Hogs Wow Crowd At Open Practice

FAYETTEVILLE — Eric Bailey didn't even need to see the scrimmage Friday night during Razorback Hoop Mania, the official commencement of the 2006-07 basketball season in Bud Walton Arena.

Bailey could've left before Stan Heath's squad split into two six-man sides, and he could've departed a happy man.

Sitting in the stands, waiting among 3,400 fans for the unveiling of this year's team, the 22-year-old Arkansas graduate student had one request for the evening.

"Some spectacular dunks from Sonny Weems would do," Bailey said. "I've never seen him play, and I've heard so much about him. I've seen all the highlights on TV, though. I want to see some of that."

Bailey saw plenty. Weems' first time through Arkansas' layup line ended with a hanging, double-pump reverse dunk.

The next time through, Weems soared into the air, fed the ball through his legs and viciously slammed in the ball. Envision Vince Carter in the 2000 NBA All-Star Dunk Contest.

Then, once the Razorbacks' scrimmage began, Weems snagged a loose ball on the opening tip and dunked.

By then, Bailey wasn't the only one enjoying himself.

Arkansas kicked off Heath's fifth season in Fayetteville by resuming an opening-night event for its fans, and all seemed to enjoy the laid-back, relaxing atmosphere.

Mostly, the crowd wanted to get a look at the Razorbacks' five newcomers. They hoped to see Weems dunk. They hoped to see junior transfer Gary Ervin get his teammates involved. They hoped to see freshmen Patrick Beverley, Stefan Welsh and Michael Washington show off their shooting range and athleticism.

Five minutes into the scrimmage, the Razorbacks looked like one would expect on their first night. Rusty, but explosive.

Ervin nailed Weems for an alley-oop dunk. Junior Vincent Hunter drew an "ooh" from the crowd with an up-and-under layup. Beverley showed off some impressive leaping ability.

At the same time, turnovers were prevalent and airballs were numerous.

It's a long season, and this was only opening night. Though the evening was enough to put a smile on the face of 71-year-old Jim Atwell, of Hot Springs, who spent 23 years as a high school coach at Sparkman and El Dorado.

"I was there when coach Heath spoke to the Hot Springs Razorback Club, and he said he felt like this team had more chemistry there than any other teams he's had," Atwell said. "You could see what he was talking about."

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