FAYETTEVILLE — As classes began Monday, stomachs were churning all over Arkansas’ campus. New students are always nervous, always apprehensive, when school starts, and they had some unexpected company Monday.
Razorbacks senior Steven Hill had that same feeling in his gut, a day before the Arkansas basketball team would start practice under first-year coach John Pelphrey. His teammates had that anxious sensation, as well.
“I kind of feel like a freshman again,” Hill said. “I think we all do. None of us knows what to expect. It’s a little nerve-wracking.”
Pelphrey assumed his players would feel this way, and that’s why he pushed hard during the month of June to get a preseason trip scheduled. He settled on a two-game trip to Cancun, Mexico. He thanked Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles during a news conference on Monday for offering the personal and financial support needed to make the trip happen.
Arkansas will play games on Sept. 1 and Sept. 2 in Cancun, and the NCAA allows schools to practice 10 times before such trips. With a new staff and such an unfamiliar system to implement, the Razorbacks should benefit from the experience, Pelphrey said.
“I’m sure there can be some trepidation there, some anxiety (with a new coach),” Pelphrey said. “I think with this trip, if nothing else, we’ll be able to get those things out of the way.
“That way, when our practice actually starts in October, we can move forward from that, as opposed to having that feeling-out process right before the season starts.”
Today’s practice begins at 3:30 p.m., and will span three hours. The rest of Arkansas’ practice schedule hasn’t been released, and practices will be closed to the public.
The length of practice No. 1 wasn’t lost on senior Sonny Weems, who admitted to having a somewhat queasy stomach.
“I don’t know if I’m ready for that,” Weems said with a smile. “Everybody doesn’t know what to expect. At first, we heard the practice was going to be short and hard. Now, we’re hearing it’s a long practice.
“I think everybody’s a little nervous, you know, everybody’s kind of got those bubble-guts. We’ll have to see what happens.”
Spots Up For Grabs
Pelphrey insisted his players didn’t have to be scared to make mistakes. All he asks for is that consistent effort is given on a daily basis.
That said, Pelphrey made sure to emphasize that no players would simply be given a spot, regardless of their past accomplishments. Even last year’s starters must earn the right to open games on the floor.
“It’s a new day,” Pelphrey said. “I typically don’t have a doghouse. If you screw up, you’ll be punished, but the sun comes up and tomorrow is a new day. If you’re attitude is ‘I was good yesterday,’ you can’t do that at Arkansas.”
“You’ve got to work every day.”
Arkansas’ schedule should be released any day now. Five other Southeastern Conference teams have released their schedules, and Pelphrey said he’d like to get Arkansas’ out as soon as possible.
When asked about the schedule, Pelphrey said, “It’s done.” The nonconference portion of the schedule will include a November appearance in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, home dates with Missouri, Missouri State and Oral Roberts, a game at Oklahoma and a neutral-site game in Dallas against Baylor.
Before the slate can be released, though, the Arkansas Razorbacks Sports Network must determine which December games it will televise and request game times for them.
Back In New York
Point guard Gary Ervin was the only Razorback not back at school on Monday.
He was in New York, spending time with his family following the death of his grandmother. Pelphrey said he was hoping Ervin would return within a few days after he attended a wake and a funeral.
“He was very close with his grandmother,” Pelphrey said. “So our thoughts and prayers are with him.”