Familiar faces bumped noggins Friday night during Arkansas' 90-56 exhibition win against Abilene Christian in front of 7,503 in Bud Walton Arena.
Abilene Christian coach Klint Pleasant was an assistant for Arkansas coach Stan Heath when Heath guided Kent State to the Elite Eight during the 2001-2002 season.
Heath was hired here after that run, and the thought was Pleasant would join him here. But Pleasant, who played football for Abilene Christian, decided to stay with the Wildcats, hoping for a head coaching job in the nearer future.
He didn't have to wait long, replacing Mike Martin on April 6, 2002. Pleasant is 25-29 at Division II ACU, which had won only 13 games in its previous two seasons.
On Page 3 of the ACU skinny media guide is a mug shot of Heath with this quote: "ACU has found a truly outstanding young basketball coach in Klint Pleasant. His passion and knowledge of the game will bring a lot of success to the Wildcat program. With his history of success, there's no question ACU hired the right guy to turn its program around."
After Arkansas' win, Pleasant returned the compliments.
"Stan's a great recruiter, a great coach and I think they'll win a lot of games this year," said Pleasant, adding that Heath has the Hogs on the right track.
Prior to Friday's tip-off, Heath and Pleasant had a nice chat, Heath ending it with a pat of Pleasant's back.
"I told Stan, 'I know you'll beat us, but we'll play hard and be organized,'" Pleasant said.
After the game, Pleasant was greeted outside the visitors' locker room with a hug from Heath's wife, Ramona.
"We really appreciate coach Heath playing us," said Pleasant, his shirt untucked as he readied for a 10-hour bus ride to Bowling Green, Ky., where his team will play Western Kentucky tonight. "This will really help us out."
Pleasant was referring to the $15,000 pay day from this trip, but the on-the-court lesson likely was valuable, too.
Climbing The Hill
Arkansas freshman center Steven Hill fouled out after just nine minutes in last weekend's 72-47 exhibition win against Texas A&M-Commerce.
The 7-footer again got into foul trouble Friday night, so he played just 17 minutes. But Hill took advantage of them.
Heath has been trying to get the somewhat bashful Hill to think more offensively and that message seems to be taking.
In the second half, Hill twice tried hooks from the left baseline. Both rimmed out, but you get the point.
When Hill scored from point-blank range with 7:56 left, the Arkansas bench went wild, even before he completed the 3-point play with a swisher. One of the loudest ovations of the night came when Hill dunked with 5:49 left.
At about the 2:00 mark, Hill hit a short jumper from the left baseline.
Good sign, Coach?
"Sure was," Heath said. "He didn't hesitate. Nice jump hook. Great position. Couple of short shots went in and out, but he was very aggressive. That's a good sign and it will help his confidence."
Hill had 9 points (3 of 7 from the field, 3 of 3 from the line) and 4 rebounds.
ACU made four consecutive 3-point attempts, sandwiching an old-fashioned 3-point play and changing a 9-8 deficit into a 20-13 lead with 12:16 left in the first half.
Joe Carr had one as did David Baxter. Dionte Gill had two treys in that span.
It wasn't a Pleasant surprise.
"I feel like we have some pretty good shooters," Pleasant said. "Gill and Baxter, those two kids can shoot it as good as anybody."
The Wildcats made 7 of 10 first-half treys, but missed all six attempts in the second half, a halftime adjustment that pleased Heath.
Heath also said junior transfer point guard Dontell Jefferson's treys (3 of 3, all in the second half) gave the Hogs a "spark."
A Little Help
Carr, generously listed at 5-foot-6, smiled most of the game, even when he apparently twisted an ankle with 8:34 left.
Carr got on the back of Baxter, then slid off to allow Baxter and Matt Sutherland to help him move on. Baxter and a manager finished the trip and Carr got a nice ovation from the crowd.
The pesky junior point guard Heath recruited while at Kent State came back less than two minutes later, finishing with 8 points, 3 assists and a steal.
Afterward, two Arkansas fans stopped in a hallway to tell Pleasant how much they enjoyed "that nice young man."
Arkansas sophomore guard Ronnie Brewer scored 14 points and turned in some highlight reel slams.
But when it came to toeing the (free-throw) line, Brewer stumbled, missing all six attempts.
"Ronnie will work at it," Heath said. "I think with him, there's just a little thing we have to correct."
Hogs coaches will work on his rhythm, which is a bit off at this point, and Heath swore Brewer often sinks 15 straight in practice.
Arkansas made just 14 of 25 free throws (56 percent).
"We've still got to get to the free-throw line and knock them down," Heath said.
Gill. That ring a bell?
The 6-foot-4 junior transfer (from Arizona Central Community College) is a first cousin of the NBA's Kendall Gill.
Gill led the Wildcats with 13 points, hitting 5 of 11 from the floor (3 of 5 from 3-point range).
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