Let’s get the jokes out of the way -- yes, Sarah Pfeifer is the oldest Lady’Back basketball player of all time, the only player to have three coaches and the only one to touch the floor for six years. She’s also the first -- and only -- player to be twice selected by the league coaches as the Scholar Athlete of the Year.
She just might add another first: First to earn a master’s degree before completing her career.
Granted a clock extension due to her two season-robbing injuries of 2004 and 2006, Pfeifer returns as the rock upon which Tom Collen begins his rebuilding at Arkansas.
“Sarah Pfeifer plays a key role in this team’s success in a variety of ways,” Collen said. “She has great leadership qualities and must find a way to communicate her basketball knowledge to the younger players.”
Returning to the floor last year after ACL surgery, Pfeifer built her minutes up to the mid-20s and low 30s by season’s end as a regular starter down the stretch.
“Her high level of intensity is obvious and we need that as well,” Collen said. “Above all else, we must find a way to keep her healthy.”
That’s no small issue for a player who has more surgeries -- five -- than full playing seasons. One new wrinkle for Pfeifer is the chance to come away from the land of the giants.
“We are working to extend the range and consistency on her shot since she seems to always be matched up with taller opponents,” Collen said.
THE STATS IN 2006-07: Returning to the court, Pfeifer played in all 31 games, starting 14 and nine in SEC action. Averaging 8.1 ppg and 3.6 rpg, she picked up an early season high of 14 points against Wichita State. Held scoreless only one game, Pfeifer had a season high of 21 points with Miss State at home, then pulled down 12 rebounds at Starkville in the rematch. The road meeting was her third career double with 15 points against MSU. Improving as the season continued, she was the team’s No. 2 rebounder in league games with 4.2 per game. Earned her bachelor’s degree at mid-term in industrial engineering with a 3.89 GPA and enrolled in the University’s sports management master’s program in January.
THE STATS IN 2005-06: Pfeifer underwent full-cut shoulder surgery prior to the season, and spent the summer rehabilitating her shooting arm. Earning preseason all-SEC selection at the league’s media day, Pfeifer’s season ended before it began with a torn ACL in the Red-White Game. Her first leg surgery at Arkansas, the decision was made to sit the entire season.
THE STATS IN 2004-05: Returning to the floor after major off-season shoulder surgery, Pfeifer played all 31 games as a junior, starting 17. Arkansas’ leading scorer with 12.4 ppg, she upped her scoring average to 12.8 ppg in SEC games and was voted by the league coaches as the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year. At the start of the season, her playing time was limited, but she made the most of it scoring 19 points off 9-of-12 from the field in only 16 minutes against La-Lafayette for her early-season high. Moving into the starting lineup in early January, she notched the first of a series of new highs with 21 points (8-of-12) with six boards, three assists and two steals in 29 minutes against Miss State. She picked up her first career double with a new rebound high of 12 boards with 17 points, playing a career-high 37 minutes at Auburn. Becoming the team’s leading scorer from that point on, she led Arkansas to victory with 21 points off 8-of-11 against Alabama’s taller posts. She backed it up with 24 points to lead Arkansas past Georgia Tech. Pfeifer equaled her new high with 24 at Kentucky to close the regular season. Another 20-point game, this time 23 against Miss State, moved Arkansas into the SEC quarterfinals. She closed the year with a new career high of 26 points and 12 rebounds at Ark. State, only the second double-double in UA history in a WNIT game. After the end of the season she earned National Strength Coaches of America Strength and Conditioning All-American honors, remarkable as she did it with only one arm available to lift in the weight room.
THE STATS IN 2003-04: Pfeifer’s original sophomore season lasted a few minutes past two games as she suffered a season-ending shoulder injury midway through the first half of the Oregon State game. Starting the first three games, she averaged 6.7 ppg and 2.7 rpg – marks diluted by her OSU game. In the opening two games, she averaged 10 ppg with a season high of 13 against Rice. Undergoing surgery on her right shoulder at midseason, she spent the remainder of the season in rehab.
THE STATS IN 2002-03: Playing in 29 games and starting six as a freshman, Pfeifer averaged 4.0 ppg and 3.0 rpg. The top scorer and rebounder off the bench most of the season, Pfeifer was an impact player that made things happen in her 13.5 minutes a game. She earned a starting role in late December against SW Missouri but lasted only seven minutes before breaking her nose. Despite playing with a mask the next game, she scored seven points with eight rebounds and three steals in 30 minutes against Western Kentucky. She came off the bench for nine points and eight boards at Vanderbilt, leading to her first conference start next game with Auburn where Pfeifer hit 4-of-6 from the field and 5-of-6 at the line for 13 points. A practice injury on Feb. 25 cost her four games at the end of the regular season. She managed to play the NCAA tournament games in a brace, but the shoulder dislocation eventually resulted in off-season surgery.
AT OZARK HIGH: A three-sport standout for the Hillbillies, Pfeifer was named the female high school athlete of the year by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A three-year letterwinner and state champion in both basketball and track, Pfeifer also posted a 4.00 GPA as an honors graduate and class valedictorian. Pfeifer led Ozark to back-to-back Arkansas state titles plus a runner-up finish in Class AAA. Averaging 30 ppg as a senior, Pfeifer led Ozark to a 33-2 record and the state championship game. Her junior year she averaged 21.2 ppg with 7.9 rpg to earn MVP honors at the state tournament as OHS went 34-2. Named to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Super Sophomore team, she averaged 16.2 ppg as the Hillbillies took the first of their state titles at 33-3. On the track, she was the state champion in the shot put as a sophomore and for both Class AAA and the all-division Meet of Champions as a junior. She was third place at the state heptathlon championship as a junior. As a member of AAU Arkansas Belles out of Little Rock, Pfeifer and the Belles were fifth in the nation in 2002 at the U-16 nationals. Her third sport at Ozark was softball.
PERSONAL: Born Sarah Elizabeth Pfeifer on April 26, 1984, she is the daughter of George and Sherry Pfeifer of Ozark, Ark. Pfeifer has a younger sister, Alex.