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Young Arkansas team to start with midnight practice
Posted: Wednesday October 14, 1998 10:07 PM
FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas (AP) -- The season hasn't started and already seven freshmen are having a big impact on the University of Arkansas basketball program.
Coach Nolan Richardson said Wednesday that he had changed his preseason conditioning program because of the young players.
"Last year, I had a group that had been through the wars and I had only one choice, we had to be ready to play early and maybe coast through the rest of the year," Richardson said. "That was brutal. Our kids took it and did a great job and got a great start. I felt that if we didn't get a good start, we wouldn't get going.
"This bunch is totally different. You bring in seven freshmen and go through what I put them through and they would be home right now telling momma that I made a mistake. So you have to ease them through sometimes and make them fit in."
He said veterans like Kareem Reid, Pat Bradley and Derek Hood have talked about how easy the conditioning has been. Reid, Bradley and Hood were the leaders of a team that won 24 games and lost to Utah in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Also returning are Brandon Davis and Jason Jennings, a 7-foot sophomore.
Richardson said the freshmen are probably the best group of shooters he has recruited. The shooters include Jason Gilbert, Chris Jeffries and Justin Hankins.
"Brandon Dean is a 6-0 kid that has the highest vertical jump of anyone we have had here in a while," Richardson said. "They are throwing alley-oops to a 6-0 guy in a pickup game. I've never seen that. He can get up. When you start looking at this class you say we have some things that we really never have had before. We have a variety of kinds of players. When you put them in a package, they are probably doing more things that a class that we have had."
He said Teddy Gipson might have the most potential.
"He is a very smooth, quick, unassuming type basketball player," he said. "If you went out and watched him play, you probably wouldn't pick him. He's not the show type of player, but he does everything very, very good. He has gotten better and stronger. When I start thinking about the guys that you didn't read about, sometimes they are the ones that come in and you say where did he come from? Pat Bradley was like that for us.
"We have to find those sleepers that other people bypass. We have to find some of those pop-up players. I think Gipson could be one of those pop-up players."
He also said Reid and Bradley form one of the best backcourts in the country.
"I certainly wouldn't want to play against them," he said. "I'm just amazed how Kareem is improved shooting the ball. Derek Hood is the same way. Both of them are shooting the ball a lot better. I think that happens with maturity and age. Pat has always been to me, he is probably the purest shooter that has been here in my time. He just needs to keep working on creating his shot so we don't have to set three of four picks for him."
Richardson said he is ready to get started and believes the Razorbacks have a "good shot at being real good." He also mentioned Tennessee, Kentucky and Auburn in the Southeastern Conference.
"I'm excited because I have all the youngsters," he said. "When you have that many of them, you don't know what they're going to do. On paper they look good and their stats are good. I always tell them over and over again that stats are for losers anyway, so I don't want to look at stats. What they've done in high school is one thing and college is another.
"I just hope the three seniors will show the leadership that we've got to have to be a very good and successful basketball team."
Arkansas will open its season with festivities that begin Friday evening and culminate with a midnight practice.
The men's and women's teams will be introduced and then the men's team will scrimmage for about 10 minutes. The Lady Razorbacks will follow with a five-minute scrimmage and then the men will scrimmage again.Gates open at 9 p.m. and the practice is to last until about 1:10 a.m. A variety of events will precede the practice.
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