Making History

Arkansas freshman point guard Courtney Fortson (5-11, 180) was named the SEC's Player of the Week on Monday and prepares to lead his team into the Jim Thorpe Classic - a Wednesday night matchup with Austin Peay and a Saturday one with Stephen F. Austin.

University of Arkansas freshman point guard Courtney Fortson put on a show last week, made some history Monday and now must lead his team into perhaps its biggest challenge of the season.

Fortson, the 5-11, 180-pound Alabama native, became the first freshman in Razorback history to be named Player of the Week in the SEC.

He was honored after a 20-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound performance – commonly known a triple-double – last Wednesday in a 98-70 victory over winless North Carolina Central.

"That's pretty awesome," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "It was an awesome performance and a great, great accomplishment to be the only SEC player that's a freshman from this school to get player of the week. It's hard to believe."

Pelphrey is not worried about early success going to the head of Fortson, who is averaging 15.4 points, 6.4 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game so far this season.

"I don't have any fear of him not going out and competing," Pelphrey said. "…It is a historic event, a tremendous accomplishment as a freshman – really a tremendous accomplishment no matter when you get that done."

It was stunning to Pelphrey that Arkansas had never had a freshman honored like that in the SEC.

"That is a pretty cool first," Pelphrey said. "We probably won't get a triple-double every night, but we'll need his heart and toughness every single night."

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Arkansas (6-1) will get back to action on Wednesday night at 7:05 when it plays Austin Peay (5-3) at Bud Walton Arena in the opening round of Jim Thorpe Classic – a series of three single games on three nights.

The Governors already have four road wins and led home-standing Louisville 59-54 in the second half Saturday before falling 94-75.

"The basketball team that we are playing – we won't be able to play to the level we have been all season long," Pelphrey said. "We will need to play our best game, both offensively and defensively, with sustained play on both sides of the ball.

"We will be playing against a basketball team that is a veteran team, extremely, extremely well-coached," Pelphrey added. "This will be by far the best team we have played."

Austin Peay has two standouts that really have Pelphrey's attention in 6-5, 225-pound Drake Reed (20.5 points, 7.5 rebounds) and 6-3, 210-pound guard Wes Channels (17.5).

"They have an inside-outside attack and do a great job of posting up, drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line," Pelphrey said. "They will extend their defense full court, will come and attack our pressure. The team that plays the best is going to win."

The Governors will battle Stephen F. Austin (6-2) on Friday night – a game with free admission - and then Arkansas will test the Lumberjacks on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.

"We have got our hands full with these two teams," Pelphrey noted.

Stephen F. Austin is coming off two wins this past weekend, including a 113-112 triple overtime win over North Dakota State and a 66-64 win over Drake.

In the triple overtime win, North Dakota State's Ben Woodside had 60 points. He was 14-of-32 from the field, 2-of-6 from 3-point range and a whopping 30-of-35 from the free throw line.

They also have a pair of double figure scorers in 6-4, 210-pound senior guard Josh Alexander (17.8) and 6-9, 230-pound senior forward Matt Kingsley (16.1).

Eddie Williams, a 6-2 guard, led Stephen F. Austin with 25 points in the win over North Dakota State while Alexander had 24 and Kingsley 23 points and 13 rebounds.

"They basically have their whole team back and we are a little bit more familiar with them because when we were getting ready for Oklahoma last year, they were the game before us on Oklahoma's schedule and they beat Oklahoma," Pelphrey said. "We all saw how it turned out (to be a loss) for us."

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Rotnei Clarke, Arkansas' other high-scoring freshman guard at 14.3 points per game, will have his high school jersey retired Tuesday night at Verdigris (OK) High.

Clarke, the all-time leading scorer in the history of the state of Oklahoma, will be able to drive up the gym on what will become known as Rotnei Clarke Boulevard.

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Arkansas will add another player to its roster on Thursday when former Razorback football star Marcus Monk officially joins the team.

He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the seventh round of the 2008 draft, but released before the season started and was later picked up by the New York Giants before being released.

"Marcus is going to join the team on the 18th," Pelphrey said. "I anticipate having him in practice the next day (after Wednesday's game)."

Pelphrey noted that Monk – who played a part of a hoops season with Arkansas - would actually have been playing both semesters this year if the Giants had not picked him up.

"He would have had a chance to get here in the fall, but the Giants came along," Pelphrey said. "We certainly wanted to support him in whatever he wanted to do. He's a Razorback. We couldn't get him at the fall, but we will definitely love taking him here at the break."

Monk has been watching practice to get an idea of what is going on, but Pelphrey said he is not sure when he will be ready to contribute.

"He's been around," Pelphrey said. "He tells me he is a quick learner. We'll see."

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The Razorbacks will once again be without suspended small forward Montrell McDonald, who will miss his fourth straight game.

"I would say the same thing that has been being said about Montrell – no change there," Pelphrey said.

Courtney Fortson

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