Like most every college basketball coach in America, new University of Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey is anxious to get the party started.
In this case, the party starts around 7:30 Friday night with autographs and will end up with a limited scrimmage beginning around 9:30 p.m. as the Razorbacks officially get fall practice underway.
We'll have an abbreviated practice," Pelphrey said. "That may be too strong, but we'll do a few things team-wise, and then there will be a limited scrimmage. More than anything else, this is to make ourselves available to the community. To have a little fun before the season starts is always good. This is Arkansas and there's always a lot of interest in what is going on, and I think that's very, very positive."
Pelphrey announced at Arkansas annual media day on Tuesday that all hands should be on deck to start practice on Friday with senior Sonny Weems having healed up sufficiently from a broken left hand suffered in August workout.
"We anticipate Sonny being able to practice full speed," Pelphrey said. "Things are going well with his hand. I don't see any problems at all. A week or so ago he did some things where there was no contact. He's done nothing with a basketball with us since he hurt it. I'm not sure how much (conditioning) he's been doing, but Sonny keeps telling me that's not an issue."
Arkansas will jump into his workouts full boar with two workouts on both Saturday and Sunday – all of which will be closed and off-limits to the public and media.
"For a while we'll go double-sessions on both Saturdays and Sundays, Pelphrey said. "Up until games start, traditionally I like to take days off during the week so the guys can focus on academics in school. They always appreciate that when I do that for them."
Pelphrey noted that he has no plans to redshirt anyone at this time, but he did think that was the proper thing to do for himself when he was coached by Eddie Sutton at Kentucky.
"I think I was a much better player as a fifth-year senior than I was as a freshman," Pelphrey said. "I was 6-foot-7, 172 pounds and if I turned sideways and stuck my tongue out, I looked like a zipper."
Pelphrey is thrilled about the challenge of taking over at Arkansas after being an assistant at Marshall and Florida and then being the head coach at South Alabama for the past five years.
"I'm excited," Pelphrey said. " In all coaching, there are pressures and expectations from a school or community, but as an individual we have pressure and expectations we put on ourselves. It's our team and our program, so we understand. There's a sense of urgency on a daily basis to make sure we have things done and that we're ready to go. We can't control everything, but that's what we try to do.
" It's different from the standpoint that I'm in a league that can put multiple teams in the NCAA Tournament," Pelphrey continued. "We're at a school where we have a chance to compete for Western Division championships and we all know if you can do that in the SEC, you have a chance to compete nationally. Those are things right now that, no matter how good we were at South Alabama, weren't going to take place for us. "
Pelphrey joked that more members of the media showed up for Media Day at Arkansas on Tuesday than showed up to cover the Sun Belt Media Days he previously attended.
"When you get away from everything else, the bank of microphones and all the lights - and make no mistake that's what makes Arkansas special - we still have to go out and coach our team," Pelphrey said. "We have to go out and get prepared. Whether it's here or somewhere else, that's the same. We have to make sure we remain focused and don't get caught up in some outside distractions.
"It's about being organized and playing together as a unit," Pelphrey continued. "You heard me say this about six months ago – this is a dream job opportunity for me. I understand that. I'm tremendously respectful of the past, and who's coached here and who's played here. I don't want to be those guys and our players don't want to be any of those guys from the past, but we would love nothing more than to have some repeat success of those that came before us. We understand what we do on a day-to-day basis is important to the state of Arkansas."
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