Brutal, But Positive, Beginning

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas' basketball players had no problems briefly summing up their first practice with first-year coach John Pelphrey. Monday's workout, to be blunt, shocked their system.



"Oh, man, that first day, that was brutal," said Arkansas forward Charles Thomas, one of six Razorback seniors.

Another senior, Sonny Weems, said players were "dropping like flies" with cramps and side aches. Senior Steven Hill said "all the stuff we heard about hard practices, it wasn't a joke."

Through it all, Pelphrey was patient. He doesn't mind his players getting winded. He knows they're not in game shape. He just expects maximum effort, at all times. And speaking Wednesday before Arkansas' practice, Pelphrey said his players had met his expectations thus far.

"Right now, we're just looking to get some fundamental truth down on both sides of the basketball," Pelphrey said. "If I get frustrated, then they get frustrated and that's not what this is supposed to be about.

"Hopefully we can come out of this thing with some togetherness."

Razorback players agreed they were on track to improve team chemistry, just like Pelphrey hopes.

Hopefully, they'll stay healthy enough to follow through with that, though. On Monday, guard Stefan Welsh went down with a pulled hamstring. Other players couldn't keep up. Others tweaked muscles. In fact, the Hogs had to finish their 4-on-4 drills Monday with assistant coach Isaac Brown and team manager Will Landreth participating.

But Thomas said nobody got frustrated. And Weems said the Razorbacks' overall intensity was higher than most practices they held last season.

That's all Pelphrey wants. He seeks to change the way Arkansas thinks about physical effort, as well as the threshold players must get past mentally.

"It's not always a physical conditioning thing," Pelphrey said. "It's more a conditioning of the mind."



Short At The Point

Pelphrey didn't mince words when asked to address his biggest concern thus far.

"I'm concerned a little about our ball-handling and passing," Pelphrey said. "There's not a lot of guard depth. Can we take care of the basketball well enough and consistently to give ourselves a chance to win?"

Right now, it's tough to answer that question. Last year's starter at point guard, Gary Ervin, hasn't yet returned from New York. His grandmother's funeral was on Thursday.

"We miss him a lot," Weems said.

And Welsh's injury depletes the position even more. At first, Welsh said the UA training staff told him that he'd be out three to five weeks. But he has responded better over the past two days.

Still, Pelphrey called him "doubtful" for the Razorbacks' games in Cancun.

In the absence of Ervin and Welsh, freshman Marcus Britt, sophomore Patrick Beverley and Weems have worked at point guard.

Pelphrey said the past couple days at the point guard spot have been a little rough. Although Beverley did gain some experience at point guard over the summer with Team USA. And Weems said he was "a Jason Kidd-like point guard" in eighth grade.

"Anytime you play one position, you want to play another," Pelphrey said with a laugh. "So Patrick and Sonny have enjoyed it."



Tip-Ins

Freshman guard Nate Rakestraw impressed his new teammates on Tuesday by draining six consecutive 3-pointers in a game-like situation. ... Andrew Boyd will once again be a walk-on, and the Razorbacks have tentatively added Stephen Cox, a UA golfer last year, to the team. ... Pelphrey said the coaching staff has put in a majority of their fundamental schemes already, including one full-court press.

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