Reserves Work At Consistency

FAYETTEVILLE -- Scout team players aren't supposed to look like this.

Six-foot-10. Incredible leaping ability. Deep shooting range.

All junior Charles Thomas can do is rub his eyes at times, left marveling at the diverse talent of freshman Michael Washington.

"You just can't take a possession off against him," Thomas said. "He can do so much. He makes me, Steven Hill and Darian Townes work so hard against him. He catches everything off the rim, and he can get shots you just can't believe he's getting."

"Truth be told, Michael Washington could be a starter for us."

So, Thomas' statement begs, why hasn't Washington found an integral role yet for the Hogs, especially 12 games deep into the season?

One word, Arkansas coach Stan Heath said.


Heath adamantly stated Thursday that the Hogs' reserves, Washington included, needed to improve their consistency.

With just two nonconference games remaining until Arkansas (9-3) opens Southeastern Conference play, Heath is still searching for a deeper, more consistent rotation.

Right now, just six scholarship Razorbacks average at least 17.5 minutes played per game. The other half-dozen range from junior Vincent Hunter's 15.7 to sophomore Cyrus McGowan's 4.0.

But Heath, in recent weeks, has hinted that he'd like to get more minutes from any combination of Hunter, Washington, McGowan, sophomore Sean McCurdy, freshman Stefan Welsh and junior Preston Cranford.

"We have a lot of guys with the ability to go out there and help us in different ways," Heath said. "Stef is a great example. In his mind, his way (of getting more playing time) is to shoot more, to take more shots. And I think he's starting to see that's not necessarily it."

Heath said he realized each of his reserves possessed a unique talent. But that alone won't contribute to more victories, Heath said.

"Playing good defense, making good decisions with the ball, good shot selection," Heath said. "Those are things that keep you out (on the floor)."

In two practices Wednesday, Heath said those players made a strong push toward earning more playing time.

Welsh refrained from throwing up wild shots. Cranford nailed open shots. McCurdy showed restraint with the basketball. McGowan, though slowed by shin splints, competed consistently.

Hunter, who averaged 4.5 points per game, fought the urge to take breathers.

"You've just got to just try and maintain the effort through the whole practice and that's tough sometimes," Hunter said.

As for Washington, who averaged 31.6 points, 14.8 rebounds and nine blocked shots per game as a high school senior, the scout team's highlight producer continued to produce.

It is only a matter of time, Heath said, before Washington cracks the rotation. Then again, Heath recalls moments like the somewhat scary one after Wednesday's practice and remembers why Washington has come along slowly.

Remember, Heath said, Washington came into the season in poor shape.

"He's trying to get himself to be intense at this level for a long period of time, and that's hard," Heath said. "He's never had to do that. He left practice on Wednesday with a body cramp. I had never heard of that, but (trainer) Dave (England) says it is legit."

Deep Into The Bench

Arkansas' bench has contributed inconsistently throughout the season. Razorbacks coach Stan Heath has tried repeatedly to find a steady rotation, and none of his reserves have stepped up on a game-by-game basis. Six of Arkansas' scholarship players average less than 17 minutes per game.

Player Games Played Average Minutes

Vincent Hunter 12 15.7

Stefan Welsh 12 12.6

Sean McCurdy 12 11.8

Preston Cranford 6 7.0

Michael Washington 6 5.3

Cyrus McGowan 7 4.0

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