In nine years of watching Razorback practices on a more or less regular basis (more more than less), I have never watched a more exhilarating practice than the one tonight.
The practice lasted one hour, plus a 20 minute-or-so shootaround at the end. It was full court scrimmage all the way, with the players divided into their Sports Rap and Drive Time teams. The intensity and effort were almost fanatical.
The offense was jet propelled and the defense frenzied and hard nosed. In the final analysis the Sports Rappers ended up a 51/46 winner. Behind tremendous all around play by Nichy Gomez and sparkling offense from Teddy Gipson and Chuck Tatum and tough, tough defense by all, but spearheaded by TJ Cleveland, the Rappers got off to a 15/3 lead and were ahead by 15/5 at the first break for substitutions.
Drive Time narrowed the lead to 15/9 on some good work by Pargo. But the Rappers took it back up to 31/24 at the next break. The first period had featured man defense, the second zone, but the offensive pace was so fast that sometimes it was hard to determine.
The Drive Time team staged a comeback, sparked by Pargo again, but also featuring some nice work by Mike Jones and Carl Baker. In fact the Drive Timers took their only lead at 41/40 behind some good work by Dean and Jones before the Sports Rappers once again assumed control, building the lead to the 51/46 conclusion.
Not only were the players focused, intense, and competetive. The quality of play was very good throughout, with minimal turnovers despite the rugged, trapping and scrambling defense. I didn't keep shooting percentages, as the pace was so fast, but I'm sure it was quite good. While there were many excellent plays, two deserve special mention.
After a shot from a wing player that missed, Gomez stormed down from the high post to perfectly time the rebound and slam it through. Going the other way, Mike Jones got an outlet pass at the top of the key, dribbled the ball through heavy defensive pressure all the way to the goal and finished strong, but with a soft touch off the glass.
Actually I could write something complimentary about almost everyone. J.J. Sullinger had another solid performance, and along with TJ and Gomez, Chuck Tatum showed the way in intensity. But most impressive of all was the torrid pace of the game and the rather remarkably few turnovers. If this team could maintain this level of effort and intensity throughout the season it could fool a lot of the so-called experts.
I hope football fans who arrive Friday night because of the early start Saturday will come by and snap up the available tickets. If the olay tomorrow is anything like it wasw tonight, you won't be sorry. For those who don't make it to the game, there's a chance to see a Nolan Richardson practice (starting at 9 a.m. Saturday morning I am told).