Qualls not just a highlight reel so far

By: Nate Allen
Published: Monday, December 9, 2013
Arkansas forward Michael Qualls goes up for a dunk. Qualls is the Razorbacks' leading scorer, averaging 15.8 points per game.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas forward Michael Qualls goes up for a dunk. Qualls is the Razorbacks' leading scorer, averaging 15.8 points per game.

FAYETTEVILLE - Any illustrated book on Michael Qualls still would start with a dunk.

Pages and pages of nationally acclaimed dunks.

Eventually, though, the book would have to move on. This yearit wouldn’t be picture of dunks then The End.

In between, the book on Michael Qualls reveals the 6-6 Arkansas sophomore guard/ small forward from Shreveport isn’t just a dunker anymore.

Name most any current Razorbacks individual stat and Qualls is at or near the top.

Qualls leads in scoring and rebounding, averaging 15.6 and 5.9, respectively, for the 6-2 Hogs after Saturday’s 74-68 victory over Clemson.

His 17 assists rank him second to point guard Fred Gulley’s 20. His seven blocked shots tie him for third on the team with 6-10 freshman center Bobby Portis.

Other than the .909 and .833 free throw percentage by guards Mardracus Wade and Gulley in far fewer attempts, 10 of 11 and 5 of 6, Qualls’ .818 (27 of 33) leads Arkansas’ free throw percentage. Aside from Kikko Haydar’s 8 of 14 for .571 percent, and Coty Clarke’s .500 at 1 of 2, Qualls leads Arkansas in three point shooting percentage (.462) with 12 of 26.

The stats reflect Qualls evolution from creator of highlights to guiding light.

“It just doesn’t have to be highlights,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said after the Clemson game. “He’s evolving as a player. With his explosiveness from an athletic standpoint I think he’s becoming a complete player.”

Of course the dunk remains a key part of the Qualls’ arsenal. At Walton, Qualls’ dunks rise the crowd even above the artificial din that marketing newcomers insist on inflicting upon an arena whose self-sustained atmosphere used to be the envy of college and NBA teams alike.

Qualls’ highlight-reel dunks not only ignite Walton Arena like nothing else but often get accompanied with a foul for a potential three point play.

However if defenders know that’s always what Qualls strives to do, the easier for them preventing him doing it.

With Qualls connecting on 6 of 7 from from the floor, plus 3 of 4 from the line for a team-leading 17 points while guard Ky Madden and Portis added 14 and 13, Clemson had no answers.

“I’ve got it through my head that I can’t dunk every time,” Qualls said. “People are going to be 5 feet away from the basket trying to stop me getting to the rim. So a nice little pull-up, that helps me tremendously.”

It also helps when Arkansas hits 10 of its first 15 three-pointers, as it did against Clemson.

“A lot of people try to play us to shoot the three-ball because we are an attacking team,” Qualls said.

“So now I feel like that we can knock down the three-ball they are going to have to play us up more and now we can be able to play more how we want to play getting to the rim.”

Sports, Pages 16 on 12/09/2013