Arkansas Razorback Spotlight: Courtney Fortson's Return Makes It a New Season

Blake StansberyCorrespondent IJanuary 8, 2010

This week Arkansas basketball fans got the biggest news they have received in over a year when it was announced that Courtney Fortson would be back in the lineup against Texas.

It was just a short time before the game that it was announced and came as a big surprise to everyone since coach John Pelphrey had stated the day before that Fortson would not be in the lineup.

So far this season the Hogs have not given fans much to cheer for, but even in the midst of a three-game losing streak, fans' hopes are now at the highest they have been all season.


All of that can be attributed to one man: Courtney Fortson.


Fortson is the driving force on this young Hog basketball team. His energy and abilities are not available from any other player on the team. That energy seems contagious among his teammates the moment he steps on the floor.


As Fortson made his return against Texas, so did the hope that the Razorbacks can salvage this season.


Yes, the Hogs are sitting at 7-8, but fans of the Razorbacks and college basketball as a whole took notice of the way the Razorbacks played against Texas on Tuesday night with Fortson back on the court.


Moral victories are something that I usually would prefer to ignore, but for the young players on the Razorback basketball team that struggled through the first 14 games of the season, they can see a different second half of the season playing out now with Fortson running the point for the Hogs.


Having Courtney Fortson back could be the spark the Hogs need, much in the same way Joe Johnson was able to lead the Razorbacks in 2000 to a SEC Tournament Championship after a rough start to the season.


The Razorbacks have until Thursday the 14th before they open their SEC play at Mississippi State.


With Fortson back and the positive changes they made in their play against No. 2-ranked Texas, the Hogs should be emotionally fired up to take it right to the Bulldogs.


Even some of the most critical fans and analysts have changed their tune with Fortson back on the court for the Hogs. Message boards and stories that have been all doom and gloom so far this season are beginning to have a positive tone.


However, the Hogs must capitalize on this emotion right away. When SEC play begins, they must get on a hot streak. The Razorbacks cannot afford to continue to struggle and have more losses mount up if they have any hopes of any type of postseason tournament play.


Fortson needs to continue to understand that there is no I in team, but that there sure is an I in assist. His passing ability and ability to create and find the open man is what the Hogs must have to win ball games. But it is off the court and in his personal life where Arkansas needs Fortson to be on point and avoid any further setbacks.


The Razorbacks finally have a full lineup, and their depth and talent is better than a year ago, when they lost a ton of very close ball games in SEC play.


Newcomer Marshawn Powell has shown he can take over a ball game on any given night and appears to be the Razorbacks' best frontcourt player as a true freshman, even over senior Michael Washington, who has been plagued by a back injury all year.


The Razorbacks will need to see continued improvement from their other newcomers as well. Delvon Johnson has shown improved play as of late, and Jemal Farmer has the talent and ability to begin to make a much bigger difference in both the Hogs offense and pressure defense.


Glenn Bryant needs to continue to be that energy guy that comes off the bench and comes up with a key block or rebound, and Julysses Nobles needs to be able to relax and watch Fortson and learn quickly. Nobles will need to get past the wall he has hit and start to contribute again like he did to start the season for the Razorbacks.


Fortson makes all of these players better when he is on the floor with his ability to drive and open up shots on the perimeter and to create passing lanes in the paint.


The Hogs have pieces now in place to show improvement over last season where they started strong and finished terribly. A true reversal of fortunes could be the case for the Hogs in SEC play.


Arkansas fans need to look at SEC play and the rest of the season as the start to the Razorbacks season, because with Fortson in the lineup they are a completely different team.


Courtney Fortson makes the Arkansas Razorbacks a very dangerous and good team to look out for the rest of the season.