UA’s Mickelson off to Kansas

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, April 26, 2013
Hunter Mickelson will transfer to Kansas, he announced Thursday.
Photo by Jason Ivester
Hunter Mickelson will transfer to Kansas, he announced Thursday.

FAYETTEVILLE - Former Arkansas forward Hunter Mickelson has never met Kansas Coach Bill Self in person, but the two soon will be seeing a lot of each other.

Mickelson, a 6-10 sophomore from Jonesboro, said Thursday he’s transferring to Kansas, where he’ll have to redshirt next season in accordance with NCAA rules and then will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

More than 60 schools expressed interest in Mickelson after he received his scholarship release from Arkansas on April 17.

He chose Kansas over Butler.

“I appreciate all the schools that showed interest, that makes me feel pretty good and hopefully shows I’m still able to play,” said Mickelson, who is completing this semester at Arkansas. “But at the end of the day, you can only play for one, and I thought Kansas was the best choice for me.

“They have tons of tradition, they always have a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament and possibly play for the national championship.”

Self has led Kansas to a 300-59 record and 10 NCAA Tournament appearances in 10 seasons, including seven trips to the Sweet 16 and the 2008 national championship. The Jayhawks have won nine consecutive Big 12 Conference championships.

“They do really well with their post guys,” Mickelson said.

“They put a lot of post guys in the NBA, and that’s where I want to be.”

Mickelson said it’s tough to leave Arkansas.

“I was pretty torn up about it for a while,” he said. “But I’ve got to do what’s best for me. I know there’s some people out there that really won’t understand that right off the bat, but hopefully there are more people out there that do understand it.

“I love Arkansas, and I enjoyed every minute of being here, but it just really wasn’t a good fit for my playing style.”

Mickelson started 20 of 32 games this season and averaged 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds in 16.6 minutes per game. But he averaged just 10.2 minutes in the final 10 games.

He played six minutes against Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament in his final game with the Razorbacks.

His diminishing playing time late in the season, Mickelson said, was an indication it would be best for him to seek a transfer.

He met with Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson on April 16 and asked for scholarship release, which Anderson agreed to and Athletic Director Jeff Long finalized the next day.

“Coach Anderson wanted me to stay, but at the same time, he understood I had to do what’s best for me,” Mickelson said. “He supported me and wished me the best, and I wish him and everyone here the best.

“Some lesser coaches could have tried to throw something in there and made it more difficult for me to leave, but Coach Anderson was a big help. I feel like I’m leaving on good terms. I hope I am.”

As a freshman, Mickelson averaged 5.2 points and 3.7 rebounds in 17.1 minutes per game. He set an Arkansas freshman record with 72 blocks, but saw that total fall to 39 this season.

“I’ve always worked hard, but I might have gotten a little bit down late this season, just because in my mind I thought I could contribute and play more than I did,” Mickelson said. “But if I lost any confidence, it’s right back now.

“With Kansas wanting me, that’s definitely a big confidence boost.”

Mickelson said he had good phone conversations with Self.

“Coach Self showed tons of interest and talked about the future, how I’d get better, how playing at Kansas is going to advance my game,” Mickelson said. “That’s something I was really excited to hear.”

Ron Crawford, Mickelson’s AAU coach with the Arkansas Wings, said he believes Mickelson will do well at Kansas.

“He’s got a year to get his body where it needs to be and improve. He’ll get to practice with the team and learn the system,” Crawford said. “Hunter wasn’t mad at anybody at Arkansas. He just wasn’t adapting to the system.

“I don’t think you need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out when you look at the minutes. Every system doesn’t fit every player.

“Hunter’s talents simply didn’t fit what Coach Anderson needed from him. He gave it two years, so everybody just ought to be happy for him, and hope he does well at Kansas.”

Mickelson said it won’t be easy sitting out next season.

“I haven’t done it before, of course, so it’s going to be an adjustment,” he said. “But I think once I get there and get comfortable and learn how things are going to go, I’ll be just fine with it, and I’ll go to work and get better.”

Mickelson is glad to have made his transfer decision.

“It’s definitely a good feeling,” he said.

“Now I can focus on finals and make sure I do well in my classes.”

Sports, Pages 19 on 04/26/2013