FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — It’s sounding more and more like Nick Smith will be back probably sooner rather than later.
The Arkansas freshman went to the Maui Invitational, but didn’t play. Now they have a quick turnaround against Troy on Monday at Bud Walton Arena against Troy.
“He’s getting closer to playing for sure,” Hogs coach Eric Musselman said Saturday.
That was about as close as he was getting to disclosing anything.
“He’s starting to do some team stuff again,” Musselman said. “Today we’ll be able to get a little bit more active. Tomorrow will be more active than even today. He’s moving in the right direction for sure.”
Monday night’s game is at 7 p.m. and will be on the SEC Network. You can listen to the game online at HitThatLine.com or on ESPN Arkansas 99.5 in Fayetteville, 95.3 in the River Valley, 96.3 in Hot Springs or 104.3 in Harrison-Mountain Home.
“That’s one of the concerns is coming back and playing your first game,” Musselman said. “To my knowledge, we have the earliest game being on a Monday. Some other teams play on Tuesday and another team plays on Thursday as their first game back.
“Again, I think we have for sure as short of a turnaround as anybody. So, that is of concern. I know sleep patterns are a little bit messed up right now for all of us. But hopefully by (Sunday) night we’ll be a little bit more adjusted timeframe-wise.”
Playing three games in three nights in Maui took a physical toll. Musselman made it clear he was doing it to prepare for the SEC Tournament when they may have to play that many games in a row.
The players felt the effects.
“We’re a little banged up across the board,” point guard Anthony Black said. “Pretty tired from those three games.”
Now they have Troy coming on a 6-1 start to the season that includes an impressive win over Florida State from the ACC.
“They’re gonna be hungry,” forward Ricky Council said Monday. “They’re a pretty good defensive team. So we’re just gonna have to be ready.
“We’re seeing around the country smaller schools are beating bigger schools. We just can’t take them lightly. We just got to play our game.”
But nobody is giving out any information on when Smith will be playing. He hasn’t played in a regular-season game.
“Everybody here understands when he’s not playing how badly he wants the team to win,” Musselman said.