John Pelphrey hopes his team will
embrace low expectations.
"Think about this," the Arkansas basketball coach said.
"Maybe more than any other time in Razorback history, this
basketball team's got a chance to overachieve and have more
affection shown toward it than any other team to have played there
- outside the national championship team."
Pelphrey spoke at the Downtown Tip Off Club on Monday during his
team's weeklong break between games. The Razorbacks lost their top
five scorers from last season, but they're off to a 5-1 start
behind freshmen Courtney Fortson and Rotnei Clarke. Returning
players Michael Washington and Stefan Welsh also are contributing.
Pelphrey is trying to lift Arkansas back to the heights it
enjoyed in 1994, when it won the national title. He has earned some
attention lately for his willingness to discipline his young
players, such as his suspension of reserves Jason Henry and
Montrell McDonald for a recent game against Florida A&M.
"I think the University of Arkansas has done enough to expect a
disciplined program," Pelphrey said. "You've certainly got to
have parameters and guidelines."
Pelphrey is in his second season as the Razorbacks' coach. A
former player at Kentucky, he's plenty familiar with Arkansas'
tradition. He talked at length about his respect for former
athletic director Frank Broyles and former basketball coach Nolan
"At a place like Arkansas, there's no limit to how big we can
win," Pelphrey said.
Last season, the Razorbacks reached the second round of the NCAA
tournament. Arkansas also advanced to the championship game of the
Southeastern Conference tournament.
Pelphrey talked about the Hogs' win over Tennessee in the SEC
semifinals. Arkansas trailed by one in the final seconds, and Gary
Ervin slipped a bit with the ball.
"He fell down right in front of me. Can't possibly get worse
than that, right?" Pelphrey said. "He's on the floor in front of
me. Then he throws it to Steven Hill."
That memory drew a chuckle from the audience at the club. The
7-foot Hill wasn't an offensive force by any means and hadn't made
a basket the entire game, but he was able to sink a turnaround
jumper with 5.3 seconds remaining to beat Tennessee.
"We got to the locker room a few moments later. When Steven hit
that room, we've never been more selfless as a basketball team,"
Pelphrey said. "All of a sudden, nobody cared who scored, nobody
cared how many minutes they played, nobody cared who's going to be
on the front page of the newspaper the next day. They just cared
that we had 40 more minutes of life."
This season the Razorbacks are thin in terms of depth and
experience. Pelphrey recalled the Florida A&M game, when only nine
players suited up.
"We had a couple guys ... studying," he said, referring to his
suspended duo. "We had two freshmen - Andre (Clark) and Brandon
(Moore) - on the bench. And Marcus Britt. And the golfer."
Junior guard Stephen Cox has also been a member of the Arkansas
Help could be on the way soon. Pelphrey said former Arkansas
football player Marcus Monk is expected to join the basketball team
"If you're going to walk on to a basketball team, now's the
time to do it at Arkansas," Pelphrey said. "It won't always be
like this, I promise."