The Arkansas Razorbacks basketball team is set to start the 2009-2010 season with eight players. One could say that things seem pretty bleak. However, Coach John Pelphrey is optimistic about the future. During Pelphrey's press conference this week, the subject of discussion was the five suspensions of current players. Most notable were the questions surround starting point guard Courtney Fortson and his indefinite suspension .
Talking about the current predicament Pelphrey and his staff find themselves in—going into the season with eight players—is something that many would believe would have a coach looking for the eject button. Is that the case with John Pelphrey?
No, during the press conference Pelphrey found time to talk about the future. He did not lament on the problems he faces today. He spoke confidently about where the Razorbacks will be a year from now, and how they are going to get through the problems that face them today and tomorrow. Hard work, good attitude, very good work ethic, and yes, discipline.
These are the things that will allow the players and staff to see the end of the tunnel. Hard work will garner them the support of the Razorback Nation, which can help create an atmosphere of positive change and an anticipation of great things to come with a ferocity rarely seen in fan bases. And it is all of these things that will get them to a new era of Razorback basketball; one that Pelphrey sees rivaling the great Razorback days of old.
That optimism and confidence Pelphrey exuded began today, because today the Razorbacks took a step towards a bright future with the signing of three talented future Hogs. The coach and his staff worked tirelessly to sign three high-character and extremely talented young men to letters of intent this week. Rickey Scott, Mardracus Wade, and Marvell Waithe are extraordinary basketball players and young men.
For those of you that know nothing about these new Hogs, allow me to share with you the story of three different young men all working towards a common goal. A journey of three young men all working to come together at the same place, and the path each must take to get there.
In Irving, Texas, Rickey Scott is in a gym working day in and day out to be a better basketball player. When Scott is not on the court, he is in the classroom working to raise his already solid 3.2 GPA. And when he is not on the court or in the classroom, Scott is spending time with kids while participating in the Big Dogs Program.
The Big Dogs Program is a non-profit organization that focuses on the mentoring of youth. B.I.G D.O.G.S., according to their website , stands for “Believing In God Depending On Gods Strength.”
On the basketball court, Rickey Scott is described as a relentless defender with rising skills and a hard work ethic. He has worked on his outside shot, which was identified as an area he needed to improve to be a complete player. He is a tall, rangy guard that projects to be a small forward or a shooting guard in college. Scott is rated as a four-star recruit by Rivals.com, and received offers from top programs across the country.
Scott's coaches have spoken about how great of a player he is and the potential he has to be an outstanding player at the collegiate level. They believe a person like Scott, on and off the court, does not come around all that often. It is all the positives Scott dedicates himself to that will allow him to succeed as a Razorback in the coming years.
Recruiting and bringing a young man like Rickey Scott into your program gives a coach dealing with adversity, like John Pelphrey currently is, the confidence that things are going to change. Pelphrey likes to say, "doing things the right way," and Scott is the epitome of just that.
In Chatham, Virginia, Mardracus Wade is sitting in front of cameras dressed in his military school uniform and smiling as he signs his national letter of intent to play basketball for the University of Arkansas. Wade is a long way from the streets of Memphis, where he grew up playing basketball and where he was first noticed by college recruiters.
Wade’s dream of playing college basketball and becoming the best player and person he could be lead him to Chatham, which is the home of Hargrave Military Academy. Hargrave is a place Wade decided he could improve his basketball skills by playing against top prep programs in the nation. Hargrave has a very good reputation on the court. It has produced numerous NBA stars, most notably Josh Howard and David West, through their basketball program.
Hargrave is also a place that offers Wade structure, structure that will allow him to prepare for college better. The balance of academics, discipline, and athletics at Hargrave is preparing Wade for the challanges he will face on a college campus.
On the basketball court, Wade is ranked as a four-star recruit by Scout.com. They see him as the No. 18 point guard in the country and one of this recruiting class' best defenders. He is known for his quickness at getting to the rim as well, and has developed a jump shot over the past year that was identified as an area for him to improve. Wade was pursued by top programs locally and from nearly every major conference in the nation.
Prior to his decision to attend Hargrave, Wade made a name for himself playing for the Memphis Magic. The Magic is a team consisting of nothing but high-caliber players. They play a very up-tempo style of basketball and that similarity to John Pelphrey’s system at Arkansas factored into Wade’s choice to play for the Razorbacks.
The skill improvement not only on the court, but in his daily regiment, that Wade has learned in his time at Hargrave will have him in a position to make a big impact for the Arkansas Razorbacks next season. His arrival on campus will be meet with much anticipation and the occasional salutes.
Perhaps the longest journey of any of the three new Arkansas singes comes from Marvell Waithe. Waithe was a Mr. Canada in basketball for Toronto, where is from. He originally committed to play for Rutgers, but as is the all-to-common story for Canadian athletes, he did not have the academic requirements to enroll right away.
Waithe ended up at Tallahassee Community College, where he starred last year as a freshman. Waithe now is a Preseason NJCAA All-American and has lead his team to a 3-0 start, averaging 21 points per game.
His college decision was a very tough one because Rutgers is close to home, but he has said he feels more comfortable at Arkansas, with coach Pelphrey’s style of play. Waithe feels he can make an early impact and joins Scott and Wade as an extremely talented class heading to the hill next season.
On the basketball court, Waithe is a relentless scorer and rebounder. He burst on the NJCAA scene with a 20-point, 20-rebound performance his freshman year. Wade is 6’9” and has filled his frame with muscle. Coming out of high school, his size was the area that recruiting services said he needed to improve.
Waithe’s journey to play Division I basketball was a long one, but the lessons he has learned along the way will prove to be priceless. He has been far from home for a long time now, and so he will transition well onto the hill. His development as a junior college player should have him ready to compete right away. If everything goes smoothly for Waithe, he may be able to convince some Arkansas fans to sing "O Canada" before tip-offs in honor of the former Mr. Canada Basketball.
The future of Arkansas basketball is in a mode of change. Rickey Scott, Mardracus Wade, and Marvell Waithe are three entirely different young men with one common purpose. Come to Arkansas and win.
They have each had different journeys, but share this common purpose and the talent to be great basketball players. John Pelphrey’s optimism and hard work has paid off in the addition of these young men, and he has a jump on the 2011 class already, as well.
Bud Walton Arena sits awaiting the beginning of the Arkansas 2009-2010 season, and the future that these players can mold as Arkansas basketball players next year. The team begins its season with only eight scholarship players because of suspensions Pelphrey handed out earlier this week for offseason incidents, as discussed earlier.
There is no doubt the Hogs could use these three tremendous young men now instead of a year from now, but the pieces are coming together for change on the hill. Change that could help fill Bud Walton Arena’s rafters, which are already covered in the rich history of the program.
Today, Arkansas basketball moved one step closer to that change.
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Image Courtesy of ArkansasRazorbacks.com