The University of Arkansas' basketball team is certainly excited about getting back out on the basketball court., but it can't be anywhere near the level of excitement that the players from Xavier University-New Orleans in feeling.
XUNO did not play last season because of the damage done by Hurricane Katrina and thus will be taking the court of the first time since the spring of 2005 when the traditional NAIA power battles the Razorbacks Tuesday night in an exhibition game at 7:05 p.m. inside Bud Walton Arena.
"We were scheduled to play this last year and obviously Hurricane Katrina changed those plans," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "As part of fulfilling our personal contract or obligation – and we didn't have to do it – but I thought it the best thing to do help their program. Since they did not have a basketball season last year, we wanted to continue this game with them this season.
"It (XUNO) is a very successful program," Heath added. "They have had 23 20-win seasons and their last three seasons have been 20 wins-plus as well. I don't know a lot about them because there is no film from last year, no film from this year. I am aware they have two very good guards, one who is definitely a high Division I basketball player."
The game is the first of two exhibition games that Arkansas has scheduled before opening its regular season on Nov. 10 with visiting Southeast Missouri State.
"More than anything we have got to play the way we want to play," Heath said. "Play like we have been practicing. We want to have high intensity, want to get after it defensively, we want to play fast and furious and really work on the things out there on the court that we have been doing since day one in practice."
Heath has plans to start 7-0 junior center Steven Hill, 6-6 junior small forward Sonny Weems and 6-1 junior point guard Gary Ervin against XUNO while still deciding on the other two starting slots.
"I have already made plans in my mind and that it is the two (shooting guard) and the four (power forward) that will really flip flop," Heath said. "I will probably flip flop at halftime. When there is a change at halftime it will be for no other reason than. So whoever doesn't start in the first half will start the second half."
He will start either 6-8 junior Charles Thomas, 6-10 junior Darian Townes or 6-10 junior Vincent Hunter at power forward.
"Vincent lit those guys up in practice yesterday so I don't want to not put him in the mix," Heath said. "He has been really playing well."
Heath also has plans to either Patrick Beverley or fellow freshman guard Stefan Welsh at the shooting guard.
Those two guys lived up to that spot in last week's practices with Beverley making 19 of 30 3-pointers and Welsh 23 of 51 with Ervin knocking down 15 of 32 and sophomore guard Sean McCurdy 10 of 21.
"It's based on five-on-five of what we do live whether it be fullcourt or halfcourt," Heath said. "…Our percentage from three has been very good against very good defense."
It's clear that Arkansas' players are tired or practicing against each other.
"We are all excited about playing," Heath said. "We are all tired of beating each other up. I know you have probably heard that over the years, but it is really true. We are not SEC ready, but we certainly are ready to play the basketball game."
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