It's A Family Affair

Mike Anderson

While the Arkansas basketball team racked up four wins on its exhibition tour of Italy, it's the bonding that happen they may be the biggest key when it comes to the Razorbacks' success in the 2012-2013 season.

Arkansas' basketball team went to Italy to win its four exhibition games – something that it did – but that was the main focus.

Junior guard Mardracus Wade said it went a little farther than that and was more about off-the-court bonding.

"The main focus was coming together as one, as a unit," Wade said. "(To) get familiar with each other and hang around each other. Once we become a family off the court it carries over to the court. Once we start playing it helps the team win games. We held each other accountable."

Sophomore guard B.J. Young echoed that sentiment.

"It was good to be around my teammates a lot more and together rather just in a gym and then leaving," Young said.



Razorback head coach Mike Anderson was certainly pleased with what he saw from his team on and off the court.

"It was a great experience for our team," Anderson said. "Great bonding time. Going over we knew there we'd get a chance to see Italy, all the historical places, the statues, the churches. And our guys were not disappointed. I thought it was a great cultural experience for our guys, eating-wise and seeing how people from anther country react."

The trip gave Anderson a chance to see all 14 players in action and the much better depth he will have this season than last.

"As far as the basketball, we got a chance to see the options I had talked about," Anderson said. "We brought in some more players, and I wanted to see what these guys would bring to the table from an IQ standpoint. ... And they had some good play. There were some things I liked, and some things I didn't like, but I think we can build on the thngs that took place ... I thought we really shared the basketball. We averaged probably 25 to 26 assists a game. I thought our depth, guys coming off the bench, gave us some quality minutes."

One of the bonuses of the trip was redshirt junior forward Marshawn Powell being able to play for the first time since last November, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

"It was good to have Marshawn on the floor," Anderson said. "I thought he kind of got the cobwebs out. The last game he started really exerting himself. Sometimes when you're playing, mentally there's that thing in the back of your mind, what can happen? And I thought he kind of let loose, so that was very valuable. ... He got a chance to get back on the floor after not being on the floor since right before the Houston game. Mentally, getting him back on the floor, I thought that was huge for team. And our guys actually fed off of that."

Wade averaged 15.4 points per game, Young 15, Coty Clarke 14 points and a team-high 8 rebounds and high-flying freshman forward Michael Qualls 11 points.

"I thought BJ, you could see the improvement in his game, in the whole all-around game," Anderson said. "I thought Mardracus Wade played well .... Coty Clarke's going to be a guy that can help our team…We've got some more pieces to the puzzle. That was really displayed on this trip. The key now is putting those pieces together and seeing it formulate as a team. We'll certainly use this experience to help our team."

Anderson compared Clarke to former Razorback star Lenzie Howell.

"Coty has been doing that in our workouts and in our practices," Anderson said. "He's been a guy that is getting double-doubles each and every day. He's always around the basketball. He just has a great feel for the basketball. I don't like comparing guys, but I remember a guy named Lenzie Howell that came here. I mean, he was an undersized post guy and just had a great nose for the basketball. But Coty has toughness, too. That's what I like about him.

"He's always where the action is," Anderson added. "He plays the game the right way. He plays to win. So he's a guy that is going to be a stat stuffer. He's going to have assists. He's going to have steals. He's going to have deflections. But more importantly, something that we weren't as good as we've got to be and that is rebound the basketball. Whether it be on the defensive boards or the offensive boards, he keeps a lot of balls alive."

The players were in class on Monday morning despite getting back late Sunday night and experience jetlag.

"The worst thing that took place was, as most guys would know when you travel, the luggage getting back." Anderson said. "Also, our guys got back in Sunday and we had classes Monday. I thought it was important for our guys to get off to a good start, knowing jet-lag will set in."

Young noted it was tough getting to class.

"It was super hard but I got up to let all the teachers know that we are going to be a team that gets to class on time and do everything we can to help our basketball team and have the best image we can for the basketball team," Young said.

Arkansas will take a couple of weeks off to get a good start in classes before returning to conditioning and readying for the official start of practice in mid-October.

"Since the summer we've been really getting after it," Anderson said. "And new guys came on board and we had individual workouts we can do in the summer, which went on into the workouts before the trip to Italy. So my main focus right now is letting them get acclimated in school. So they'll be off next week and possibly the week after that.

"When we'll get back to building on what is taking place in the Italy trip," Anderson added. "What the trip does to me, is we've identified, we've seen some of these guys play and they've practiced. So now when we get to the individual workouts and into October, hopefully we can bypass some of the things we normally would do and really get into it."

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