Warrior Washington

FAYETTEVILLE — Twice during the first half of Arkansas' victory on Wednesday at South Alabama, trainer Dave England accompanied forward Michael Washington into a Mitchell Center hallway.

Earlier in the day, Washington suffered spasms in his lower back during the Razorbacks' shootaround, forcing the 6-foot-9 junior to hobble around gingerly.

"We just went back there to stretch and use foam rollers on him," England said. "He was barely 50 percent. There are lots of players who wouldn't have played. But he showed his toughness."

Washington returned to the floor and played all 20 minutes of the second half that night. But he paid a hefty price, returning to Arkansas with deep, dull back pain, and Washington has spent much of the past week recovering.

England said he expected Washington to compete at "nearly 100 percent" when the Razorbacks take on Texas Southern tonight in Bud Walton Arena. Washington wasn't available earlier this week to describe how healthy he felt.

He was busy being tended to in the training room.

"He's done a lot of rehab," freshman guard Rotnei Clarke said. "He's just one of those guys that's a warrior. He's going to come out and play no matter how much pain he's going through."

Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said Washington was barely able to walk on Thursday when the Razorbacks came back from Mobile, Ala. As the Hogs prepared for Saturday's victory over Florida A&M, Washington spent Thursday and Friday with England.

Hours of stretching and massages allowed Washington to shock his coach and take the floor against the Rattlers.

"I didn't think he'd play," Pelphrey said. "He was so stiff and tight. From a guy whose back and neck locks up from time to time, just getting up and down out of bed is a major obstacle. He didn't look good at all.

"Dave and those guys did a great job."

The rehab let Washington get to "about 80 percent" for Saturday's contest, but the McGehee native performed as if his back was fully healthy.

"At the first part of the game, he had to run real fast for a layup, so we knew he was OK," England said.

In only 25 minutes, Washington scored game highs of 20 points and 11 rebounds. While he didn't display his usual array of athleticism, Washington still fought for rebounds, scrambled for loose balls and lobbied for charging fouls.

And in the process, he proved to the public what the Razorbacks already have known. Hurt or healthy, Washington goes as hard as possible at all times.

"It's unbelievable to me the way he fought through that," Arkansas assistant coach Rob Evans said. "He fought through it at South Alabama, and he really put us on his shoulders (against Florida A&M).

"But it's no surprise. He's always a little banged up because of how hard he plays in practice. He's always going hard, always taking charge fouls, always in the middle of all the rebounds. And he never slows down."

Even when his back acts up.

Today's Ticket

Texas Southern at Arkansas

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville

TV: KHOG (Cox Ch. 7)

Radio: KEZA-FM 107.9, KKEG-FM 92.1, KUOA-FM 105.3, KUOA-AM 1290

Records: Texas Southern Tigers, 0-6; Arkansas Razorbacks, 4-1

Coaches: Texas Southern, Robert Moreland (28th season); Arkansas, John Pelphrey (second season)

Series: Arkansas leads 3-0

Last Meeting: Arkansas won 79-78 in the first round of the 1995 NCAA Tournament in Austin, Texas

Probable Starters

Texas Southern (0-6)

G Matthew Miller 6-3 Sr. 12.2

G DeAndre Hall 6-6 Jr. 14.8

F Ricky Boyles 6-7 Jr. 7.3

F Jacques Jones 6-7 Sr. 8.7

F Michael Drewy 6-8 Sr. 7.2

Arkansas (4-1)

Pos. Player Ht. Class PPG

G Courtney Fortson 5-11 Fr. 16.4

G Rotnei Clarke 6-0 Fr. 13.8

G Stefan Welsh 6-3 Jr. 12.6

F Michael Sanchez 6-8 Fr. 7.4

F Michael Washington 6-9 Jr. 15.4


Class: Junior

Position: Forward

Height: 6-foot-9

Weight: 239 pounds

Hometown: McGehee

High Schools: McGehee High and Heritage Christian School (Cleveland, Texas)

Prep School: Genesis One Christian School (Mendehall, Miss.)

Noteables: Scored career highs of 30 points and 14 rebounds in Arkansas' season-opening victory over Southeastern Louisiana. ... Averaged 3.6 points and 3.3 rebounds in 12.4 minutes as a sophomore and 2.8 points and 1.2 rebounds in 7.5 minutes as a freshman. ... Ranked the No. 23 player and the No. 5 power forward in the nation after his senior high school season by Rivals.com.

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