Fortson Declared Eligible By NCAA

FAYETTEVILLE — John Pelphrey and the Arkansas Razorbacks needed this piece of good news. Ten days after losing guard Patrick Beverley for the season, the Razorbacks found out that the NCAA Eligibility Center cleared freshman point guard Courtney Fortson.

Fortson told Hawgs Illustrated late Monday night that the news provided relief.

"Oh, man, it seemed (to take) so long," Fortson said from Montgomery, Ala. "But the great thing is that everything is all cool now and I can head that way. I got the call (Monday) and told my mom, and we were both just very, very thankful."

Arkansas is still awaiting word from the NCAA Eligibility Center on another freshman — West Memphis native and small forward Jason Henry.

Fortson, a 5-foot-11, 175-pounder, was one of the prep school ranks' top point guards this season — at The Patterson School in North Carolina. He led The Patterson School to a 33-1 record, averaging 25 points, eight assists and six rebounds. He was named the 2007 Mr. Basketball in Alabama. And he is perhaps the most talented player in Pelphrey's highly rated recruiting class.

Pelphrey couldn't be reached for comment Monday night. He previously has commended Fortson for his ability to confidently compete against the top talent in the country — in AAU competition and in prep school.

"He's tough, and he knows how to win," Pelphrey said. "He is a player who knows how to make those around him better. I think we all understand how important that is."

Fortson, who could start at point guard, said he had spent the summer in Montgomery trying to stay in top shape. He said he would leave for Fayetteville on Sunday morning.

"I have been shooting, working on my off hand, running, just anything you can name, I have been doing it," Fortson said. "I wanted to stay ready because I know I need to come in and do a lot of things for us this season."

The loss of Beverley likely means Fortson's role will increase even more than initially expected.

"That was a big blow for us, but we are still going to have a good team," Fortson said. "It just means I have to come in and be more of a leader in addition to scoring and rebounding and whatever I need to do."

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