Razorbacks Ready To Rebuild

FAYETTEVILLE — The future of Arkansas basketball huddled together Monday afternoon in the concourse of Bud Walton Arena. As they waited to get their pictures taken by photographers at the Razorbacks' annual media day gathering, six freshmen decked out in white uniforms acted their age.

Courtney Fortson tossed a basketball at an unsuspecting Rotnei Clarke, giggling uncontrollably on contact at his new buddy. Brandon Moore and Jason Henry whispered jokes to one another. Michael Sanchez and Andre Clark took turns poking each other with mischievous grins on their faces, and Moore tugged at Fortson's dreadlocks.

The scene was reminiscent of so many this summer, when the Razorbacks took breaks from conditioning and playing pickup games to hang out and develop team chemistry.

"We already feel like a team," said Moore, a power forward from New Orleans, La.

Fortson and Henry arrived late, missing most of summer workouts as they waited for clearance from the NCAA Eligibility Center. But even they have quickly assimilated to the fun-loving ways of their teammates.

Whether the Razorbacks' swift meshing equates to victories remains to be seen.

Coaches and players alike, though, voiced Monday that they hoped the sudden cohesiveness would cancel out Arkansas' inexperience. Second-year coach John Pelphrey lost six seniors from a team that went 23-12 last season and won the program's first NCAA Tournament game since 1999. The Hogs also dealt this summer with the departure of guard Patrick Beverley, who would've returned as the team's leading scorer.

Junior forward Michael Washington, junior guard Stefan Welsh and sophomore guard Marcus Britt are the only three returning players who received consistent playing time last season.

"Losing the top seven guys, it's basically 80 percent of any category that you want to talk about on the stat sheet," Pelphrey said. "Make no mistake about it, this is rebuilding. You don't lose that many guys from any organization and not have some (hard) transition from one year to the next."

So needless to say, Pelphrey and his coaching staff will have plenty of things ready for the Razorbacks when they report for their first practice Friday. The seven newcomers, including junior college transfer Montrell McDonald, sounded eager to continue the learning process that started this summer under Washington and Welsh.

Those two juniors — even more so after Beverley's departure — tried to not only teach their new teammates this summer, but also stress a team-building atmosphere.

"We needed to have a summer like we had," Welsh said. "We did everything together. We worked out, played pickup, ate together, hung out, played video games all the time. We trust each other so much right now."

Pelphrey knows that kinship means nothing yet. He admitted his second season at Arkansas would "be like year one all over again from a coaching staff perspective."

But he vowed that expectations wouldn't be lowered.

"Somebody asked me, ‘Are those expectations and goals realistic?' Well, if they're not realistic right now, we need to work hard to make them realistic," Pelphrey said. "We're not changing the bar."



ARKANSAS BASKETBALL

Player Position Height Weight Class Hometown (Previous School)

Marcus Britt G 6-3 198 Sophomore Madison, Ark. (Forrest City High)

Andre Clark F 6-9 218 Freshman North Little Rock, Ark. (NLR West High)

Rotnei Clarke G 6-0 184 Freshman Claremore, Okla. (Verdigris High)

Stephen Cox G 6-3 201 Junior Jonesboro, Ark. (Jonesboro High)

Courtney Fortson G 5-11 180 Freshman Montogomery, Ala. (The Patterson School, Lenoir, N.C.)

Jason Henry F 6-6 189 Freshman West Memphis, Ark. (Cincinnati Harmony Prep)

Montrell McDonald F 6-5 181 Junior Fort Worth, Texas (Cowley College, Arkansas City, Kan.)

Brandon Moore F 6-9 215 Freshman New Orleans, La. (Holy Cross High)

Michael Sanchez F 6-8 236 Freshman Springdale, Ark. (Har-Ber High)

Michael Washington F/C 6-9 239 Junior McGehee, Ark. (Genesis One Christian School, Mendenhall, Miss.)

Stefan Welsh G 6-3 185 Junior Newport News, Va. (Hargrave Military Academy, Chatham, Va.)

Head Coach: John Pelphrey, 2nd season (23-12)

Assistant Coaches: Tom Ostrom, Rob Evans, Isaac Brown

Director of Basketball Operations: Damon Jones

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