University of Arkansas head basketball coach Stan Heath turned the selecting of the Red-White teams over to co-captains Ronnie Brewer and Jonathon "Pookie" Modica.
It's not surprising that the big fellas - something new in the program this season - were the first to go for Saturday's 2:05 p.m. game at Bud Walton Arena.
"Two inside guys were the first two picks," Heath said. "I guess that says both guys feel here is a need for a strong inside player on their team."
Brewer's squad also includes freshman center Darian Townes , sophomore wing Olu Famutimi, senior forward Michael Jones, junior point guard Dontell Jefferson and senior power forward Rashard Sullivan.
Modica will go to battle with freshman center Steven Hill, junior guard Eric Ferguson, freshman power forward Charles Thomas, sophomore forward Vincent Hunter, sophomore forward Preston Cranford and freshman guard Sammy Munsey.
"They know their teammates and they have played together not only in practice, but in open gym for the summer and the fall," Heath said. "I thought it was pretty balanced teams...I think the strength of our team is that we have interchangeable parts and guys are really competing."
Arkansas was picked fourth in the SEC's Western Division preseason poll Thursday by the media in Birmingham at the league's annual media gathering.
"I guess on paper that is how most people look at it, but at the same time it is a challenge for us to surpass those expectations," Heath said. "Every year there is a team or two that rises above what is put on paper. We are going to be very hungry to be one of those teams."
The Razorbacks have now been practicing for two weeks and Heath says things are going well.
"We have been practicing now for two weeks and we have worked hard on our defense and worked hard on our rebounding and tried to become a team that plays better together out there on the court," Heath said.
"We'll see who's picking things up at game speed in front of a crowd and who is going to react a little bit different when the lights come on," Heath added. "We're going to see who is ready right now and who we need to speed the process up with."
Jones (hamstring) and Famutimi (back) have been hurting a bit, but both have been practicing and will play on Saturday.
During his first press conference last week, Heath said the defense was ahead of the offense as normal. But in a recent scrimmage, the offense showed signs of improvement.
"In a scrimmage with officials two days ago, our team shot 49 percent from the field," Heath said. "I don't really know what way to look at it - was the defense not as good or is the offense getting better and showing flashes."
Heath said his four scholarship freshmen have had plenty of good moments and some bad.
"They all bring a little something different," Heath said. "Like typical freshman one day its one guy and the next day it is somebody else. I have been real pleased with all of them. Hill has made steady progress every day. Townes is starting to be more consistent. Thomas is probably making the biggest jump I see in practice. You are not sure that you are not doing a whole lot, but then at the end he's got rebounds, he's got points and he has knocked a couple of people down."
The afternoon will begin with an Fan Appreciation autograph session that will last from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"It will be an opportunity for us to meet and greet people," Heath said. "Pretty much we are going to open it at the student entrance and allow people to have balls or posters, get those things signed and just say hello."
That has been done at Midnight Madness before, but it was thought this would be an easier time for fans to make it.
"I am just looking at a few ways we can give back a little bit to the fans and accommodate them," Heath said. "We get a lot of requests, a lot of things sent to our office and we are trying to cut some of that down. This Saturday will just give us a opportunity to say hello and for the players to meet some of the people who really support us."
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