Plenty On Razorbacks' Minds

FAYETTEVILLE — That first finals period jolted Arkansas junior Stefan Welsh. Two years ago, Welsh spent the end of his first semester as a college student frantically preparing for exams and writing papers while also practicing and competing in games.

His older teammates had tried to prepare Welsh for the onslaught of work. But he didn't truly understand how draining the time would be until he went through the experience.

So while the Razorbacks have been busy preparing for tonight's game against winless North Carolina Central, Welsh has reminded Arkansas' newcomers to stay just as busy off the court.

"I was tired. I was really tired," Welsh said, reminded of the Fall 2006 semester. "I'm the type of guy who really likes to play video games and hang out. But I figured out quick that it's not possible at this time of the year."

The Razorbacks have five freshmen who will take their first final exam on Thursday.

Before then, they must first take care of the only contest they'll play in a 13-day span. With such a young team, Arkansas' coaches were successful in crafting a schedule that would allow their players to devote as much time as possible to schoolwork.

Arkansas won't play again until next Dec. 17.

"Everybody as a coach is concerned with this time of year, with finals and the holidays," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "For a lot of our players, this is the first time going through the experience of being away from home on the holidays, and of having this much importance on school.

"And oh, by the way, we're trying to win basketball games, as well."

Freshman forward Michael Sanchez said he "couldn't have imagined" going through his first finals experience while playing on the team. Even as a redshirt, Sanchez said there didn't seem to be enough hours in the day.

He hasn't shared too many of those experiences with Arkansas' true freshmen but will if needed, he said.

"It fries your brain going from a final to practice and then back to another final, and then trying to get rest and play well all at the same time," Sanchez said. "It's tough and you just have to fight through it."

Freshman point guard Courtney Fortson spoke confidently Monday about the ability of the newcomers to handle the challenges these days present.

Assistant coach Rob Evans said the coaching staff has emphasized the importance of persevering through a difficult time. Players such as Fortson may not comprehend how brutal the next week would likely become, Evans said.

"Case in point, one of the coaches got a text the other night from Michael Sanchez at 2:30 in the morning, saying ‘I'm doing my paper right now,'" Evans said. "Then I get in here at 8 the next morning and he's leaving. He just got done lifting weights. Then he had to go take a test. He had a full day.

"So we just make sure to point out to the young kids, this is what it's all about. He's not complaining. That's just life in college."

Today's Ticket

North Carolina Central at Arkansas

When: 7:05 p.m.

Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville

TV: KFTA (Cox Ch. 8)

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

Records: North Carolina Central Eagles, 0-9; Arkansas Razorbacks, 5-1

Coaches: North Carolina Central, Henry Dickerson (fifth season); Arkansas, John Pelphrey (second season)

Probable Starters

North Carolina Central (0-9)

Pos. Player Ht. Class PPG

G Jamar Briscoe 5-10 Fr. 11.4

G Philip Branch 6-0 Sr. 7.9

G Vincent Davis 6-2 So. 14.7

F Joshua Worthy 6-5 Jr. 2.9

C Stevy Worah-Ozimo 6-9 Jr. 8.1

Arkansas (5-1)

Pos. Player Ht. Class PPG

G Courtney Fortson 5-11 Fr. 14.7

G Rotnei Clarke 6-0 Fr. 14.2

G Stefan Welsh 6-3 Jr. 11.7

F Michael Sanchez 6-8 Fr. 7.8

F Michael Washington 6-9 Jr. 14.0

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