Fans get sneak peak of Hoop Hogs to­day

The Saline Courier Weekend - - SPORTS - By Nate Allen

FAYET­TEVILLE Arkansas Ra­zor­backs fans come to Fayet­teville for to­day’s 3 p.m. Arkansas vs. Mis­sis­sippi State foot­ball game at Reynolds Ra­zor­backs can get an­other pre­view of new Coach Eric Mus­sel­man’s Ra­zor­backs bas­ket­ball team be­fore their of­fi­cial sea­son-opener.

Mus­sel­man opens Satur­day’s 11:15 a.m. prac­tice at Wal­ton Arena lead­ing into Tues­day’s 7 p.m. sea­son-opener at Wal­ton against the Rice Owls.

“The first thing on Satur­day is hope­fully we have a great foot­ball crowd,” Mus­sel­man said Thurs­day. “We just kind of felt like with foot traf­fic, peo­ple come to foot­ball games early and they’re walk­ing around cam­pus, hey, our doors are open if some­body wants to come in and take a peek at our team. If you want to check us out, come and we’re go­ing to prac­tice like we al­ways do.”

The Ra­zor­backs, win­ning both their ex­hi­bi­tion games, 79-64 and 78-51 over the Univer­sity of Arkansasli­t­tle Rock Tro­jans and South­west­ern Ok­la­homa State Univer­sity, have been all prac­tice since beat­ing SWOSU on Oct. 25.

It may seem a long, or­di­nary grind with­out a game to the play­ers ex­cept Mus­sel­man’s meth­ods for some prac­tices have been any­thing but or­di­nary.

Be­cause he felt the Ra­zor­backs fouled too fre­quently and turned it over too fre­quently in the ex­hi­bi­tions, Mus­sel­man for short pe­ri­ods in some prac­tices had them don gloves forc­ing them to con­cen­trate on ball han­dling. On de­fense lit­er­ally had them on a string to syn­chro­nize move­ment and drills hold­ing tow­els forc­ing them to rely on mov­ing their feet.

And for con­di­tion­ing he used weighted vests.

Se­nior grad­u­ate trans­fer point guard Jimmy Whitt called it “fun stuff” and more im­por­tantly valuable.

“We like to say you and your team­mate should be on a string on de­fense,” Whitt said. “When one per­son moves the other per­son should move. We’ve brought out gloves to help us, like take care of the ball a lit­tle bit bet­ter when it’s hard to catch a ball with gar­den­ing gloves. I think with ev­ery­thing Coach Muss brings, you’re gonna learn some­thing. You’re gonna find some value in it.”

Whitt ex­plained.

“As much as you may not think it’ll trans­late, it re­ally does,” Whitt said. “I know af­ter we brought out the gloves, we had the least amount of turnovers in one of our prac­tices that we re­cently just had. So I think it’s pretty cool how you can do these sort of fun things. They’re sort of out of the box dif­fer­ent, but they re­ally do trans­late.”

Dur­ing his Thurs­day press con­fer­ence Mor­ris said he had an­other uniquely in­voked point of em­pha­sis for Thurs­day’s prac­tice.

“We’re prob­a­bly go­ing to pull out a bub­ble and put it on the rim and work on our re­bound­ing,” Mus­sel­man said. “Chas­ing re­bounds at dif­fer­ent an­gles. Again, just lit­tle short themes that you might only do for five min­utes and then move on to the next thing.”

From the first ex­hi­bi­tion game to the se­cond, no Ra­zor­back im­proved like ju­nior guard Ma­son Jones.

Af­ter foul­ing out against Lit­tle Rock shoot­ing 1 for 6 scor­ing four points with three re­bounds and two as­sists vs. three turnovers, Jones against SWOSU scored a game-high 22 points in 28 min­utes, in­clud­ing 4 of 7 treys, grabbed six re­bounds and matched two turnovers with two as­sists.

The mo­men­tum Jones es­tab­lished has not waned, Mus­sel­man said.

“He’s had an­other good week of prac­tice,” Mus­sel­man said. “Much bet­ter than the week prior to him not start­ing in the ex­hi­bi­tion game. He’s been very fo­cused and brought the same en­ergy and en­thu­si­asm that he had the prior week.”

As the of­fi­cial sea­sonopener nears, Mus­sel­man was asked if there was any­thing new with Con­nor Vanover, the 7-3 Lit­tle Rock na­tive trans­ferred from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia and ap­peal­ing to the NCAA for im­me­di­ate sopho­more eligi


“Noth­ing new,” Mus­sel­man replied. “If you hear any­thing, let me know. We’ll prob­a­bly find out at 6:59 p.m. on Tues­day.”

Non-grad­u­ate trans­fers from one Divi­sion I school

to an­other by tra­di­tional rules must redshirt and re­sume their ac­tive el­i­gi­bil­ity the fol­low­ing sea­son, but can ap­peal with spe­cial cir­cum­stances for im­me­di­ate el­i­gi­bil­ity.

Vanover is ap­peal­ing both to be closer to his ill grand­mother in Arkansas and be­cause the head coach re­cruit­ing him to Cal­i­for­nia was fired af­ter last sea­son.

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