With some of the nation's best 2006 and 2007 prospects looking on, the 2004-2005 version of the University of Arkansas basketball team got their season kicked off early Saturday morning with the school's 16th annual Midnight Madness.
A crowd of some 9,600 fans - and five invited recruits - got to see the Razorbacks' newcomers as well as some improved veterans take the court for the first time this season at Bud Walton Arena.
The White team's Jonathon "Pookie" Modica led the scoring chart with 14 points, but Ronnie Brewer's 13 points sparked the Red team to a 39-38 victory in the scrimmage that had two 10-minute halves with a running clock.
"The things I really liked were we were pushing the ball, attacking in transition and I saw guys sharing the ball by making the extra pass," Heath said. "They played hard and were actually defended. Normally in a situation like this it's one those let him get a score and I'll get score deals. That was not the case tonight."
New freshman big man Darian Townes (6-10, 253) added nine points and five rebounds and Olu Famutimi scored five of his seven points in the last couple of minutes as the Red squad rallied for the win.
Famutimi knocked down a 3-pointer and then scored the game-winning points on a rebound slam. Freshman Charles Thomas missed a baseline shot at the buzzer that would have given his team the win.
"I thought Darian really settled down and did some great things near the basket as time went on," Heath said. "And Olu was just hard to guard late and did some great things getting his teammates the ball."
Mike Jones, the Razorbacks' lone senior, added 10 points for the White team while junior college transfer Dontell Jefferson (6-4, 180) showed his point guard skills by adding six points and a scrimmage-high five assists.
"Dontell really distributed the ball well and set up his teammates for easy baskets while running the break and in the offense," Heath said. "You can see his point guard mindset."
Brewer knocked down all three of the 3-pointers he put up and also dished out four assists, grabbed a couple of rebounds and picked up three steals.
"Ronnie is just a guy who has improved and who can do so many things to take over a game," Heath said. "He's going to have a great year and be a leader for us on and off the court."
Thomas, a 6-7, 245-pound rookie, added four points and four rebounds, while the fourth new freshman Steven Hill (7-0, 240) was on hand but not dressed out after the passing of his mom last Saturday night.
"You can see that all those big guys know what to do with the ball when they get it low, but there is also plenty of work to do with post defense, rebounding and other things," Heath said. "But they are very physical and definitely bring a whole new dimension to our team."
The introduction ceremony might has well been the Razorback dance party as almost all of the squad showed off their dance moves to hip-hop music blaring over the loud speaker.
The scrimmage was actually scheduled for 12:01 a.m., but was postponed until 12:18 because Modica broke the rim while dunking during warm-ups. It was the fourth time a Razorback has broke a rim since school started.
"I think that strength training is paying off," Heath said. "We are going to be a much stronger, tougher team this year."
Arkansas has already secured commitments from New Jersey point guard Sean McCurdy (6-2, 180) and Mississippi prep power forward Cyrus McGowan (6-9, 235) to fill its slots for the 2005 class.
That has allowed them to go ahead and turn their attention to the 2006 recruiting class and juniors on hand last night were small forward Thad Young (6-8, 200) of Memphis (Tenn.) Mitchell and the Bolivar (Tenn.) High tandem of point guard Willie Kemp (6-1, 180) and big man Wayne Chism (6-9, 235).
Also on hand were University of Arkansas-Fort Smith freshman forward and former West Memphis star Sonny Weems (6-6, 200) and 2007 star Michael Sanchez, the 6-8, 200-pound sophomore from Springdale who the Razorbacks have already offered a scholarship.
"This is the best school I have had a chance to see so far," noted Young, who has also taken unofficial visits to Memphis and Tennessee. "They have a lot of great stuff happening him."
Pierre Neils, a 6-8, 230 power forward from Memphis Treadwell and a Memphis YOMCA AAU teammate of the other three Tennessee players, was unable to make it as he had to stay behind to take the PSAT on Saturday.
The alumni 3-on-3 tournament ended in a tie with Reggie Merritt and Larry Satchell heading up one squad and teaming with a manager battling Ron Huery, John Engskov and Clyde Fletcher to a 26-26 deadlock in the finals.
The Razorbacks will get back on the court Saturday at 11 a.m., will have one workout at 6 p.m. on Sunday night and then practice twice on Monday.
"We've got a lot of work to do, but we can't wait to get at it," Heath said. "We so excited about what we have put together here."
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Midnight Madness Box score:
Red (39) - Ronnie Brewer 13, Darian Townes 9, Olu Famutimi 7, Vincent Hunter 5, Preston Cranford 3, Eric Ferguson 2.
White (38) - Jonathon Modica 14, Mike Jones 10, Dontell Jefferson 5, Charles Thomas 4, Rashard Sullivan 4, Sam Munsey 0.
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