Hoops Update, 8/23

Arkansas head basketball coach John Pelphrey is happy with the way his team's pre-Cancun workouts are going, but the Razorbacks are going through them without their top two point guards.

New University of Arkansa basketball coach John Pelphrey is three days into practices with the Razorbacks and is down a pair of point guards.

Senior Gary Ervin has been out all week and attended his grandmother's funeral on Thursday.

Sophomore Stefan Welsh has been battling a hamstring injury suffered in the first practice on Tuesday and is doubtful for the rest of the 10 fall practices and the two exhibition games in Cancun next week.

"We are doing some things in the backcourt that haven't been done a whole lot with Patrick (Beverley), Sonny (Weems) has had a chance to slide over there and do some ball-handling - and we are talking about primary ball-handling responsibilities" Pelphrey said. "(True freshman) Marcus (Britt) has also been over there.

"Everybody has been put into a situation where we as coaches didn't anticipate doing some of that," Pelphrey added. "But overall it has been very good and I have been pleased with the listening, helping one another and how the enthusiasm has been good."

Beverley, Weems and Britt had adapted to the transition and are excited to get point guard time per Pelphrey.

"Their attitudes have been tremendous and they have certainly been serviceable," Pelphrey said. "…Anytime you play a position, you always want to play another one. Big guys want to play small, guys that play on the wing want to be playmakers so those guys have enjoyed it."

Even with Ervin and Welsh back, Pelphrey said that guard play is his biggest concern.

"You can tell there is not a lot of guard depth and that is probably my biggest concern right now at this point and time," Pelphrey said. "Really I have a lot (of concerns), but we don't have time to go through them. That is the thing that stands out to me the most right now. Can we take care of the basketball well enough consistently to put ourselves in position to win? It is no good to force 20 something turnovers if we are going to give them back."

Pelphrey and his ataff are trying to get certain characteristics built into the players.

"Offensively we are going to look to get good shots, we want to run as fast as we can be and don't turn it over," Pelphrey said. "There is just no way in basketball you can turn the ball over more than your opponent.

"Certainly we are going to get a lot more complex, but those couple of things we are trying to get across right now," Pelphrey said.

"On the flip side of that defensively, we ant to be hard-nosed, tough and nasty and not give up lay-ups," Pelphrey continued. "You don't want to carelessly foul and you want to limit them to one shot."

To that end, he thinks his team has worked toward that.

"I think everybody has been very attentive and I am very pleased with that and the focus and the effort has been there and there has been some really good enthusiam," Pelphrey said. "Obviously we have thrown a tremendous amount at these guys in a short period of time.

"It will certainly take time to absorb it all," Pelphrey added. "There is certainly no way they can master this in a couple of days and we are not expecting them to."

The UA staff is using these 10 days to get in a lot of its system.

"In the first two days, we basically covered everything in a fundamental side of it with regards to defense," Pelphrey said, "probably everything up to doubling the low post. We have talked about man-to-man, guarding the pick-and-roll, transition defensive stuff and even got into one phase of pressing with the guys.

"Offensively both days we have kind of emphasized the fast break so we can kind of work on transition defense if somebody runs it up and down the floor," Pelphrey said. "It's been an emphasis both days and we are going to try and get more stuff in and hopefully somewhere around the weekend may try to put it all together and see what it looks like."

With a couple of injuries the first day, assistant coach Isaac Brown jumped in and practiced so they could have 12 healthy players.

"I thought the first day when we got four guys hurt that Issac Brown was the best," Pelphrey joked. "He had to go in and practice and make his 12 (shots in a drill). I think he was 3-of-4 from the field and he only had six turnovers, but that was to be expected from where his conditioning was. I think we even finished practice with Will the manager out there."

Arkansas has since added Razorback golfer Steven Cox to the team for depth during these practices.

Pelphrey is thrilled to have these 10 practices to work with his team.

"I think it is huge," Pelphrey said. "With a basketball team that has got as many seniors as it has, a new coach and you go from understanding what your roles, how things have gone – the system and the style – to your basketball career basically being down to eight or nine months and not knowing how they new coaching staff perceives you or what to expect. I am sure there is a lot of anxiety that goes with that.

"I really hope that moreso than anything we can get all that stuff gone and get some fundamental truth down on both sides of the basketball," Pelphrey said. "Hopefully when our preseason practice starts, we will be ahead of the game and just can continue to build on it."

No doubt the anxiety of the four incoming freshmen – Michael Sanchez, Nate Rakestraw, Levan Patsatsia and Britt - is reduced as well.

"I like them and I think those guys are all about the right things," Pelphrey said. "I think they have a physical toughness to them and I think they are going to be able to contribute at Arkansas. When that is I don't know because there is a learning curve for all freshmen, but I think those guys are going to be fine."

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