Fortson Rejoins Razorbacks

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach John Pelphrey's feelings about freshman point guard Courtney Fortson haven't changed even though he suspended the freshman late last week.

The good news for Arkansas: Fortson's status has.

Pelphrey and the Razorbacks welcomed their second-leading scorer back Monday after he served a one-game suspension against Kentucky. Pelphrey said Fortson, barring any unforeseen problems, will be back in the starting lineup when the Razorbacks face LSU in Bud Walton Arena on Wednesday night.

"I love Courtney Fortson," Pelphrey said. "There's not another guard in the country I want leading our program from the point guard spot. Everything he has, we like.

"I guess when my kids screw up, I don't get rid of them. They're mine. That's not where we are with him."

Pelphrey suspended Fortson after the 75-62 loss at Auburn last Wednesday. He never revealed the exact reason for his decision, but Fortson's mother, Lorraine, said it had a lot to do with mounting attitude issues.

Fortson wasn't made available to the media Monday, but the Razorbacks were happy to see his return.

"We're definitely glad to have him back," guard Stefan Welsh said. "His absence has definitely been felt."

Fortson is averaging 14.6 points and a Southeastern Conference-leading 6.5 assists a game. Without him, Welsh moved to point guard. But Arkansas' offense struggled to find its rhythm against Kentucky.

Arkansas assistant Rob Evans believes Fortson learned a valuable lesson by missing the game. He didn't practice Thursday or Friday and wasn't on the bench Saturday.

"Knowing him like I know him, this very well could be the very best thing that's happened to him in his whole basketball career," Evans said. "For once, someone in authority basketball-wise is saying, ‘This is how you're going to do it. This is what we expect. And if you don't operate within those parameters, you're not playing.'"

Welsh said Fortson, who he considers a "brother," hasn't let the suspension affect him in a negative way.

Guard Rotnei Clarke said the guard was back to his usual self in the locker room before Monday's practice.

"I think he did accept (his punishment)," guard Rotnei Clarke said. "He's had a good attitude about it and he's already back here in the locker room having a good attitude, encouraging. We're just trying to get things turned around and I believe he wants the same thing."

Pelphrey said his point guard has been great in those regards "90 percent of the time."

He also believes Fortson will have a "phenomenal attitude" as Arkansas prepares for the Tigers.

No one disagrees that the Razorbacks need Fortson on the court to finish a tumultuous season on a good note.

"We want him to be a great player for us," Pelphrey said. "He needs to be a great player for us. And the better he is, the better he makes his teammates, which makes our team better."

Staff writer Ryan Malashock contributed to this report.

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