He emerged from the Arkansas locker room in red gym shorts, a gray sweatshirt and basketball shoes.
John Pelphrey looked more like a man who's services might be needed Friday night, not the Razorbacks' first-year coach. After all, only 10 players were eligible to play in Friday night's Red White Game.
And with 8 minutes, 45 seconds left in the first half, the sweatshirt came off. As he slid a white jersey over his red long-sleeve T-shirt, public address announcer John George boomed, "checking in for the white team, Coach John Pelphrey." The UA-estimated crowd of 5,832 inside Bud Walton Arena, which sat silently through most of a bland first 11-plus minutes, went nuts.
Arkansas' players were mostly shocked. A few, such as seniors Charles Thomas and Sonny Weems, caught Pelphrey taping up his ankles before the contest.
"I couldn't believe my eyes. All of a sudden, he was my teammate," senior forward Darian Townes said. "It was an energy boost for our squad. It was real good to see him come out and play. We had a little bit of momentum boost, but Charles messed that all up with that nasty block."
Thomas pinned a Pelphrey shot against the glass, invoking this comment from his coach after the Red's 84-78 victory.
"Charles Thomas will be suspended tomorrow," he said with a smile.
His on-court appearance, a brief flashback to his playing days at Kentucky, took attention away from serious suspension issues.
Suspended players Gary Ervin, Patrick Beverley and Michael Washington weren't even inside the building Friday night.
Earlier in the day, Arkansas landed at No. 19 in the first ESPN/USA Today coaches poll. But that kind of ranking surely won't be attainable this season without any of the three who were disciplined.
Pelphrey wouldn't expand on the exact reasons he suspended the trio on Thursday. He called the penalties a "one-game deal" and alluded that an increased effort in the classroom from all three players would rule out further suspensions.
But no one was thinking about the three missing players after Pelphrey's three-point, eight-minute effort. He said he committed to playing because nobody could come up with a valid reason to "tell him no" and because he wanted to give walk-on Stephen Cox a rest.
"I miss playing. Make no mistake about that," Pelphrey said. "If I could play today, I'd still be playing. The only reason I'm coaching is because it's the next closest thing to playing. Unfortunately for me, my day has come and gone. But my mind is still pretty good."
Pelphrey tried as much as his athleticism allowed to set an example for his "teammates."
He dove on the floor for a loose ball. He hurled into a passing lane and knocked the ball out-of-bounds off Vincent Hunter. He leapt for rebounds, even if he only made it a foot or so off the ground. He even pulled off a behind-the-back dribble and a no-look assist.
And he finally got on the scoreboard in the half's final minute, taking a pass from Weems and draining a 21-foot 3-pointer.
Darian Townes led all scorers with 25 points and Sonny Weems added 23 for the White team with Marcus Britt adding 15, Stephen Cox 8 and Michael Sanchez 4 to go along with Pelphrey's 3-pointer.
The winning Red team had balanced scoring with Charles Thomas and Stefan Welsh both having 19 points, Vincent Hunter and Levan Patsatsia each chipping in 18 and Steven Hill adding 10.
With potential recruits Daniel Payne and Rotnei Clarke looking on, Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles spent the moments before the start of the second half laughing with Pelphrey and assistant coach Tom Ostrom. He joked to Pelphrey that he started four years at Georgia Tech, one more season than Arkansas' coach spent as a starter at Kentucky.
"I'm the one who should be out there playing," Broyles said he told them. "(Pelphrey) said he had a uniform in there for me. I told him I'd pass."
Friday night's crowd was thrilled Pelphrey didn't. Those fans just shouldn't count on an encore.
"I'm done," Pelphrey said. "Stick a fork in me."
Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey dribbles the ball up court against Vincent Hunter with Steven Hill headed to help.
Charles Thomas goes up against Darian Townes Friday night in the Red-White game.
Sonny Weems shoots over Levan Patsatsia.
Steven Hill swats away a shot.
Stefan Welsh looks to make his move as Steven Hill sets a screen on Michael Sanchez.
Charles Thomas, Michael Sanchez and Levan Patsatsia all go after a loose ball in the Red-White game on Friday night.
Red 84, White 78
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