Here now is part 2 of our basketball Q&A with ArkansasSports360.com reporter Chris Bahn (click here for part 1 and here for Chris's recent cover story on this year's team). Many thanks to Chris for his time. If reading ArkansasSports360.com isn't a part of your daily routine, it needs to be. Now, on with the show:
What's your prediction for how the Hogs will do this year?
Sixth in the West seems low to me. Arkansas plays in a down division, seems to have some talent and I like Pelphrey. I’m going to say 16-13 at the end of the regular season with a good shot at making the NIT.
Even if they stink, I feel confident they’ll be more exciting to watch than they have been in past years. There were times Stan Heath’s teams won and it felt like a loss. I could see this team losing and it feel like a victory … if that makes sense.
What's the latest on the possibility of Marcus Monk joining the team this season? Do you think he could be a significant contributor?
It looks like Monk could be with the team in time for its Dec. 10 game against North Carolina Central. I have no idea what Monk will be able to contribute statistically. I do know he’s a smart kid with a short learning curve; so it shouldn’t take him long to understand Pelphrey’s system. He’s also a tremendous leader and a guy that the players will listen to (at least that was the case with football). Arkansas has no seniors on this team, so a guy like Monk who understands hard work, etc. should benefit a bunch of young guys trying to find their way. He’ll be an example-setter, which is something this team probably needs.
Has anyone emerged as a locker-room leader on the team? If not, who's the most likely to do so at some point this year?
By virtue of their status as the oldest members of the team Michael Washington and Stefan Welsh are the first names that come to mind. Both did some things in the off-season that would suggest they’re at least attempting to embrace that role. Washington packed on a ton of muscle and improved his conditioning. Welsh stuck around Fayetteville instead of going home to Virginia. Both hosted get-togethers for teammates and organized pick-up games in an effort to earn trust and respect. And they’re saying and doing all the right things so far.
From what I’m told, there’s a good chance Fortson will be the emotional leader of the team, filling the void left by Patrick Beverley. He might not always make the best decisions — on or off the court — but he’ll be the guy to get in teammates’ faces to challenge them. He’ll not be intimidated on the court, which should rub off on his teammates, hopefully for the better.