FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas could be missing one of its key new pieces to the basketball team when they play four games in Spain and Italy.
Freshman Nick Smith has an injured finger and Eric Musselman isn’t sure of his status for the four games on the upcoming trip to the two countries.
“I just know he’s day to day,” Musselman said. “Medically, it’s not a break. At one point it was like a ligament. With further testing, it is basically a deep bone bruise is what it is now. Our doctors were great. They X-rayed and MRI’d. As they gathered more information, it was just a deep bone bruise.”
With 11 of the 13 scholarship players being new to the team this year Musselman was asked if any of them are emerging as leaders?
“Each player kind of brings his own uniqueness to the team,” Musselman said. “Like (Trevon) Brazile is not an overly outward talker, but he does a great job if another player is playing the 4 or 5, just kind of on the sideling buddy coaching in his own manner of delivery. From a voice inflection, it might not be really loud, but he does his little thing. The Mitchell (Makhi and Makhel) brothers, both those guys can be very vocal. Mostly in a good way. But those two have an outward personality that has been really good. (Barry) Dunning, for a freshman, talks a lot and obviously Nick Smith is a really, really vocal guy.”
Musselman is placing an emphasis on hitting free throws or there will be pushups required even for himself. He talked about where that came from.
“With that Perfect Free Throw, any time we miss two in a row we do pushups,” Musselman said. “My dad would do it so I guess I took it from him. It was either pushups or sit-ups. My dad’s thing was the minute you can’t demonstrate, get out of coaching. I’m not sure everyone buys into that, but that’s the roof that I grew up under. So, if our players are going to do pushups, I should probably be able to. Although I was a little worried. That was a few extra pushups than normal, and I was worried about my workman’s comp in my left shoulder and whether that rotator cuff was going to pop back out or not.”
One noticeable thing that isn’t common, but seen at Arkansas’ practices is the team breaking a huddle like football teams do.
“I was fortunate enough to spend a few days with the Carolina Panthers and got to speak at their retreat,” Musselman said. “They had a coaches retreat with their general manager and Matt Rhule and their entire coaching staff. Really cool to be invited to that and be able to be a part of it and sit and listen to them in their discussions on leadership and how they wanted to conduct training camp. Got to sit in on their first meetings. I sat in and took some things away and one of them was the togetherness of a football team, especially in their individual breakout rooms. Just felt like that was something new that we wanted to add that we’ve never done. Because we all know in a game some guy might not be happy with his role or shots or whatever. I thought the huddle, ready, break kind of adds a level of togetherness that you don’t splinter. Never seen a basketball team do it, but we will be doing it all year, hopefully.”
When playing these games in Spain and Italy Musselman was asked if the teams will have older players which is usually the case.
“We might need to have a press conference with Riley Hall,” Musselman said. “Because I didn’t schedule [the games]. I just told them, hey, this is where we want to go. Get us as many games as you possibly can. Most teams only play three games. Four games is one less than I would have wanted. At Nevada we played five. But it’ll be good. It’ll allow us to do some stuff that maybe we hadn’t originally planned. One of the days now, we’ve got an opportunity to maybe go to Switzerland real quick. It would be on the day of the game, but it allow us another country for our guys to visit. Not many teams can do a foreign tour in this short a time and be able to go to three different countries. But I don’t know we play.”