Fortson's Maturation Continues

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach John Pelphrey believes Courtney Fortson is starting to play like a veteran.

The freshman point guard hasn't tried to do too much on his own lately, has started to set the tone with his pressure on defense, and is finding a way to avoid the same careless mistakes that plagued him the past few weeks.

"I think he's really taken the 19 games of experience and I think he's using it right now," Pelphrey said Monday. "I thought he was outstanding against Alabama. I thought he was outstanding against LSU. You've got to understand when I say outstanding, I'm talking about what we want.

"There's a direct line of communication from the bench through him to the players."

So it's no surprise that after an erratic start to Southeastern Conference play, Fortson has impressed.

His scoring has dipped a bit (12.5 a game) the past two games, but his assist-to-turnover ratio has improved dramatically. Fortson handed out 18 assists with 7 turnovers against Alabama and LSU. He had 18 assists and 22 turnovers in Arkansas' first four conference games.

The steady play led Pelphrey to call Fortson — arguably — the best player on the court against Alabama despite going 0-for-4 from the field. He wasn't bad against LSU in the loss, either, scoring 17 points, handing out 9 assists and grabbing 7 rebounds against the Tigers.

"He is maturing and becoming a point guard," Pelphrey said. "When you go 0-for-4 in basketball games and are arguably the best player on the court, that's what you need out of your point guard. He can impact the game with his rebounding, obviously his penetrating and play making, and then he made a bunch of free throws.

"Finding value in other things, Courtney is learning that."

Fortson said he feels better about his play even though he has struggled with his 3-point shooting (25.9 percent).

The guard feels like he is running the screen-and-roll much better. He's had more success driving and kicking the ball to open shooters, too. And Fortson also has knocked down 13 of 16 free throws — an area that was one of his obvious weaknesses earlier in the season — the past two games.

"It makes me feel good knowing that coach notices (the improvement)," Fortson said. "I know I don't have to score or shoot as much to impact a game."

Still No Monk

Arkansas continues to play without senior forward Marcus Monk, who has been held out of the past three games because of eligibility issues. When asked if he still had hope Monk would be cleared, Pelphrey said "always." He's simply waiting for the green light from Arkansas' administration.

"Guys are working hard," Pelphrey said. "You can rest assured about that. Guys are working hard."

Monk continues to practice with and his presence has been noticed on the bench during games. Guard Rotnei Clarke said Monk continues to be one of the team's leaders even though he's only played in eight games.

"If you're watching film and look over on the bench, he's up on his feet being a cheerleader even though he hasn't played the last couple of games," Clarke said. "That says a lot about his character and what type of person he is."

He Wants ‘That Guy'

Arkansas' slow start against the Tigers, in which the Hogs trailed 41-21 at halftime, still had Pelphrey angry Monday.

He said it was because Arkansas showed so much potential during a second half in which it clawed to within five points.

"If we haven't come out and played better, then I probably wouldn't have been as angry," Pelphrey said. "But when you come out and you do some things you didn't do in the first half that really give it a totally different complexion of what was going on, then there's an attitude there.

"I want those guys to overachieve like that all the time. I don't want you. I want the guy that overachieved, whoever that is. That's who we want to see show up."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories