Arkansas freshmen participate in first practice
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- For Ronnie Brewer, sleep didn't come easily as he contemplated wearing the same Arkansas Razorbacks basketball uniform his father once wore.
Brewer, whose father Ron Brewer Sr. played for Arkansas in the 1970s, has grown up wearing Arkansas jerseys, T-shirts and caps, but the practice jersey he slipped on Monday meant something to him.
"It feels a little more special to wear it because I earned it instead of wearing it because I thought it was cool," Brewer said.
Monday was a day the three incoming Arkansas freshmen and their coaches had dreamed of since they signed last November. After a mentally draining day of classes and a physically demanding afternoon practice, Brewer and fellow freshman Vincent Hunter expected to do some real dreaming Monday night.
"I'm going to sleep like a baby tonight. I'm tired," said Hunter, who signed with Arkansas out of Little Rock Fair. "I didn't sleep last night because I was very excited for today. We were talking about getting dunked on, (getting beat with) lobs and players stealing balls from us."
Hunter, Brewer, Olu Famutimi and walk-on Preston Cranford are able to get a headstart on their college careers this week because the Razorbacks are traveling to Cancun, Mexico, to play four exhibition games Saturday through Monday. Ordinarily, basketball practice wouldn't begin until mid-October.
The Razorbacks' nine returning players started practice last week and they finished with just eight when Wenbos Mukubu strained a quadriceps muscle in his left leg that will cause him to miss six weeks of court time.
The freshmen's presence allowed for five-on-five drills for the first time. The newcomers held their own and they even held an advantage over their older teammates on occasion.
"They brought a very positive presence to practice," Heath said. "They were highly recruited and we felt like they could step in to help us. I haven't changed one bit on those thoughts."
Famutimi wore a brace on his left knee, because he had reconstructive surgery on it after tearing ligaments during a high school game last year. Monday was his first day on the court because he wasn't cleared to participate in pickup games this summer.
The 6-foot-5 guard from Flint, Mich., showed good mobility and he dunked the ball with ease. Famutimi said he felt a little pain in his knee, but he worked through it.
Heath said he can't wait for Famutimi to reach 100 percent.
"He plays way above the rim and he's got a lot of athleticism," Heath said. "As soon as he gets a better feel for the intensity level and his gets his game back from sitting out for so long, I think he's going to be an exciting player to watch."
Heath finished 9-19 last season with a group of players that had no consistent scoring threat. Famutimi and Brewer were big scorers in high school. Also, Hunter has the ability to start fast breaks with his long arms altering shots and reaching into passing lanes.
Since only nine players returned from last year, there will be playing time for just about every newcomer and that's part of what kept Hunter and Brewer up talking Sunday night.
"We talked for a while about how much pressure there might be and how much everybody is going to be looking to us to bring Arkansas' program back," said Brewer, who was surprised by the number of people walking around campus going to class and the two classes he had with 200 people. "There's not much pressure for us to go out there and play basketball because that's what we've been doing pretty much our whole lives."
PRACTICE NOTES: Heath added four new faces for practice, but he lost one and almost a second during the afternoon practice. Sophomore guard Kendrick Davis suffered a sprained left ankle when he and guard Eric Ferguson got tangled up chasing a loose ball. Davis, who averaged 10.3 points per game, tried to walk off the injury and continue practice after having his ankle taped up. But trainer Dave England pulled him off the court and iced his ankle the rest of the day. England said the Davis may be able to return to practice on Tuesday. ... Practice came to a silent halt when Famutimi fell and lay motionless on the court. However, Famutimi didn't reinjure the left knee. He was hit in the back of the neck by sophomore forward Rashard Sullivan while battling for a rebound. Famutimi said he was knocked out for a little bit, but he returned to practice after about 15 minutes. ... The team's first practice was at 7 a.m. Monday, which Heath used to teach the newcomers drills and terminology.
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