is braced for what he expects to be a tough conditioning session under Lale. Head coach Nolan Richardson has told his players to expect a real boot camp atmosphere for the offseason program that will begin Tuesday.
"We know not to bring our basketball shoes," Eddins said. "We are going to be wearing running shoes for quite some time. We've been told what to prepare for and I think we know what's coming. Coach is going to have them really run us this preseason. We have an older squad and we'll get after it from the start."
Lale said, "Yes, this is going to be extra tough. Coach Richardson has a great program for them."
That's great as in extra tough.