FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas, which hasn’t played in a week, is slowly counting down the days between last Friday’s men’s basketball opener and Sunday’s game against Longwood.
Rickey Scott said he has hated the break. Mardracus Wade agreed, adding he’s used to playing two games a week this time of year. But as hard as it’s been to wait, both acknowledged Thursday it could be worse – B.J. Young hasn’t played since Nov. 2.
“He’s excited,” Wade said. “He’s been taking practice like it’s a game every day. He’s been coming in here and playing hard and getting up extra shots.
“I know he’s been talking about getting back on the court.”
Arkansas (1-0) will get Young — last season’s leading scorer and a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection this fall — back in the rotation when it plays Longwood (0-1) in Bud Walton Arena at 3 p.m. Sunday. The sophomore was suspended for the final exhibition game and the season opener because of a “violation of team rules” and will be making his 2012-13 debut.
Young wasn’t available for interviews Thursday. But Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said the guard is “hungry” to return in a game after a two-week absence.
“He’s probably more wound up than even they are,” Anderson said in reference to the rest of his team. “It will be interesting once the game actually starts and he gets out there and gets a sweat and see what takes place after that.”
The Razorbacks are ready to find out after struggling through a 73-68 win against Sam Houston State in the opener.
Rebounding was Anderson’s primary concern in the aftermath and has been an item of emphasis in the time off. But Arkansas also had issues getting out in transition for easy buckets, which is a specialty of the hard-charging sophomore.
So Scott said it’s an aspect of Arkansas’ identity that should improve significantly when Young makes his season debut against Longwood. He averaged 15.3 points a game as a freshman last season, scoring plenty of baskets in transition.
“Man, we needed him,” Scott said. “He just spreads the floor a lot and he can attack the lanes and kick out. He just attacks and that’s what we need.”
Said Wade: “It’s going to help our system, open up the floor. Guys are going to have to try to double-team him. Or pack their defense in so it’s going to open up our outside game.”
It’s the reason Young is on the preseason watch lists for both the Wooden and Naismith Awards, which are presented to the nation’s top player.
Young came off the bench to score 9 points in 19 minutes during Arkansas’ exhibition opener against Southwest Baptist.
Anderson said Thursday he had not determined whether Young will be in the starting lineup when he returns Sunday. The decision would be made later. But he’s counting on the guard to make an impact with Arkansas back to full strength.
“This is the team that we’ve been working out with since this summer, the Italy trip, the games there,” Anderson said. “Obviously now, it continues to create that depth. We feel like we’ve got some weapons. Now hopefully we’ve got a whole arsenal.
“We just want to put this team together and keep it getting better and he’s a pivotal part of what we do.”