FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas opens its basketball season on Friday with the Red-White Game at 7:05 p.m. The rosters include Gary Ervin, Stefan Welsh, Sonny Weems, Vincent Hunter, Steven Hill, Michael Washington and Andrew Boyd on the Red; and Sean McCurdy, Patrick Beverley, Preston Cranford, Charles Thomas, Darian Townes and Cyrus McGowan on the White.
Players and coaches will be available to sign autographs around the concourse from 5-6 p.m. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.
Following is a partial transcript from head coach Stan Heath:
“The NCAA has changed the starting date for the season and everything has sped up. We’ve had about a week of practice and we’re still not there, but we’re going hard. We’ve tried to balance the teams as much as possible. We’ll have Sean McCurdy and Gary Ervin going against each other, the two freshmen (Patrick Beverley and Stefan Welsh) and our frontline guys.
“I want to play it at a fast pace, but without a lot of subs, we may work on our half court because we don’t have the depth to maintain that pace for 40 minutes. We may look at Charles Thomas at different positions and Patrick Beverley at point guard.
“A lot of our schemes are in, and that’s a credit to the guys. It will be good to see them with fans in the stands and referees on the floor.”
Gary Ervin connecting with Sonny Weems:
“I think Gary is connecting with Sonny, but he’s also connecting with all of our big guys. Gary is a good asset. He should create the tempo we want.”
“We’re working on our defense. I want defense to be ahead of the offense. I want to see incredible pressure, challenging every shot, talking and communicating. I’ve always loved playing fast and pressure basketball. Anything we do will be pressure – in the half court, zone or man-to-man. With six guys for 40 minutes, it probably won’t happen (in the Red-White Game). There will never be a time where we’ll play defense without pressure on the ball.”
“Last year, everybody was learning a new system. This year, we have players teaching players. I can’t tell you how valuable that is. The reading of the defense is better and we’re able to do a lot more multiple cutting.”
Patrick Beverley and Stefan Welsh, Gary Ervin and Sean McCurdy:
“All four are battling. I don’t want them to look at it as a personal battle because they could be playing together. They also do a pretty good job of switching and guarding the other guy on defense.”
“He’s cleared to practice and the Red-White Game is practice, so he can play. We’re still waiting on the final clearance from the SEC. Guys can play in exhibition games and still be redshirted, so that gives us plenty of time to see what guys do in game situations. Some guys are great in practice and some are great when the lights come on. Michael is way behind. As much as he’s learning, there are still some days when he leads us in rebounding in practice. At some point, he will be a very important part of our team, whether that’s this year or next year.”
“Everything starts there. I’m comfortable with Sean McCurdy as well as Gary Ervin. Between those two guys, I think we’ll get very good point guard play. Gary has been a pleasure. He’s tried to do everything the coaches have asked. He picks his spots to be aggressive and he knows when to get the ball to other people. Sean has slowed down a little. He knows his strengths and has taken a nice step forward.”