Heath Picks Lineup

Arkansas coach Stan Heath announced his tentative starting lineup for Saturday's exhibition basketball game against Texas A&M Commerce.

In the exhibition opener against Texas A&M Commerce, Arkansas will probably start the game with a lineup that consists of perimeter players Ronnie Brewer, Pookie Modica, Olu Famutimi and inside players Rashard Sullivan and Darian Townes.

"Right now, that's the way we'll line up," Stan Heath said Thursday at his media briefing. "I'm leaning to Townes at center, but Steven Hill is doing well, too."

Heath said Dontell Jefferson, Eric Ferguson and Hill would get early time, too. He likes the way the defense intensifies with Jefferson and Ferguson.

"I think you'll see Jefferson and Ferguson in there pretty quickly," Heath said. "Defensively, Ferguson has really developed into a ball hawk and a stopper. He's much, much improved from last year. He made improvement from his freshman to his sophomore year, but not like he's made in the last year. He's a lot better."

Heath likes the improvement displayed by Townes, the 6-11 freshman center from Hargrave Military Academy.

"Darian has gotten better in the last couple of weeks," Heath said. "He's learning the system and the style of play. He still has to learn to play better defense. He can't just stand behind his man and then try to block the shot when he gets the ball. I want him defending his man before he gets the ball."

Heath was almost certain he'll try other starting lineups as the season progresses. He insisted that the one he issued for the A&M-Commerce game was not set in concrete.

"I've got some other lineups I'm intrigrued by," Heath said. "We've looked at a lineup with Townes and Hill together some in practice, but I don't know if either one of them is quite ready to play a forward on defense. We are still learning some things as far as our defensive structure and to ask one of them to play a different spot isn't ready to be done yet. Right now, they are better suited to split time at the five (spot).

"I've been intrigued by a lineup that has Brewer, Jefferson and Eric Ferguson together. That gives us a lot of speed, quickness and ball handling together. We will use that lineup some."

Heath thinks the defense is ahead of the offense at this point in the season, but sees major advances in the way the Hogs pass the ball and move on offense.

"Our execution is getting better," he said. "We move better and we screen better."

As far as the high-low offense and getting the ball to the low post, Sullivan is the best at the high post and delivering the entry pass to the low post.

"Charles Thomas has the ability to pass the ball and handle it ont he floor and will be good at that eventually, especially with the way he shoots," Heath said. "Charles is still making some freshman mistakes and Rashard has a better feel for that spot."

Heath announced plans to redshirt Preston Cranford, a 6-6 shooting guard put on scholarship this season after coming to school as a walkon last year.

"We'd been kicking that around for some time," Heath said. "We've talked it over with his dad and decided we would use this year as a redshirt season. He'll have a chance to get stronger. It doesn't do us any good unless he takes it and runs with it, but I think he will do that.

"What he has to do is get stronger and get used to the speed of the game. He's a great shooter, but he needs to be able to get his shot off and not be off balance doing it."

Heath said Texas A&M Commerce is a solid Division II team, with plenty of new faces.

"They have seven junior college transfers and two Division II transfers," he said. "They have a 6-10 player we saw at Southwest Texas a year ago and they also have a fine shooting guard.

"I will say that their roster has no freshmen and is primarily juniors and seniors. We have an edge in talent, but we are playing with freshmen and sophomores. We know to expect a great effort and we will have to go out and play hard. I expect our team to perform well."


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