Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Mickelson’s progression coming along
Arkansas sophomore Hunter Mickelson (21) blocks a shot during Arkansas' win over Alabama A&M at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock on Dec. 22, 2012.
FAYETTEVILLE Hunter Mickelson couldn’t stop his 6-10, 245-pound frame from stumbling into a traveling violation last Saturday.
Later, the Arkansas Razorbacks’ sophomore forward wasted a steal by not accounting for the little Northwestern State guard sneaking behind him who swiped away Mickelson’s would-be layup.
You could say Mickelson has a ways to go.
In fact, Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said just that Thursday.
Yet it’s pretty remarkable where Mickelson’s game has been, where it is and certainly where it could go. The Jonesboro Westside graduate already has done things no Razorback has done. He may do many more if he is here four years, though the NBA eventually could intercede.
The pros love big men with potential, and Mickelson has that.
Mickelson blocked 72 shots last season. He set an Arkansas freshman record, which is a remarkable record given the freshman shot blocking over these past 29 years by Andrew Lang, Oliver Miller and Steven Hill.
By offensive comparison to Mickelson, Lang, a 12-year NBA man, and Hill were one-dimensional.
Mickelson’s ability and versatility make him more like Miller, who could instantly convert from defense to offense as a passer, a shooter or by running the floor.
In Saturday’s 79-61 victory over Northwestern State, Mickelson had a career-high 13 rebounds, blocked 4 shots and scored 8 points.
“I blocked a lot of shots last year but I didn’t get as many rebounds as I should have,” Mickelson said. “Hopefully I am changing that.”
Anderson would like to see another baker’s dozen of rebounds again tonight in the nonconference finale against Delaware State at Walton Arena before Arkansas opens its SEC season Wednesday at Texas A&M.
“Can you get me 13 rebounds in one game?” Anderson said. “Can you be a guy that’s going to protect the paint for us? He can be a mismatch with a lot of people because he can step out and shoot the basketball. He’s got a nice hook shot down low. We just want him to improve and develop.”
Mickelson and Miller share some similar skills but different attitudes.
Miller’s penchant for overeating, particularly during his senior year at Arkansas and beyond in the pros, prevented him from being all he could be. But his confident disregard for his opponent stood him up as much as his disregard for diet let him down.
Nolan Richardson fondly recalls Miller’s reply - “Bring his a++ on!” - when the former Arkansas coach asked Miller if he was up to guarding LSU behemoth Shaquille O’Neal, whom he played against superbly.
Mickelson trains the right way and conducts himself the right way - sometimes too much in the right way, Anderson said. The coach wants and says he’s starting to see a little brashness on the court from the young man all admire as so polite off the court.
“The more you see him play with that passion, play with that assertiveness, I think the better he plays,” Anderson said.
Or as teammate Marshawn Powell put it, smiling: “I guess he’s finally figured out he’s 6-10. He’s playing real, real good.”
Sports, Pages 20 on 01/05/2013