Hill To Participate In Portsmouth

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas seniors Sonny Weems and Darian Townes are out. Senior center Steven Hill is in.

Weems and Townes will not be in Virginia tonight when the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament begins. Their agents notified tournament officials on Saturday that the former Razorbacks wouldn't participate even though they had accepted invitations. Weems and Townes are two of 12 last-minute dropouts, tournament director Mahlon Parker said Tuesday, and Hill was invited as a replacement.

"I guess they have agents that they put their lives in their hands, and they told them what to do," Parker said. "I'll probably send them the bill (for their plane tickets). I know we did talk to Coach (John) Pelphrey and he was pretty livid about it."

Parker said he didn't speak personally to the agents — Robert Montgomery for Weems and Derrick Powell for Townes — but that they spoke to others in the P.I.T. offices on Saturday. Pelphrey, Weems and Townes couldn't be reached for comment. Neither could the agents for Townes and Weems, who won last Thursday's college slam dunk competition.

Hill could benefit from the move made by his former teammates. The P.I.T. is a showcase for the nation's top college seniors and draws more than 200 NBA and international scouts to Portsmouth, Va.

While the 7-footer wasn't initially invited, Parker said Hill's name surfaced quickly once people started to drop out. Hill averaged 4.2 points and 2.9 rebounds for Arkansas this season.

"When we talked about replacements, (the NBA people) were mentioning his name," Parker said. "He fills a need for the teams here that lost a center, but also he has a chance (at the next level). If you're that big and can fill up that lane, bang on somebody and rebound, you can make a living. It really is a shame about Townes because he had a chance to prove that."

Weems and Townes weren't the only ones who left Parker "disappointed." Senior standouts such as Duke's DeMarcus Nelson and Nebraska's Aleks Maric also pulled out of the tournament because of the advice of their agents.

"It's amazing that one agent can convince a kid to play, and another can say that it's not good to play," Parker said. "It doesn't make sense to me, but they obviously have the players' best interests in mind."

Steven Hill

Age: 22

Class: Senior

Height: 7-0

Weight: 245

Hometown: Branson, Mo.

Notables: Was rated the No. 7 center in his high school class by TheInsidersHoops.com after averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots as a senior at Branson High. ... Drained the game-winning 6-foot turnaround jump shot with 5.3 seconds left in the SEC Tournament semifinals against Tennessee. ... Averaged 4.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in 35 games, including 28 starts, this season.

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