Friday, July 07, 2006

OPINION >> Summer no time of resting for Heath

Special to The Leader

While Arkansas’ football staff squeezes the last rest it will get before next week starting the 24/7 grind preparing for the August preseason, Razorback basketball coach Stan Heath and staff doubly launch into recruiting full bore.

From July 6-30, it’s a live recruiting period highlighted by the shoe companies’ AAU tournaments.

“We’ve got to target that rising senior class,” Heath said. “We have a limited amount of scholarships right now. At the same time we have to target that junior class even harder because we want to really get our foot into that class because that’s going to be a class we have quite a few scholarships for.”

One scholarship already has been promised to and accepted by Nate Rakestraw. Rakestraw plays high school ball at Springdale Har-Ber. He has said he will sign in November.

Heath’s biggest recruiting chore may seem with his own team. He and assistants Dan Hipsher, Oronde Taliaferro and new assistant Glynn Cyprien must convince this squad they can prevail despite losing leading scorer and best all-round player Ronnie Brewer to the pros as a Utah Jazz first-round draft choice plus losing second-leading scorer Jonathon Modica and combo-guard Eric Ferguson to graduation.

They are selling quickness and defense adding junior transfer point guard Gary Ervin, formerly Mississippi State’s two-year starting point guard, and incoming guards Sonny Weems, a JC transfer from Arkansas-Fort Smith, and freshmen Patrick Beverley and Stefan Welsh.

“We lost two prolific scorers in Brewer and Modica,” Heath said, “but balance, defense, speed and quickness we have probably improved in a lot of areas.”

Heath and Cyprien, apparently the basketball equivalent to a defensive coordinator with Hipsher the basketball equivalent to an offensive coordinator, look to utilize the defensive quickness to pester on the perimeter because 7-foot junior shot-blocker Steven Hill looms to erase mistakes inside.

“Having Steve,” Cyprien said, “you can really press out on the perimeter. That’s going to help with the quickness we have.”


Speaking of quickness, how about that Wallace Spearmon Jr.? While Fayetteville High grad Brewer got oodles of attention for getting drafted by the Jazz, Fayetteville High grad and former Raz-orback Spearmon won the USA National championship in the 200-meter dash at Indianapolis and will represent the U.S. later this summer at the World Cup meet.

“Wallace looked good,” Ark-ansas coach John McDonnell said. “He didn’t look good in the semifinal. It was rain delayed and he got a cramp in his hip. But in the final, boy he came alive.”

Spearmon can expect future challenges from Xavier Carter, the LSU track-football star forsaking football for a pro track career after becoming the first since legendary 1930s sprinter Jesse Owens to win the NCAA Outdoor 100 and 400 meters as well as be on winning 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relays.

Carter’s NCAA performance in Sacramento wowed McDo-nnell, but the coach has been wowed by Spearmon since he won the NCAA Outdoor 200 as a freshman.

“Carter weighed 209,” McDonnell said, “and runs a 400 like that and is on the relays and running track all the flipping time. He’s going to be awfully good, but now they will be expecting huge things. And he’s got to come by Wallace Spearmon.”
Daniel Lincoln, the former Razorback and graduate of the Arkansas School of Mathematics and Science in Hot Springs, won the USA 3,000-meter steeplechase but likely will be doctored out of representing the U.S. at the World Cup.

Lincoln is a second-year UA Med School student in Little Rock.

“I don’t think Daniel will go because of med school,” McDonnell said. “Last year for the World Championships (in Europe) they brought him home to Little Rock for the orientation and they brought him back the day before the World Championships. One of their guys said, ‘We gave you three years. You are on our clock now!”

But if ever a man could punch both clocks....

“He destroyed the field,” McDonnell said. “if ever a man could do that kind of academics and running, it’s him. He ran I think he’ll hopefully break the American record. He’s in good shape. He really is.”

Lincoln plans to juggle med school and running through the 2008 Olympics.