Basketball Media Day

Here are some thoughts from Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson on the coming basketball season from Wednesday's media day.

The summary from Nolan Richardson's media day briefing could be taken from the Hog's new practice shirts that have one number 9440.

"That stands for 94 feet, for 40 minutes," Richardson said. "That's the way we will play. Fullcourt basketball. Our bread and butter this year will be our pressure defense. We will be in the man, the match and the 2-2-1. We may not press all the time, but that will be what we go with most of the time."

Richardson made sure the Hogs will be in shape to operate in that manner by asking for a dedicated offseason from the returnees.

"Uusually, our teams have gone home and got summer jobs," Richardson said. "I think the Todd Day/Oliver Miller bunch and Corey Beck's bunch stayed here, but the other teams went home.

"This team I asked to stay here. After the Georgetown loss, I asked for them to take one week off and then to hit the weights. They took one day off, and started. They did better than what I asked.

"They gained strength. You look at guys like Alonzo Lane. He's 4.3 percent body fat, and there are a lot like that. They are strong and lean. We had eight guys bench right at or better than 300 pounds. I've never had a team that strong, and we aren't big guys.

"That's why I'm very pleased coming into this season. We've got 10 guys that have played a lot. We will start off with a great base. We are strong and in condition. Usually, our strength program starts when we come back in August. This year it stareted in March when we finished the season, and it went straight through. They took one week off in August, but that was it.

"We've got upperclassmen ... five seniors since I count Gomez, and five juniors ... so we know how to play and we know how we are going to play and that's to get after you in the press. We haven't had a group of older guys like that in some time.

"And, that Georgetown game sent a message that we had to get ourselves better prepared. We did that as far as strength, conditioning and in the things they worked on as far as their games. We've had individuald workouts the last six weeks and I see they are all improved. Larry Satchell may be our most improved player for the second straight season.

"You look at Teddy Gipson. He's stronger and his body fat is 3.9 percent. Baker is at 4.8 percent. Satchell is 6-9 and he's 4.3 percent. And, Lane is 4.2 percent at 250 pounds. He's cut."

Richardson thinks it will help the Hogs in several ways.

"We were in a situation the last two years that we had injuries," Richardson said. "Some people thought we put it together at the end by design. That's not accurate. We got healthy at the end of the year. That's how we got better.

"Hopefully, the strength will keep us healthy. Poor Blake Eddins and Carl Baker. They were hurt all year. Now they are in better shape. Blake's lost 12-13 pounds."

Some have gained. Mike Jones is up 23 pounds since he arrived at Arkansas last year.

"He's a legit 6-9, and he's stronger," Richardson said of Jones. "He is a three player, someone who can shoot it from outside and put it on the floor. He's going to be able to play in our system."

The Hogs should get some help from their newcomers, J. J. Sullinger and Berry Jordan.

"Sullinger isn't a typical freshman," Richardson said. "He's not a freshman in his mannerisms or in the way he plays. He is a coaches' son and a real basketball player. People better be watching out for him because he can play a lot of positions. He will get someone's spot if they aren't careful. He can create, he can rebound and he can shoot it. He can also handle the ball and get it to people after drives for dunks."

Richardson said Joe Johnson's work in the weight room and the dividends it paid when he became a lottery pick inspired his former teammates last spring.

"Joe was never healthy when he was here, or in shape," Richardson said. "Joe came to us late in his freshman year (after getting eligible) and then he was injured his sophomore year. But, he got in the weight room and in our conditioning program with the rest of our players last spring. And, he got so much stronger. Our guys saw what strength meant to Joe in those combines and camps. He was much better. They got to work after seeing what the strength did for Joe."

There is little doubt the Hogs will play up-tempo basketball since they lack a true power player. And, that is not likely to change in the near future. Richardson said he is now convinced he will have a hard time signing legitimate centers because of his style of play, and is resigned to that facet of recruiting.

"We aren't going to get no centers," he said. "They don't come here. Why should they come here? We don't wait on a center to get down the floor. That's why we are going after the 6-6, 6-7 guys who can play up and down the floor. That's the way we are going now."

Richardson points to athletes like Berry Jordan, a true freshman forward on the Hogs' roster.

"He's raw talent," he said. "He is 6-7 and long, long. He has the wing span of a 7-footer. He reminds me of Clyde Drexler when he came out of high school. No one wanted Clyde because he was raw. Guy Lewis took him at the last minute and then he developed into something special.

"That's the way Berry Jordan could be. He's got a ways to go. He was in a small program and has never been through anything like this. Some days in our conditioning program, he just falls out on the floor because he's so tired. That's okay. He'll get there. I love his ability. He can jump through the roof and he still hasn't touched his potential."

The Hogs may not be recruiting big, powerful centers, but they may have one before it's over in Larry Satchell, the Hogs' 6-9 junior center.

"He keeps getting better," Richardson said. "He's learning the footwork around the basket that Lane has had the last two years. I think Larry is showing us in the early individual workouts that he has worked hard on his footwork and his shot.

"I tell him all the time, doesn't it make you mad that you are here and everyone says we don't have a center? It would make me mad. He wasn't a center when he came here, but he may turn out to be one before it's over. He's more mature now and understands he can't foul so much. I think you will see him stay on the floor."


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