University of Arkansas head basketball coach John Pelphrey is well aware that Razorback fans are none too happy with consecutive losing seasons and not being included in March Madness.
But he said Friday morning at his post-season press conference he was hoping the dealing with that adversity would help reap rewards in year four.
That's after going 23-12 and to the NCAA Tournament's second round in his rookie season at the helm, 14-16 in his second campaign despite a promising 12-1 start and losing this season's final six game to end up 14-18.
"Certainly we didn't win as many games down the stretch as we wanted to win," Pelphrey said at his Friday press conference to wrap up the season. "Nobody cares more about that than the head coach, the coaching staff and the players. Certainly we know our fans are right there next. They want to win.
"The thing I would say is keep loving the Razorbacks," Pelphrey added. "We do and we are going to keep working hard. We are excited about where we have a chance to go."
Pelphrey said the fact that his program has battled through adversity – including some self-inflicted misery – should make the program stronger.
"I think that all these experiences that we have had a chance to go through – whether it has been tough or easy for or challenging and hard – it makes us better and it is going to pay off for us," Pelphrey said. "That is something I want everybody to understand. We know where we are, we know the challenges we have had, we are not going to make excuses for it and we are going to get better and we are going to be really, really good.
"We are making progress," Pelphrey said, "but the next thing we need to do is for it to show up in the wins and loss column."
Pelphrey said he believes that Arkansas can rebound from what has basically been a 15-year absence as one of the nation's elite teams.
"That's without question," Pelphrey said. "We can have repeat success of the past."
Arkansas will add at least three recruits – 6-3 guards Rickey Scott and Mardracus Wade as well as 6-9 forward Marvell Waithe - as well as adding in point guard Jeff Peterson, who transferred in from Iowa.
"I like our depth and the character of our basketball team," Pelphrey said. "I think we are going to be deeper than we ever have at the guard spot and that's fun and exciting. We are going to have with our current players who have had success a chance to improve and get better."
"Obviously it is a very important summer from a strength and conditioning standpoint," Pelphrey added. "I think from a leadership standpoint, we have a chance to grow."
Arkansas is known to be recruiting three forwards in Central Florida Community College forward Ricardo Ratliffe (6-9, 240), New York Rice prepstar Kadeem Jack (6-9, 215) and Moraine Valley (IL) CC's Dwight McCombs (6-9, 240).
He said they will add at least one recruit, one he thinks could get the program back into the NCAA Tournament.
"if we can obviously add a piece to our puzzle up front, I think that really helps," Pelphrey said. "I do believe we're going to have outstanding guard depth and get an opportunity to get up the floor and maybe substitute in waves a little bit back there and fly around and create havoc and from start to finish, just be a high energy bunch of guys at the one, two and three. That's going to be a first for us."
He would like to add that piece to forwards Marshawn Powell, Glenn Bryant and Waithe, center Delvon Johnson and Michael Sanchez, whose planter fasciitis limited him to just four games this season.
"If we're not able to add the piece we want up front, then we've really got to make a great focus this summer of developing that frontcourt," Pelphrey added. "Michael Sanchez has obviously got to get back, get healthy and improve. Marshawn has to make his natural progression and improve. Delvon needs to make, Glenn needs to make, get to that consistency point with all the mental aspects of it. That really, really needs to happen.
"If those things take place, then I think we're right there to be able to hopefully put together a good run in non-conference and SEC play," Pelphrey said, "Which will hopefully put us in a situation to be a part of postseason."
There has been speculation that sophomore guard Courtney Fortson will be playing professional basketball in Europe next season.
Fortson led the team at 17.9 point per game while also grabbing 5.2 rebounds and dishing out almost 6 assists per game.
"I don't think anything has been definite," Pelphrey said. "Courtney and I have had discussions about how important it is to right now take care of the business at hand, which is school. And he's doing that.
"We'll have to wait and see what happens in terms of him looking at opportunities in terms of him playing professional basketball," Pelphrey added. "Certainly that's every young man's right."
The potential loss of Fortson would be mitigated by the inclusion of Peterson into the mix.
"Jeff is a young man who has got three years of experience, two years of playing in the Big 10 at Iowa," Pelphrey said. "I think he averaged 11 points a game as a sophomore and last year had a chance to sit out and learn and be a part of our system.
"He is a hard worker and I think is going to have a chance to be a very good leader for us," Pelphrey said. "He is a good player, can play both sides of that basketball, has a level of toughness and means something to him. Tremendous, tremendous human being off the court."
Pelphrey said Peterson did not lounge around in his redshirt year.
"It was just not like he took it as a year to chill," Pelphrey said. "He used it to get better and I think he believes he has. I'm excited about his attitude and I think it has a chance to be infectious.
"Jeff Peterson never left practice without making 50 3-point shots at the end," Pelphrey added. "Just his routine. I think that tells you something about him. He took the year as an opportunity to improve and get better.
Pelphrey said that he senses in his team a desire to significantly improve.
"I think the thing that stands out right now to me about our basketball team is their character, their willingness to be coached, the desire to get better," Pelphrey said. "Those are the things that stand out to me and their willingness to hear what is being said in terms of improvement we want to make as a coaching staff and the areas we want to do that in right now, just how important it is as far as school and paying attention to detail."
Pelphrey will need to hire a new assistant coach after reassigning Isaac Brown earlier this week.
"I think for me, obviously, looking at our staff, I think we have a chance to operate better," Pelphrey said. "That's what I aspire to help us do - to become better."
The Razorback head coach is in the early stages of hiring that assistant.
"I want to get a guy who can help us coach and recruit and do all the facets of coaching to be honest with you and find some way to make us better," Pelphrey said. "I have names in mind? Certainly i do. Have I talked to anybody at this point in time? If I have, it's been very preliminary. I haven't met with anybody. But I aspire to do that and get the right guy. We'll see where that ends up. Obviously, all of us would like to have that sooner rather than later.
"But by the same token, it takes a minute in time to get comfortable with a certain individual," Pelphrey said. "We'll let that process run its course."
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