Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Chances to improve nearing end for Hogs
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson signals for players on the bench during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against High Point on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas defeated High Point 89-48. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
FAYETTEVILLE - The Arkansas Razorbacks have only one unimpeded week to improve and this is it.
Next week begins the January into March, two-games-a-week SEC grind starting with the Jan. 8 SEC opener at Texas A&M then Florida’s Jan. 11 visit to Walton Arena.
With all the specific game-planning plus tapering practices to stay rested for the travel grind, Arkansas has no time to improve itself like this week.
This week there is no game until Saturday night’s nonconference finale at Walton against the Texas-San Antonio. And with the UA still on holiday break, there are no classes to impede Coach Mike Anderson from practicing the Hogs whenever he likes as often as he likes. The coach plans to make the most of it.
“We will use it,” Anderson said after his 10-2 Hogs demolished High Point, 89-48 Saturday night at Walton Arena. “I have to get a little crafty in terms of creating some game-like situations for them. We won’t kill them, but we may have some two-a-days and continue to get prepared for this year.”
Next week the Hogs get into their two SEC-games-a-week routine while keeping up with their academics. UA spring semester classes begin Jan. 9.
This week can be all basketball nearly all the time.
“They don’t have school,” Anderson said. “We can really work on some things and put some new things in as well offensively and defensively. I have their full attention. That’s what I like. I have their full attention.”
Pleased as he was with the Hogs’ play on both ends of the floor against High Point, Anderson knows this is no time to rest on laurels before the SEC season commences.
Even the last nonconference game, Jan. 4, begins a new year, the coach stressed.
“My staff and I will sit down with them and watch some tapes and films and just try to get prepared as we get into the next year,” Anderson said. “This year is over with.Close the books on it. It is not going to have anything to do with what takes place coming up. So it’s on to the next game. We are going to stay in the now.”
The now and later, too, could be determined in part on the practices this week.
Already practices have made closer to perfect, as has been the case of freshman center Moses Kingsley. The Nigerian’s late exposure to American basketball put him behind in some of the game’s refined aspects. Through hard practices the 6-10, shot-blocker has caught on fast.
In just 19 minutes against High Point, Kingsley scored 12 points with 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.
Senior guard Rickey Scott and Mardracus Wade fell from fame but recently proved they recaptured their game through hard practices. Sophomore Anthlon Bell seemed to solve his slump against High Point after four practices from last Wednesday through Friday.
It won’t be until the off-season that the Hogs can practice so hard and so long as this week.
Sports, Pages 16 on 12/30/2013