Townes Continues Pursuit to Mature

FAYETTEVILLE -- Darian Townes didn't hide anything from Arkansas coach John Pelphrey when the two first met privately shortly after the first-year coach was hired in April.

It was the start of Townes' attempt at becoming a new man. They talked about the 6-foot-10 senior's attitude, which has seen many peaks and valleys in three previous seasons at Arkansas. They discussed his work ethic. They spoke of life in general.

And they addressed "the incident," as Townes calls it, the send-off to the locker room by former coach Stan Heath during Arkansas' win over Tulsa on Jan. 4.

"I got so much out of our meeting," Townes said. "Coach Pelphrey was all about learning from the past and moving on. I can sit here and say I'm a whole new person than I was last year -- on and off the court."

Nothing's for sure with Townes, never has been. He's had extended stretches before as a Razorback without any negative developments. But they've never looked as legit as this one.

Arkansas (3-1) takes on Delaware State (2-2) at 2:05 p.m. today. And its most consistent player thus far this season may just be Townes, the 23-year-old senior who has always shown promise but never fully fulfilled it. He came off the bench to score 32 points and grab 20 rebounds in three games at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

He hustled on defense. He ran the floor and finished athletic dunks on offense. And he played with determination and with, most importantly, consistency.

Assistant coach Rob Evans gets a bit emotional when speaking about Townes' growth, even in the small span he has known the native of Alexandria, Va.

"Darian is one of the guys who has given himself to the coaches," Evans said. "He's still trying to learn. I've been really impressed with him. He's trying to do the things that we've asked him to do, trying to give himself to the coaches, trying to be a complete basketball player."

Townes' improvement is noticeable on the court is noticeable, mostly for his increased intensity than anything. He still has an inside game that is hard to defend, but he committed to working at his defense in the offseason Shockingly, Townes has never -- ever -- "taken a charge."

He wants that to change, as do the coaches.

"One day, I'm going to take one in a game," Townes said. "It's going to happen soon."

While Townes and those close to him are pleased with his basketball progress, it's his mental advancement that has impressed most. Arkansas center Steven Hill said Townes has turned into one of the team's best leaders. Townes takes school more seriously now. He doesn't mope around on the court, doesn't show negative body language.

And Evans notices Townes now notices the little things in life.

On Father's Day, Evans gets a phone call from Townes. On his birthday, Townes rang Evans up again.

"He's reaching out and trying to connect," Evans said. "He's the one kid since I've been here that has called me like that. He's such a likeable kid, and I think he's got a chance to have a great season.

"He just has to hold it together.

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