Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Young’s generosity pays off
Arkansas' BJ Young drives to the basket against Alabama A&M's Green Hill during the second half Saturday, Dec. 22, at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock. He finished with 13 points and a career-high 9 assists.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas sophomore guard BJ Young proved last season he could be a big-time college scorer.
Young averaged 15.3 points and was at his best against tougher competition with 31 points against Florida, 28 against Connecticut, 27 against South Carolina, 24 against Mississippi State and Oklahoma, and 21 against Alabama.
This season, he is proving he can handle the ball, too. Through 10 games he’s averaging 4.1 assists and 1.7 turnovers compared to 2.3 assists and 2.3 turnovers in 32 games last season. His plus-2.4 assistto-turnover ratio ranks sixth among SEC players and 62nd nationally.
“He’s still looking to score, but he’s got the team on his mind, too,” Arkansas sophomore forward Hunter Mickelson said. “I think he’s looking for everybody else a little bit more this year.
“Of course, he looked [to pass] last year, too, but we didn’t have as many guys as we do now. He’s got a lot more options this year, and he’s using that to our advantage.”
Arkansas was down to eight healthy scholarship players at times last season. There are 13 Razorbacks averaging between 9.2 and 28 minutes this season.
“I think we have a lot more guys this year that can make plays as well, so that takes a scoring load off of me,” Young said. “I can still score when I need to, but I like to get other guys involved, too.
“Share the wealth with everybody and make the smart play on the court. Just make the play that needs to be made at the right time.”
Young is averaging a teamhigh 16.7 points, but he’s getting more help inside with the return of junior forward Marshawn Powell from knee surgery and the addition of junior forward Coty Clarke, a junior college signee. Powell, who sustained a season-ending knee injury last year after averaging 19.5 points the first two games, is averaging 16.5 points. Mickelson is averaging 7.9 points, and Clarke is averaging 7.6.
“BJ draws a lot of attention, so that opens things up for the other guys,” Powell said. “He does a great job of giving it up at the right time.”
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson challenged Young after last season to become a better all-around player and said the assist-to-turnover ratio improvement is evidence of that progress. Young also is being unselfish against defenses geared to stop him.
“You’ve got to be a distributor if people are going to hone in on you,” Anderson said. “People are keying in on him, and of course he’s having the right mind-set of getting it to people that can make plays. Sometimes it’s not just an assist. It may be that [pass] that leads to assists.”
Young had a career-high 9 assists with 1 turnover and 13 points in the Razorbacks’ 95-68 victory over Alabama A&M last Saturday night, when he shot 5 of 11 from the field. In Arkansas’ most notable victory this season, 81-78 over Oklahoma, Young was held to 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting, but he had 8 assists and 1 turnover.
“Maybe some other people are surprised, but I already knew that I could pass it,” Young said. “I love assisting teammates. I love scoring, too, don’t get me wrong. However the game is going, that’s how I’m going to play and adjust to it.
“It’s just a fun thing, helping everybody else get involved.”
Young is averaging 14.4 shots and shooting 48.5 percent from the field. He could be averaging 20-plus points per game with a few more shots, and some players with his scoring ability wouldn’t be so willing to give up the ball as Young has demonstrated.
“It’s good to see,” Anderson said. “To me, that embodies winning. He can make other guys better. He’s becoming a more complete player, and that’s what you’re seeing.”
Against Alabama A&M, six of Young’s assists came on dunks or layups by Powell, Clarke and junior guard Rickey Scott. His other assists came on jump shots by Ky Madden, Jacorey Williams and Anthlon Bell.
“I just tell my teammates to stay ready to catch it and shoot,” Powell sad. “Marshawn and other guys have been putting the ball in the hole for me. They’ve been making me look good.
“It’s just been fun playing with guys like we’ve got that can dunk the ball and play above the rim. Hopefully, we can keep doing it throughout the season.”
Sports, Pages 15 on 12/28/2012