Heath Hopes Pippen Inspires Razorbacks

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas' basketball team got a pleasant surprise Monday when former Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen dropped by Bud Walton Arena for a visit.

Pippen, who has six NBA championship rings, spoke to the Razorbacks for about 15 minutes before practice.

"It was pretty cool," said UA junior redshirt Luke Allen. "He talked about growing up in this state and playing at Central Arkansas. He mostly answered questions."

Ronnie Brewer, who had met Pippen last year when Pippen did a function for the Blessings Golf Club in Johnson, said, "He knows what he's talking about. He's one of the top 50 all-time players."

Pippen talked briefly with Hogs coach Stan Heath, who last month had former Hogs great Sidney Moncrief speak to the team.

Jonathon Modica, who scored 37 points in a win over South Carolina on Saturday, said, "I heard a lot about (Pippen), growing up and watching him play with Michael Jordan and the Bulls. Everyone knows he's a great player."

Arkansas forward Darian Townes watched as Pippen, wearing a pink shirt and blue denims, chatted with Heath while the Hogs loosened up.

"It's my first time to see him in person," Townes said. "I'm going to take some of what he speaks about and try to put it in my game."

Pippen arrived in Walton Arena with longtime friends Rodger Hunter, the UA life skills coordinator, and former UA student Ron Watson.

Antron Pippen, Scottie's son, is a 6-foot-2 high school guard living near the Buckhead area of Atlanta, Ga., who has been looked at by Cincinnati and other college teams.

"Antron is going to be a late bloomer, like Scottie was," Watson said.

Modica Honored
For the second time in the last two seasons, Modica has been named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week.

Besides his 37 points against the Gamecocks, Modica had 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists and zero turnovers in 36 minutes.

"It's a privilege and an honor to get this award," Modica said. "I'm just happy to represent the University of Arkansas well."

Both Heath and Modica said they didn't plan to change anything if LSU or other future UA opponents key more on Modica defensively.

"We'll run the same things we run against other defenses," Heath said.

Modica said, "I think I can handle any defense, and if I can't, my teammates can. Teams can't just focus on one player on our team, because guys like Charles Thomas, Darian and Ronnie will take their attention, too."

LSU coach John Brady, whose team must deal with Modica on Wednesday night, said again Monday that Modica had always impressed him.

"He plays hard, has a great body and is a scary enough shooter," Brady said. "He's a good defender and competitor. I like the way he plays, by what I've seen in games and on tape. He can certainly lift their team and make them play better. We'll have to pay extra attention to him, on and off the ball."

Mitchell Hot, Too
Arkansas, meanwhile, must monitor LSU guard Darrel Mitchell, who has averaged 22.4 points in his last five games despite just a 14-point night in a 67-62 loss at Alabama on Saturday.

"We may have to step on his hand or kick him in the leg," Heath joked. "He's on fire. I've always thought he was a clutch performer. He can hit that 3-ball in the left corner. And he plays 40 minutes; he doesn't get tired."

Tyrus Mitchell, LSU's freshman forward sensation, scored just four points against Alabama, but Brady said, "He's played well two of the last three games.

"I do worry about fatiguing -- are we going to wear down? Because we don't play as many players. I'll do my best to get more minutes for other players, but I'm trying to win the game first."

Altered Lineup
Heath said he would start Brewer, Modica and 7-foot center Steven Hill along with, possibly, Dontell Jefferson at point guard against LSU. In the other spot, Heath said, "I might start Cyrus McGowan or Vincent Hunter.

"We want to see if we can be real physical. I think this game is going to be decided in the paint. McGowan is a warrior and I think he can be very valuable in this game."

Pearl's Pearls
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, the "hottest coach" on the SEC block at age 42, visited former UT coach Ray Mears in the hospital last week and got permission to wear an orange blazer like Mears' in tonight's game against Kentucky in Lexington (ESPN, 6 p.m.).

"I can't tell you how honored and emotional I'm going to be to walk on that (Rupp Arena) floor," Pearl said.

Before this season, Pearl said he wanted Tennessee to be Kentucky's rival -- which drew a small smile from UK coach Tubby Smith.

"I wasn't calling them out," Pearl said Monday. "I just remember some of coach Mears' teams, and the great games with Kentucky."

Donovan Defends
Florida coach Billy Donovan was asked Monday about criticism by ESPN analyst Dick Vitale of Donovan's leaving all his starters in until the final minute of the Gators' 95-80 win over Kentucky on Saturday.

"I don't know what he'd be referring to," Donovan said. "I didn't feel the game was over. I'm a big believer that you play the game out with your best players. I didn't feel secure or confident that the game was over with a minute-and-a-half to go."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories