FAYETTEVILLE — Summer Fridays for the University of Arkansas basketball team mean spending time together away from the court.
It’s a process designed to help players and coaches get to know each other better in a more relaxed setting than the practice gym or weight room.
After all the Razorbacks arrived on campus, the first two Fridays included golf and boxing practices.
The third Friday was dedicated to community service.
Players and coaching staff and support staff from Arkansas were at New Beginnings — a self-managed housing community in Fayetteville for those in need of temporary shelter — to help with general upkeep of the land and gardening.
Instead of basketballs, the Razorbacks worked with shovels.
It’s not quite the same as hitting golf balls or putting on boxing gloves, but the players had fun working together.
“When we told them what we were doing, there was no apprehension,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said of the players’ reaction to working at New Beginnings. “It was two feet away.
“For them, it’s also a commitment, because it’s a Friday at 5 p.m. and they’re there not to start their weekend, but to give back to the community.”
Barry Dunning is one of six freshmen for the Razorbacks. His mother, Helen, owns a cleaning business in Mobile, Alabama, and he grew up helping her at work.
So making sure things look good, whether inside or out, comes naturally to Dunning.
“My mom taught me to keep the house clean,” Dunning said. “Keeping things clean creates a good environment and makes you feel good too.”
Dunning’s roommates are three other freshmen – Derrian Ford, Joseph Pinion and Jordan Walsh.
“We hold each other accountable,” Dunning said. “We make sure to take out the trash and wash the dishes and everything is well maintained.”
Dunning said the Razorbacks enjoyed their job Friday.
“We love being in the community to volunteer and give back,” he said. “We never take the things we have for granted.
“This team and the coaching staff are full of good-hearted people and we appreciate that. We will help the community in any way we can every day.
Danyelle Musselman, Eric’s wife, is a board member of New Beginnings, which opened September 20, 2021.
“Eric’s favorite word is teamwork, so I feel like that adds another layer to that,” Danyelle Musselman said of Friday’s activity. “I just think it’s so important to get out of your bubble and really go and dive into the community and see what’s going on.
“I want the people of Northwest Arkansas to know it’s here, and if they feel like helping out, please do so.”
Along with Dunning, Ford, Pinion, and Walsh, the other Razorbacks freshmen are Anthony Black and Nick Smith.
Transfer additions are Trevon Brazile (Missouri), Ricky Council (Wichita State), Jalen Graham (Arizona State) and twins Makhi and Makhel Mitchell (Rhode Island).
Returning scholarship players are Davonte “Devo” Davis and Kamani Johnson with walk-ons Lawson Blake and Cade Arbogast also returning.
“It helps us come together,” Smith said of the players working at New Beginnings. “It’s a good thing for the team, and definitely a good thing for the community for sure.”
Eric and Danyelle Musselman have welcomed the players to their homes on several occasions this summer.
“When we’re at home, it’s fun and we keep it light,” Danyelle Musselman said of her husband who didn’t do any workouts at home. “It really is like a family dinner.”
Last week, Council and Davis said players were freezing fast.
“It’s crazy how we all come together, coming from different backgrounds, from different fields,” Dunning said. “But we all have the same passion for basketball and the same goals to help the team win.”
Musselman said he and his wife — a former broadcaster with ESPN, Fox and the NFL Network — wanted to be part of the community.
“Certainly with Danyelle, she does a great job of leading by example,” Eric Musselman said. “Like the five working days of the week, I feel like my wife is working. Because she has her hands in so many different things.
Eric Musselman said Friday’s work at New Beginnings provided some good life lessons for the Razorbacks.
“Some guys maybe really grew up in tough situations, but maybe some guys didn’t, and you can see the different challenges that people face,” Musselman said. “When they finish the day, they will probably be surprised at how difficult certain circumstances can be for people.
“We’ll talk about it on Monday. We’ll have different guys stand up and say what did that mean to you? What have you learned? What did you feel in your heart?