Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Gulley’s giddy to get on court
Fred Gulley, who transferred from Oklahoma State in January, will play his first game for Arkansas on Saturday.
FAYETTEVILLE Fred Gulley figures to have trouble sleeping tonight.
“I’m going to be anxious,” he said. “Like a kid at Christmas.”
Christmas will come early for Gulley on Saturday night when he’ll play his first basketball game for the Arkansas Razorbacks after a year’s wait.
Gulley, a fourth-year junior guard who starred at Fayetteville High School, is set to make his Arkansas debut against Alcorn State at 7 p.m. Saturday in Walton Arena. He’s been practicing with the Razorbacks since transferring from Oklahoma State in January, but under NCAA rules he isn’t allowed to play until the fall semester ends.
Gulley completed final exams Thursday and his grades are expected to be posted by 5 p.m. today, completing his eligibility requirements to play. His last game was Dec. 17, 2011, when he started and played 16 minutes for Oklahoma State in the Cowboys’ 66-56 loss to New Mexico in Oklahoma City.
“I think it’s going to take some time to get back in the flow of playing with referees and the crowd there,” Gulley said. “It’s just a different atmosphere than practice and a controlled situation.”
Waiting to play hasn’t been easy for Gulley.
“It’s always tough not being able to do what you love to do, especially whenever you see the team out there and you feel like you could help in certain situations,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming, a long journey, so I’m definitely ready to play.
“I’ve been through many practices, many 6 a.m. runs, many workouts, so hopefully all those things have come together and prepared me for the rest of the season.”
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson has noticed an increase in Gulley’s intensity level during recent practices.
“He seems more engaged,” Anderson said. “You can sense that he’s getting closer to having an opportunity to play. His juices are going. He’s speeding up a little bit.
“This gives him a chance to play at a place he probably dreamed of playing at as a kid. Now that dream can become a reality.”
Gulley, 6-2, played primarily point guard at Oklahoma State, where he averaged 4.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 18.4 minutes in eight games last season with 5 starts. He averaged 1.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in 33 games as a true freshman during the 2008-2010 season, then he was limited to seven games the next season because of a shoulder injury.
“I feel like I can definitely bring leadership,” Gulley said. “I’m a junior, and I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs. I’ve seen a lot of things.
“I like to have the ball in my hands, but I’m a basketball player. I’m versatile. I can fit in a lot of different areas.”
Arkansas junior guard Mardracus Wade said he’s excited to see what Gulley can add to the Razorbacks.
“He’s going to bring aggressiveness,” Wade said. “He’s going to bring leadership. He’s going to bring someone who can get in the lane and penetrate and kick out to shooters or dump down. He’s very quick, and he’s very poised. He’s a good on-the-ball defender.
“I think he’s going to help us out a lot.”
Gulley isn’t on scholarship and doesn’t figure to get more playing time for Arkansas than he did for Oklahoma State, where he averaged 19.9 minutes in 48 games, including 29 starts.
So why transfer?
“It really had nothing to do with playing time,” Gulley said. “There were a lot of things that figured into it. It all boils down to what’s best for you and what’s more geared toward your style of play.”
Gulley said Oklahoma State Coach Travis Ford “is a good guy,” but he is among six players from Ford’s signing class for the 2009-2010 season who transferred.
“I left on good terms,” Gulley said. “I had a great time at Oklahoma State. I met a lot of great people I still talk to today. I have nothing but love for the program and wish them the best.”
Gulley was offered a scholarship by former Arkansas Coach John Pelphrey, who was fired after the 2010-2011 season.
“I was the first player Coach Pelphrey offered when he got the job here,” Gulley said. “He recruited me, but I didn’t feel like it was the right fit.”
Gulley said he believes Anderson’s system is a better fit for his skills than Oklahoma State. He can remember going to Arkansas games growing up when Anderson was an assistant to Nolan Richardson.
“We ran a lot more sets at Oklahoma State. The game was a lot more controlled,” Gulley said. “Under Coach Anderson, we go out there and we’re allowed to play instinctively and play with a feel for the game.That’s the way I grew up playing, so it’s been a smooth transition. I think I’ve adjusted pretty well.”
Gulley said he believes he can surprise some people with his offensive skills, but his emphasis always has been on defense.
“I’ve been known as a defensive stopper,” he said. “At Oklahoma State, I always guarded the toughest guys. That’s something I pride myself on, not letting people score on me.”
ARKANSAS VS. ALCORN STATE
WHEN 7 p.m. Saturday WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville TV KATV, Channel 7, in central Arkansas; KHBS-KHOG, Channels 40-29, in NW Arkansas; and KAIT, Channel 8, in Jonesboro
Sports, Pages 19 on 12/14/2012