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Hog Hoops: There's No Excuses

As preseason practices begin the 2014 Razorbacks promise a new attitude and a team that lives up to the slogan, "the fastest 40 minutes in Basketball."
FAYETTEVILLE--Bud Walton Arena remains a tough place to visit for Arkansas' opponents even if the status of the program has dropped since the firing of Nolan Richardson. In John Pelphrey's final season the Razorbacks lost just three Fayetteville games. Successor Mike Anderson's first team at Arkansas went 17-3 at home. The 2013 Hogs upped that figure to 18-1.

Life on the road has been a different story. The Razorbacks are a dismal 2-21 in true road games under Anderson. So why is the head Hog so optimistic about 2014 especially with the departures of Marshawn Powell and B.J. Young who accounted for roughly 40% of the team's points in 2013?


"You're going to see a more balanced team," Anderson told reporters during his preseason press conference. "Everyone talks about what we lost. Who is going to pick up the slack?  I think it's going to be by committee."

The "committee" will include three inside players, all newcomers, who are out to put an end to the problems in the paint that turned Arkansas into a 3 point shooting team on the road with disasterous results. Each standing 6-10, Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley are highly regarded freshmen. Power forward Alandise Harris, a transfer from the University of Houston, is a 6-6 banger who can do it all under the basket.

"They can block shots, they can pass, they can rebound and push the ball which helps us to our advantage," senior guard Mardracus Wade observed. "They don't have to look for guards. They can get it and go themselves. So they bring a lot to this team."

Anderson's excitement is about more than the just addition of an inside game. The committee he mentioned includes the entire roster. A roster of committed players, he claimed.

"It's a different feel this year," senior guard Kikko Haydar stressed. "There's no excuses.  Nobody makes excuses. Nobody shows up late. Everybody just goes to work."

Year three is the season Anderson targeted from the day he arrived in Fayetteville. It started with a preseason conditioning program straight out of the US military as the Hogs worked side by side with a local ROTC unit. 

"Getting up with them and seeing them run seven miles and coming back and doing like a hundred push ups and a hundred pull ups all in the course of 45 minutes, I'm thinking like what I do is nothing," senior forward Coty Clarke recalled. "We learned how to do things together because we participated as a group."

"Part of the ROTC process was to put them in a position to see if they were going to rely on each other," Anderson added. "The first day was an obstacle course. They had to get from point A to point B without stepping on the grass. Kikko (Haydar), they had him blindfolded. So their captain and leader is blindfolded. So how to we get him from point A to point B?"

"Guys were laying down their bodies and letting teammates step on them," Anderson continued. "Some of the guys ran into some fire ants. They continued with the exercise and they finished it. To me that's what it's all about."

How fired up is this bunch? So fired up that during yoga exercises they were preforming across the hall at Walton Arena from Anderson's press conference they could be heard through the walls calling the Hogs.

"Somebody is excited, huh?" Anderson said in mid-sentence as he discussed the work his players did over the previous summer. "Are those my guys?," the head coach asked as the noise continued. Told that the noise was indeed coming from the players' yoga class next door, Anderson smiled and said, "You see what I'm talking about? That excites me. Those guys are excited to be here. They're working extremely hard." 

If that hard work translates into more road wins this season Razorback basketball fans will be excited right along with them.
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