Weevils blossom


MONTICELLO — It has been almost half a decade since the Arkansas-Monticello men’s basketball team has garnered national attention.

After a 12-2 start to the season, the Boll Weevils are starting to make dent in the national picture.

“We are just trying to put this school on the map and show we can compete at a national level,” UAM guard Kori Forge said.

The Weevils are currently on a six-game winning streak and have won their first two Great American Conference games.

One of the GAC wins came against Arkansas Tech, which was ranked No. 22 at the time. That win helped UAM garner 15 votes in the NABC poll, but the Weevils still fell 10 votes short of being ranked.

“I think we should be ranked. We should be at least in the top 25, “ guard L.A. Farmer said. “We just have to prove it a little bit more.”

Regardless of not being ranked, the Weevils are off to their best start in a long time. The last time UAM burst onto the national scene was during the 2005-06 season when the Weevils made a run to the NCAA Division II Sweet Sixteen.

Since then, UAM has not made it back to the national tournament.

Allen Sharpe, who is in his second year as the head coach, said despite the hot start, there is a lot of season left.

“We have to win games and (getting to the national tournament) will take care of itself,” he said. “It’s a long haul, and we aren’t even halfway through the conference yet.

“The word is kind of getting out about us and we are fixing to get everybody’s best shot, and our guys have to be ready for that.”

While the Boll Weevils are about to get everyone’s best effort, they have been giving teams their best shot.

UAM could actually be 14-0 on the season, with its two losses coming by a combined five points.

In the second game of the year, the Weevils dropped a 102-99 decision to the then-No. 1 ranked team in the nation, Missouri Southern State. Then on Dec. 3, Arkansas-Fort Smith beat UAM 74-72 at the UAFS Lions Classic.

“It’s a good start, and really the losses we have, we stubbed our toes on,” Sharpe said. “We are 12-2 and happy about it, but we could be 14-0 real easily.”

The Weevils made up for the two tough losses with the 78-69 win over Arkansas Tech on Jan. 5. In that win, Farmer had 28 points and nine rebounds for the Weevils. He was one of four players to score in double figures in the game.

“That was a big win because they beat us two times last year, so we owed them,” Farmer said. “My shot wasn’t really going in, so it was really layups, and steals and fast breaks got us the win.”

Forge was UAM’s third-leading scorer in the game with 14 points, and he scored 31 points and hit five 3-pointers in the 90-78 win over Southeastern Oklahoma State on Saturday.

Forge’s play in the last two games earned him the GAC player of the week.

“It felt good, a lot of shots were falling,” Forge said. “I didn’t even know I got it until my mom called and told me.

“It was surprising because I haven’t been named player of the week since I was in junior high, so it felt pretty good.”

Forge is second on the team with 18.4 points per game. Farmer leads the team with 20.6 ppg and 64 assists on the year. Guard Sergio Crowe leads the team with 5.9 rebounds per game and is third with 14.9 ppg. Forward Ricardo Hall is UAM’s fourth player to average double-figures on the year with 13.8 ppg.

“We have some of the best guard play in the nation,” Forge said. “Any given night, anyone can go off for us. That’s just how we are and that’s the surprising thing about it.”

The Weevils are averaging 85.6 points per game as a team and are giving up 65.9. Sharpe knows his team has a good amount of firepower, but he does not want his games to become shootouts.

“We have a lot of different threats, which is one of the reasons we have had so much success this year,” he said. “We always feel like we are going to get enough points, but we are going to have to get enough stops.

“So far, we have been, but we are going to have to continue getting stops.”

The Boll Weevils are back in action at 4 p.m. Saturday in Arkadelphia in a conference game against Henderson State, which is also 2-0 in the conference. Farmer said if the Weevils beat Henderson State, they should be ranked in next week’s poll.

“We just have to stay focused, practice hard and practice makes perfect,” he said. “It we continue to stay together, we have a good chance to win.”

Forge said the team just has to worry about winning the game, though.

“We just have to go down there and win, and we will worry about the ranking later,” he said. “That will move us to 3-0 in the conference and that would be a great start for us.”

Even though he is focusing on Henderson State, it does not mean Forge is not thinking of the big picture with the Weevils off to such a great start.

“If we can get (to the national tournament), I think we can make some noise,” he said.