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Basketball media day – John Pelphrey press conference

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Basketball media day – John Pelphrey press conference

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –-Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey met with the media on Monday. Pelphrey’s first Arkansas team went 23-12 last year, reached the finals of the SEC Tournament and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Four starters and seven lettermen are missing from that team with three lettermen returning. Below is information on this year’s team followed by a partial transcript of Pelphrey’s press conference.

2007-08 Review

Record: 23-12

SEC Record (Finish): 9-7 (2nd, West)

SEC Tournament Record: 2-1, championship game

NCAA Tournament: 1-1 (Indiana, W 86-72; North Carolina, L 108-77)

Final Associated Press Ranking: RV

Final ESPN/USA Today Ranking: RV

Highest Ranking During Year: No. 18

2008-09 Preview

Starters Returning: one

Jr. G Stefan Welsh, 6-3, 185 (5.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 2.1 ast)

Starters Lost: four

Jr. G Patrick Beverley, 6-1, 180 (12.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.4 ast, 1.3 stl)

Sr. C Steven Hill, 7-0, 245 (4.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.1 blk)

Sr. F Charles Thomas, 6-8, 231 (9.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg)

Sr. F Sonny Weems, 6-6, 203 (15.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.6 ast)

Other Returning Lettermen: two, three overall

So. G Marcus Britt, 6-3, 198 (0.8 ppg, 0.3 rpg)

Jr. F Michael Washington, 6-9, 239 (4.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg)

Other Lettermen Lost: three, seven overall

Sr. G Gary Ervin, 6-0, 182 (9.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.8 ast)

Sr. C Darian Townes, 6-10, 243 (12.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg)

Sr. F Vincent Hunter, 6-10, 229 (2.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg)

Other Returnees: two

Jr. G Stephen Cox, 6-3, 201 (0.2 ppg, 0.3 rpg)

Fr. F Michael Sanchez, 6-8, 236 (Redshirted in 2008)

Others Not Returning: two

So. G Levan Patsatsia, 6-6, 215 (0.3 ppg, 0.3 rpg)

So. G Nate Rakestraw, 6-4, 206 (0.0 ppg, 0.2 rpg)

Newcomers: six

Fr. F Andre Clark, 6-9, 218 (16.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg in 2007 at North Little Rock [Ark.] HS West)

Fr. G Rotnei Clarke, 6-0, 184 (40.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 6.9 ast at Verdigris [Claremore, Okla.] HS)

Fr. G Courtney Fortson, 5-11, 180 (25.0 ppg, 7.0 ast, 6.0 stl at The Patterson [Lenoir, N.C.] School)

Fr. F Jason Henry, 6-6, 189 (22.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.0 stl at Harmony Community [Cincinnati, Ohio]

School)

Jr. F Montrell McDonald, 6-5, 181 (13.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.1 ast at Cowley [Arkansas City, Kan.] College)

Fr. F Brandon Moore, 6-9, 215 (17.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 5.0 blk at Holy Cross [New Orleans, La.] HS)

“Make no mistake – this is a rebuilding project. We only have three guys who have ever played in a game. That is a little unique, but I believe that could become more and more common.

“We’ve worked very hard in the recruiting process to bring in certain caliber players. We have guys we feel like we can build with and compete for championships. We have to establish our brand and our work ethic, and get our team to sacrifice on a daily basis.

“I’m excited about what we’re going to be able to do here, but we lost some really good players. We lost our top seven guys, which was basically 80 percent of any category you want to talk about on the stat sheet.

“All that being said, if our guys are willing to sacrifice, I think we can compete. The goals at Arkansas have not changed. We’re going to try to win as many non-conference games as we can, and that’s a tough schedule, and then we want to compete for the Southeastern Conference’s Western Division title. If those goals are unrealistic, then we need to change the bar. We’re not changing the thought process.”

Talent on this year’s roster:

“We’re not the most talented team in the country, but we have to wait and see. I know a lot has been made about our recruiting class (ranked as high as No. 11 in the nation by ESPN.com), but I don’t get too caught up in that. A more realistic ranking would be how many games they won after they’re done.”

Coaching this year compared to last year:

“There will be a lot of similarities. The players have to be extremely coachable. They have to be willing to come to work whether things go good or bad. It will be like last year all over again, but there’s one big difference. We don’t have guys with the experience level of those guys last year.”

Michael Washington (6-9 junior forward):

“He had a phenomenal summer. He changed his body and was consistent with his work ethic. He’s had pockets of success, but we need him to be consistent. Michael has always been pretty good in the classroom. That’s impressed me. His size, weight and conditioning are better.”

Stefan Welsh (6-3 junior guard):

“He’s similar to Michael Washington. Last year, he was huge in the first two games of the SEC Tournament. We need sustained play from him.”

Marcus Britt (6-3 sophomore guard):

“He has improved. Physically, he looks terrific. Michael (Washington), Stefan and Marcus have to do more than they did last year. If things don’t go well or if they get out of hand, we have to make sure we come back and we’re ready to go (the following day in practice).”

Andre Clark (6-9 freshman forward) and Michael Sanchez (6-8 redshirt freshman):

“Andre and Michael will find themselves playing in games with the game on the line. Before, they may have been able to ease into that situation. Andre and Brandon Moore (6-9 freshman forward) can both really move. Michael gives tremendous effort. He’s unique with the passing and hands he has for a guy his size. He has to get to where he can score consistently.”

Rotnei Clarke (6-0 freshman guard):

“I think he’s the finest three-point shooter in the country. I roomed with Travis Ford and he was 5-9. Rotnei is 6-0. I compare Rotnei to Travis. Can he duplicate some of the same things as Travis, I don’t know, but he will be involved very, very early.”

Courtney Fortson (5-11 freshman guard):

“He’s tough and he’s surprised me a little with his athleticism.”

Montrell McDonald (6-5 junior guard/forward) and Jason Henry (6-6 freshman guard/forward):

“Those are two long, athletic wings. Montrell has the potential to be an outstanding defensive player and offensive rebounder.”

Stephen Cox (6-3 junior guard):

“He’s surprised me. He’s very good for our team. He loves the Razorbacks. What he gives us on a daily basis in terms of team unity is very valuable.”

Potential of adding walk-ons:

“If we have someone who has to go take a test or turns an ankle, we’re close to not being able to go five-on-five. We could add as many as four walk-ons.”

Team leadership:

“We won’t know about that until it happens. The true test comes with winning and losing. I’m sure we’ll have expectations met in some areas and some not met in others.”

Loss of junior guard Patrick Beverley:

“That was a devastating blow. He’s a good player and a hard, hard worker. He had tremendous success for two years. No matter what happened the night before, you knew he would get the guys ready to go the next day. That’s what we have to find out with this team. Patrick’s situation was not planned. We knew the seniors would be leaving. I think it was hard on the players, especially for the guys who came in with him. We wish nothing but the best for him, but we have to get ourselves ready to play.”

Team style and identity:

“We have to build our brand, which is an exciting, running, pressing style of play where we’re looking at the three. It will be hard work and it will be an all day job. Based on how quickly we can adjust, we’ll be right there competing for championships. We lost a lot on paper, but games aren’t played there. Attitude, team, togetherness and toughness; that’s what we have to have. If we get going full speed ahead in the right direction, we’ve got a chance, but it could take some time.”

Offseason workouts:

“Based on what I saw, we’ve got to get better. We have very good individual pieces and we have more depth, but if Michael gets in foul trouble, what happens next up front? Everyone we have is capable of playing the way we want to play. We need to find out what our physical toughness is.”



Sports Category : Basketball (M)