Heath wants Hoops Hogs to play Faster

Razorback head basketball coach Stan Heath met with the media Monday afternoon to give an update on practices.

University of Arkansas head basketball coach Stan Heath said Monday afternoon that he is trying to get his team to run, but that don't seem willing to get with the program.

"We scrimmaged yesterday (Sunday) and brought in officials and it was probably our first chance to kind of really see what we have been able to accomplish from practice," Heath said. "We are better in some ways, we have improved in some ways, we are more skilled, but the thing that is missing and the thing that I would really like to see will probably be surprising. I want us to be more committed to the running game."

Heath said he has made a concerted effort this preseason as well as during the breaks in Sunday's three 10-minute scrimmages to stress the fast break.

"I have emphasized it, pushed it with the players and for some reason it just seems like guys the guys want to walk it up," Heath said. "...We are not getting the ball out quick enough, we are not getting deep enough outlets, we are not advancing the ball up as fast as we really need to. That is the way I want the team to play and yet we have got a ways to go.

"...I do feel like our halfcourt offense has come along pretty good, but that has got to be a secondary choice and not the primary choice," Heath added. But the primary choice has to be the fastbreak."

When questions arose to the problem possibly being the team's style last season, Heath quickly shot those down and made it clear what he expected from everyone on this year's squad.

"I am not interested in excuses, only results," Heath said.

The second-year UA head coach, who won't announce the team members for Saturday's 2:05 p.m. Red-White game until Thursday, said it starts with point guards Eric Ferguson, Ronnie Brewer and Charles Tatum, but it is a five-man deal.

"Everybody has a responsibility in that," Heath said. "The guy getting the rebound has got to get a good clean rebound and an outlet, your point guard has got to get the ball deep enough in the outlet position, our wings have got to fly down the side to get wide and we need got to have a big guy who can get down the middle of the court to draw attention or throw over the top so he can finish."

As far as the point guards, no one has taken the job yet.

"It could be Eric, it could be Ronnie Brewer, it could be Charles Tatum," Heath said. "That position is going to be whoever the guy is who can advance the ball, who is going to defend and who is going to make good decisions. I haven't defined who that point guard is yet.

"Eric is probably the frontrunner, but he hasn't taken the position and ran with it yet either," Heath.

In fact no one has won a starting spot yet according to Heath.

"Our team is just really wide open with positions," Heath said. "I don't have a feel for who's starting or who's not. I think there are about eight guys that have kind of separated themselves, but out of that eight I couldn't tell you who was the best five."

Heath, who later amended that to nine players, said scrimmage star Kendrick Davis, Ferguson, Jonathon Modica, Brewer, Olu Famutimi, Vincent Hunter, Billy Pharis, Rashard Sullivan and Wenbos Mukubu were the top nine right now.

"We will still go at it every day and I am probably going to change things up with who those five are to see what our best combination is," Heath continued. "Once we get to our Red-White game that will be very good for me because it will give me a chance to see how guys respond in front of a crowd with officials and with extended minutes."

"We will able to evaluate productivity, who is shooting a good percentage, who is making good decision with the basketball - those are some of the little things we are going to look for in that scrimmage."

Heath did say what he wanted from his players was simple.

"There haven't been five guys that have said ‘Coach, I want a job and I want to make sure you are not confused and I am going to take the job,'" Heath said. "Nobody has done that. It's been about eight or nine guys that show me flashes that show me moments, but nobody has really stepped to the front of the class and taken charge of any positions yet."

That includes Modica, the team's brightest returning star who just missed making the USA Basketball Team this summer.

"Modica is doing good and he has his moments," Heath said. "But what I would like from Modica to do is to kind of expand his game. He can score, but there are other things which are important in the game - you've got to handle the ball and make decisions with it, got to recognize whether it is a good shot or a bad shot. He has still got to take some steps. He is not a finished product by far. I know he got some good billing and good pub but by being USA Basketball Team. But as far as I am concerned, he has got to get better or he would have made the team."

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Notes:

...Sullivan continues to be bothered by sore knees, a condition that Heath said he needs to take care of by sitting out practice a couple of days instead of trying to push through it.

Both Modica and senior guard Jamal Blackmon are suffering through ankle soreness as well.

"I don't want to be too cold with injuries, but if you can play then you need to be out there on the court, if you can't, you need to sit out," Heath said. "That's the way I look at it."

...Heath did not add any walk-ons after tryouts and will go with just the 13 players on the squad right now.

"Maybe something happens down the road after football season, but we are just going to stay what we have right now," Heath said.


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