Arkansas Hoping To Touch Lives In Vilonia

Arkansas' basketball team will take its show on the road Sunday as it plays a benefit basketball in Vilonia to benefit the victims of last April's tornadoes.

Central Arkansas will get its own taste of the Razorback basketball preseason when Arkansas hosts a benefit scrimmage Sunday afternoon at Vilonia High School.

The 2:45 p.m. scrimmage will benefit the continuing recovery effort for the victims of last April’s tornadoes in Vilonia and Mayflower.

“We get a chance to take the show on the road and go down to Central Arkansas,” Razorback head coach Mike Anderson said. “Obviously we are going to continue to raise awareness of the tornadoes that hit down there in April.

“We want to make sure those people are not forgotten and we want to go and do whatever we can to raise their spirits and – not only that – but get some food for them down there and hopefully some donations,” Anderson added.

Doors to the 1,600-seat arena – which will also have some standing room – will open at 2 p.m. with fans having the opportunity to get autographs from players and coaches before the scrimmage starts.

“It will be packed,” Anderson said. “So if you are going, you better get there early.”

This Arkansas squad has several players from the Central Arkansas area including former Little Rock Hall star Bobby Portis and former Little Rock Central standout Alandise Harris.

Many other players from Arkansas will and Memphis will have the opportunity to see their families and play in front of friends.

“For our guys to have the opportunity to go down there I think is kind of neat,” Anderson said. “I got a chance to meet the principal. He came up this weekend and they are really excited about it.”

“Some of our guys are from that area so they get a chance to go closer to home,” Anderson added.

That includes former Razorback star Marvin Delph from nearby Conway.

“I got a text the other day from Marvin Delph and he is excited about coming over there and seeing this team,” Anderson said.

Portis had 28 points and 14 rebounds Wednesday night for the White team, but the Red rallied from a 20-point deficit in the first half to win a scrimmage 99-98 on Michael Qualls’ rebound dunk with less than a second left.

“Me personally, I can’t wait to go down there,” Portis said. “It is close to Little Rock so I get a chance to go home – well, kind of a little bit – and for my mom to come watch me.

“…They don’t get to see us as much as all the Northwest Arkansas people do,” Portis added, “but also…with all the things that happened down there, I think it will be big for us to go down there and play for them.”

Qualls, who had 21 points in the Red-White game, hopes to just show the community that the Razorbacks care about the suffering they have gone through.

“I heard about the tornados and all the wreckage and things that happened,” Qualls said. “We just want to go and give back even if we didn’t have to play. I think that it is nice for people to see that other people care.

“We just want to be there for everybody, motivate them and try to be a positive for them and help them in their personal struggles,” Qualls added.

Senior guard Rashad Madden, who had 17 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists on Wednesday, says it is about a day of just trying to put smiles on faces.

“I think it is going to be a fun thing to just go down there and interact with that whole community,” Madden said. “They are going through a tough time right now and for us to come down there and put a smile on their face will probably make their day.”

Arkansas will then open its two-game exhibition slate with a Friday game against Central Oklahoma.

The Razorbacks will then face Pittsburg State in another exhibition on Thursday, Nov. 13 before opening the regular season on Sunday, Nov. 16 with a 4 p.m. home game against Alabama State.

“It is just good for our team to get out there and play in front of fans instead of just playing ourselves in front of nobody all the time,” Madden said. “It was fun event for everybody (Wednesday) and we are just looking forward to the season.”

Michael Qualls

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