Heath moves closer to seeing his players on court

Updated: October 30, 2003, 7:54 PM ET
ESPN

LITTLE ROCK -- Stan Heath didn't have four things he needed during his first season as basketball coach at Arkansas: speed, quickness, scorers and players with experience.

That led to a 9-19 record, the worst in three decades at Arkansas and a long way from the 30-6 mark Heath had at Kent State.

Heath still doesn't have many with Razorbacks experience, other than five sophomores who combined for 70 starts last season, junior Michael Jones and senior Charles Tatum, who missed last year with torn knee ligaments.

But the good news is those who are gone were the guys who lacked speed, quickness and the ability to score.

Heath will show off those sophomores, three seniors, a junior and one of the most talented trio of freshmen in the country at the Red-White basketball team at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday.

"Midnight Madness was more like open gym. We should see a glimpse of what we'll look like in a real game," Heath said. "We'll see what they can do with lights on. At the same time, I know we're not in midseason form. I expect certain things, but that may change."

The Red-White game was originally set for 6:05 p.m., but it was moved when ESPN2 picked up the Arkansas-Kentucky football game for an evening broadcast.

Fans will get a chance to see the sophomores against the freshmen in the Red-White scrimmage.

Sophomores Eric Ferguson, Kendrick Davis, Jonathan Modica, Rashard Sullivan, Wen Mukubu and Jones will be on the Red squad. Tatum and fellow seniors Billy Pharis and Jamar Blackmon will team up with freshmen Ronnie Brewer, Vincent Hunter, Olu Famutimi and Preston Cranford on the White team.

On the White team, only Blackmon played on Heath's team last year. Tatum was out with the injury and Pharis sat out after transferring from SMU.

"We thought it would be interesting to have the guys who played last year to play together," Heath said. "Our young guys have a little chemistry and the sophomores have some chemistry, so I'm interested in seeing what happens."

Brewer, Famutimi and Hunter are the three recruits everyone has waited to see on the court together. Cranford is a walk-on from Heber Springs.

Brewer and Famutimi will be able to provide a scoring lift and the 6-foot-6 Brewer can run the offense, giving Ferguson a break. Ferguson, a co-captain with Tatum and Pharis, ran the point all season as a freshman, leading the team in assists and steals, but when he came out there was a clear dropoff.

The 6-9 Hunter won't be able to muscle anyone under the glass with his 195-pound frame, but he can block shots and run the floor.

Modica, Ferguson and Davis were the top three scorers on the team last year at 11.5, 10.9 and 10.3 points per game.

That's one reason the Razorbacks finished last in the Southeastern Conference and 305th out of 325 NCAA Division I teams at 61.6 points per game. They were also 318th in field goal percentage at 39.3 and 320th from the line at 60.9.

However, the increased quickness should help Arkansas improve on a defense that ranked 90th, giving up 66.5 points per game.

Heath said he's not close to naming any starters yet.

"It doesn't make sense to pick starters now," he said. "We play an exhibition game in a week and another in two weeks, and our first game a week after that. Many things could happen between now and then."

Arkansas has exhibition games on Nov. 8 and Nov. 14 before opening the season on Nov. 21 against Nicholls State at Bud Walton Arena.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index