New Arkansas coach plans tough practices for next season

Updated: May 18, 2007, 9:02 PM ET
Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK -- As Razorbacks coach John Pelphrey sees it, Arkansas suffers only from a seasonal slouch.

Pelphrey, at the helm of the Razorbacks for a little more than a month, says assistant Tom Ostrom's comments about the team being out of shape were accurate, but perhaps "a little bit strong."

"It's kind of the time of year," Pelphrey said Friday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "We do need to get into better shape and we will."

Pelphrey left South Alabama last month to take over as the Razorbacks' coach, after a tumultuous period for Razorbacks' fans in which coach Stan Heath was fired and Creighton coach Dana Altman accepted the Arkansas job, only to back out a day later.

Pelphrey said he's had four hourlong individual practices with players so far this spring. However, the real practices will begin in the fall for the Razorbacks, who went 43-24 over the last two seasons but haven't been able to win an NCAA Tournament game.

Although he hasn't seen the team work together yet, Pelphrey said he knows of at least one weakness -- the squad remains light on guards. Signing guard Marcus Britt of Forrest City will help, he said.

"Coming through the door, he's going to have a chance to get into the mix," Pelphrey said of Britt, who averaged 18 points his senior year. "Anytime you talk about Marcus Britt, you're talking about somebody who loves the Razorbacks, that competes extremely hard and also cares about winning."

Britt joins forward Michael Sanchez of Springdale Har-Ber as the Razorbacks' first two in-state signings since Pelphrey came on. Sanchez averaged 15.8 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7 assists in his final prep season. Sanchez will bring toughness and leadership to the team, Pelphrey said.

Patrick Beverley, a freshman standout on last year's team, is "very eager to take on" responsibilities both on and off the court for the Razorbacks, Pelphrey said.

Pelphrey says he'll "be making practices more difficult than games. I think that over a period of time, we'll be able to communicate to those guys how we need to go about doing things.

"I'd be very, very surprised if this group of guys doesn't embrace wanting to be as good as they can possibly be this year."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press