Ex-President, Hogs Value Thomas' Presence

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Even an ex-president is aware of Arkansas forward Charles Thomas' sprained ankle.

On the XM Satellite Radio show "60-20 Sports," former president Bill Clinton, in a taped appearance with James Carville, was asked by Luke Russert if he thought Arkansas could beat Southern California in the NCAA Tournament tonight.

"Yeah, if they're healthy they can," Clinton said. "They're good enough to beat them."

Thomas has started 29 games, averaging 10.9 points and 5.7 rebounds. After he missed the Kentucky game with a shoulder injury, he vowed not to miss any more. But he played just the first 82 seconds against Florida last week before leaving with the ankle injury.

"He's big for us, obviously," Hogs center Steven Hill said. "He had 18 points, 18 rebounds (against Mississippi State last week). We missed him against Florida. But even if he's not 100 percent, we have guys who can supplement and play well."

Arkansas guard Gary Ervin said, "Charles is a very important piece to this team because of some of the things he can do, like play inside and outside. His health is the key right now. We hope by game time that he'll be at least 80 to 85 percent."

Thomas was able to do some things when Arkansas worked out in Gonzaga's practice gym on Thursday (before its shootaround at Spokane Arena).

But UA coach Stan Heath said, "He wasn't 100 percent. I don't think he's going to be more than a 20-minute guy. I'd say somewhere between 10 and 20. But he's got (Friday) to get treatment, put ice on it, do all the things that could give him another 20 percent of recovery."

Thomas could be quite helpful in guarding 6-foot-6 USC junior guard/forward Nick Young when Young plays the 4 position.

Heath said he was leaning toward starting freshman Michael Washington in Thomas' place, and seemed surprised that anyone might question that decision.

"Michael just played against Joakim Noah (of Florida) and scored 17 points, and he didn't even know who Joakim Noah is," Heath said. "Michael doesn't have any fear of anything. Trust me. He's a gamer."

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