The University of Arkansas at Little Rock's men's basketball team is nearly at full strength.
And with Sun Belt Conference play beginning tonight against Louisiana-Monroe (7-5) at Fant-Ewing Coliseum in Monroe, La., that's good news.
Players have recently returned from injury or will in the near future, finally allowing first-year coach Darrell Walker to use all of his assets. Jaizec Lottie, the Trojans' starting sophomore point guard, should also return weeks ahead of schedule from a fractured finger.
"And then we'll be ready to go," said Walker. "Full strength, for once."
Lottie was originally expected to miss six weeks with a broken finger he suffered in 26 minutes of UALR's 99-89 loss at Memphis on Dec. 19.
Lottie's recovery time was expedited to 8-10 days on Wednesday, Walker said.
"That's great news for us," the coach said. "But you know, we've had some good practices ,and I feel like my team is ready to play."
Redshirt junior guard Deondre Burns (turf toe) returned from a 2 1/2-week absence to play 24 minutes at Memphis and 16 at Georgetown. Burns' toe injury swelled following the 102-94 overtime loss to the Hoyas, and he is questionable for tonight's game.
Neither Burns nor Lottie is expected to be ready tonight, but both could return for UALR's first homestand of league play -- Jan. 10 against Troy or Dec. 12 vs. South Alabama, Walker said.
Unless they're ready sooner than predicted, it is likely both guards will miss UALR's (5-8) initial conference road games at Louisiana-Monroe and Saturday at Louisiana-Lafayette.
Returning Burns to his guard rotation will give Walker another trusted option off the bench. UALR's bench has scored fewer than 20 points in four of the past five games.
"It's going to be a huge help because he's a guy that can come off the bench and give you 10-20 [points] a game, especially if he starts rolling," Walker said. "We miss those points. We really do."
Sophomore forward Damir Hadzic, who has missed all 13 games with a broken wrist, also has returned to practice and could make his season debut soon. Hadzic was one of six Trojans who returned from the 2017-18 roster.
"Damir's doing fine," Walker said. "He's been practicing hard. He's been playing. He's getting back into the groove of things. We'll try to figure out how to work him in and give him a few minutes."
Walker started four freshmen (guards Markquis Nowell and Horace Wyatt Jr. and forwards Kamani Johnson and Nikola Maric) and one junior (guard Rayjon Tucker) at Georgetown. Reserve guard Ryan Pippins (pulled hamstring) also returned for UALR's games at Memphis and Georgetown.
"I've gotten a lot of phone calls from a lot of people saying, 'I can't believe you're starting four freshmen and a junior. You guys are playing well,' " Walker said. "I tell them, 'yeah, playing hard and winning are two different things.' "
UALR men at Louisiana-Monroe
WHEN 7 p.m. Central today
WHERE Fant-Ewing Coliseum, Monroe, La.
RECORDS UALR 5-8, 0-0 Sun Belt Conference; Louisiana-Monroe 7-5, 0-0
SERIES UALR leads 18-15.
RADIO KKPT-FM, 94.1, in Little Rock
INTERNET ESPN Plus
78.6 Points for 73.8
78.2 Points against 67.8
-0.2 Rebound margin -4.5
-1.7 Turnover margin +1.6
49.7 FG pct. 43.0
34.2 3-pt pct. 40.3
62.7 FT pct. 75.1
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
POS. NAME, HT, YR. PPG RPG
G Rayjon Tucker, 6-5, Jr. 20.8 6.9
G Markquis Nowell, 5-8, Fr. 11.2 3.9
G Horace Wyatt Jr., 6-7, Fr. 2.9 1.3
F Kamani Johnson, 6-8, Fr. 4.2 4.3
C Nikola Maric, 6-10, Fr. 11.6 4.2
COACH Darrell Walker (50-26 overall)
POS. NAME, HT, YR. PPG RPG
G Daishon Smith, 6-1, Sr. 18.4 3.4
G Michael Ertel, 6-2, So. 13.8 2.3
G JD Williams, 6-4, Jr. 11.0 4.6
F Tyree White, 6-7, Jr. 4.1 3.1
F Travis Munnings, 6-6, Sr. 13.8 6.8
COACH Keith Richard (250-280 overall)
CHALK TALK UALR open Sun Belt Conference play for the first time under Coach Darrell Walker today. … Louisiana-Monroe is 10-6 against UALR in Monroe. … UALR is shooting 49.7 percent from the field, which is No. 2 in the Sun Belt and No. 22 in the nation.
Sports on 01/03/2019
Print Headline: Trojans getting healthier