Brazile ramping up work

Arkansas forward Trevon Brazile prepares to take part in a drill Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, during practice inside the Marsha and Marty Martin Family Basketball Performance Center on the university campus in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Trevon Brazile participated in drills during the University of Arkansas men's basketball team's practice Thursday, but he watched from the side when the Razorbacks went 5-on-5.

Going through full-scale scrimmaging is the final step in Brazile's comeback from surgery after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee making a cut against North Carolina-Greensboro in a Dec. 6 game.

Brazile, a 6-10 redshirt sophomore, underwent surgery in late December.

"I've felt 100% for a couple weeks, but the goal is to feel like 110%," he said. "Now it's just about being patient.

"I'm in no rush, because obviously we don't play for another month."

Arkansas opens the regular season against Alcorn State on Nov. 6 and Brazile is expected to be medically cleared to play. He'll get to knock off some rust in the Red-White game (Oct. 4) and exhibition games against Division II Texas-Tyler (Oct. 20) and Purdue (Oct. 28).

"I think the target date is probably 2 1/2 weeks," Razorbacks Coach Eric Musselman said of when Brazile can go 5-on-5 full speed. "But that target can move, so I call it a moving target.

"The one thing where I think the medical staff has done a great job, and TB has done a great job, is having patience throughout this process."

Musselman said Brazile did some live 3-on-3 work last week.

"Our staff talked to a lot of NBA people on how they go about it," Musselman, a former NBA coach, said of the approach to a player coming back from major knee surgery. "I'm happy with where he's at.

"When you start going 5-on-5, that changes things. So he's going to have an adjustment period, probably for the first month of the season."

Brazile, a transfer from Missouri, was the Razorbacks' sixth man last season before he was injured. He averaged 11.8 points and a team-high 6.0 rebounds in 27.0 minutes per game off the bench. He shot 48.1% from the field (37 of 77), including 11 of 29 three-pointers. He had 11 blocked shots and hit 21 of 31 free throws.

"He's going to be a guy that, just like our team, we hope come March he's taken it up another level," Musselman said. "I think we'll see with each month him getting better and better. He's already pretty good, too."

Brazile said he'll be ready mentally to gradually work his way back into the lineup knowing that he's playing catch-up.

"That's what I've been waiting these nine months for, is to come back and do this return to play thing," Brazile said. "It's obviously going to be tough, as it would be for anybody.

"Nine months is a long time [to recover], but I'm definitely ready mentally and physically prepared for coming back."

Brazile is one of five scholarship returnees from Arkansas' 22-14 team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

There are nine newcomers, including six seniors.

"We've got a lot of new guys, but I feel like everybody's bought in," said Tramon Mark, a senior guard who transferred from Houston. "Everybody's all into the program. So practices have been good."

Musselman said he has been impressed with the players' work ethic.

"On the floor, the effort every day is more than we can ask," he said. "They're really, really trying. They picked up a lot of stuff.

"We're probably the furthest advanced we've ever been from a scheme standpoint. We still have a lot of stuff to clean up and get better, but right now I would say that scheme-wise we have as much in as maybe like mid-year almost as far as sets and some of the things that we do offensively.

"Defensively we're about where we normally are. We're not ahead at all, but we're not behind either defensively."

Makhi Mitchell, a senior forward who transferred to Arkansas from Rhode Island before last season, said the team's strong veteran presence is a plus.

"We've got a lot of experienced guys, a lot of older guys that have been in college for a long time," Mitchell said. "Coach doesn't have to say too much, because we pretty much already know what we need to do."

Musselman said senior guard Davonte "Devo" Davis, in his fourth season at Arkansas, is the team's best-conditioned player.

"Devo runs on batteries," Musselman said. "He's bionic, so I'm not really worried about Devo.

"I just think as a whole -- other than him -- we've got to get in better shape. We really do."

Davis said he's in the best shape of his life.

"I feel better than ever. I'm just ready to play," Davis said. "I want to make sure that not only am I prepared, but we're all prepared.

"I think our whole team will be ready. So when it comes to the end of the game, if the other team isn't well-conditioned, hopefully we can run them out of the gym."

Brazile said he likes the Razorbacks' chemistry and how players are eager to offer ideas to each other and accept suggestions as well.

"We pretty much meshed the first couple days we were here," Brazile said. "We immediately started doing stuff as a team, because last year I felt like in the summer maybe we weren't as connected as we could have been. This year we've meshed well from the beginning."