Haydar making grade on, off court

By: Nate Allen
Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Kikko Haydar, shown in this 2011 file photo, hit all four of his 3-point attempts at Michigan last Saturday.
Photo by William Moore
Kikko Haydar, shown in this 2011 file photo, hit all four of his 3-point attempts at Michigan last Saturday.

— As a University of Arkansas student-athlete, Kikko Haydar chose to be the athlete.

The student part conscripted him. Practically since moving to Fayetteville at the age of a year and a half from Massachusetts and his father’s native Lebanon, the son of UA professors Adnan and Paula Haydar had no alternative but to hit the books.

“No, I didn’t have a choice,” Haydar said. “My oldest brother is a neuroscientist. My middle brother is an ER doctor. My dad went to college when he was 14.

“School always came before basketball. I wasn’t allowed to play if I didn’t do well. Luckily I did well most of the time.”

So well that the Razorbacks junior guard and Fayetteville High School graduate received the UA’s most prestigious academic scholarship, the Bodenhamer Fellowship, which has been earned by only two Razorbacks before him.

The fellowship doesn’t go to justany fellow. Its requirements include a minimum 32 composite ACT score and a combined 1420 SAT score or be a National Merit finalist or semifinalist and “demonstrate strong academic performance and leadership.”

Haydar demonstrates it in a major way.

“I am a kinesiology, pre-professional science with a pre-med focus,” Haydar said of his major. “I also have a minor in Arabic, so I have a lot going on. I definitely lean on my academics. That is why I am here.”

Well, not entirely.

Academics gave him the choice of Ivy League schools. Basketball kept him home. He walked on at Arkansas even though he is just 5-10 and was recruited elsewhere mostly for his grades, not hoops, despite helping Fayetteville win the state championship.

“Basketball, to me, is like a drug,” Haydar said. “I just can’t get enough of it. Growing up in Fayetteville, I wanted to be a Razorback. I believe in myself to defy the odds, so to speak.”

Count second-year Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson and Oklahoma and Michigan coaches Lon Kruger and John Beilein among the believers.

During last week’s 81-78 victory over Oklahoma, Haydar’s four second-half minutes produced a threepointer that stopped an Oklahoma run plus a steal and assist.

Last Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich., Haydar took third-ranked Michigan to school. Mighty Michigan prevailed, 80-67, but not beforeHaydar scored a career-high 13 points in 19 minutes, making 4 of 4 three-pointers.

Beilein was flabbergasted by the walk-on who wasn’t even mentioned in the scouting report.

“I didn’t know who he was,” Beilein said. “I thought he walked in off the street.”

Haydar’s points were wonderful but really just a bonus, Anderson said. The thing Anderson most admires about his “little kamikaze guy” is his relentless defense and work ethic.

“When he is out on the floor,” Anderson said, “I am very confident what will take place.”

Highly recruited BJ Young, Arkansas’ 6-3 sophomore who led the team in scoring last season, said it wasn’t long after his arrival before he was looking up to the 5-10 walk-on.

“Last year I called him the monster in practice,” Young said. “He was running around chasing me every day. He finally got a chance to get in the game and do the same things.”

Sports, Pages 14 on 12/12/2012