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.
Rebuilt Hog playing like ‘one-man wrecking force’
Arkansas junior forward Marshawn Powell (33) motions to his teammates against Oklahoma in the second half Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks won 81-78.
FAYETTEVILLE South Carolina Coach Frank Martin knew about Marshawn Powell but hadn’t seen Arkansas’ 6-7 redshirt junior forward play in person until last Saturday.
The Gamecocks beat the Razorbacks 75-54, but Powell showed up big with 22 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.
“He’s a first-team all-league player,” Martin said. “I remember him as a high school kid, and I thought he was good then. I remember him before he got hurt, and I thought he was good then. Now that I’ve watched him on film and played against him, I think he’s real good.
“He’s a hard, hard matchup and really, really knows how to score.”
Martin said what he likes best about Powell is his demeanor during the game.
Arkansas (12-7, 3-3 SEC) vs. Alabama (12-7, 4-2)
WHERE: Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
WHEN: 8:05 p.m.
“When he makes a basket,he doesn’t run around punching his chest and doing all that stuff,” Martin said. “He just plays.”
Powell has had plenty to pound his chest and scream about in his comeback season from knee surgery, especially in SEC play.
“Right now you look at our team and Marshawn has probably been like a one-man wrecking force for the most part,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “We’ve got to get other guys involved.”
While the Razorbacks have been tough at home (12-1) and winless outside of Arkansas (0-6) going into tonight’s game at Alabama, Powell has been good everywhere in the SEC - except College Station, Texas. Powell was held scoreless in Texas A&M’s 69-51 victory over Arkansas in the SEC opener Jan. 9. He went 0 of 2 from the field and didn’t attempt a free throw while having five turnovers in 12minutes, drawing two fouls in each half.
It is only the second time Powell has been held scoreless in his 81-game career. He didn’t attempt a shot or free throw while playing one minute - then-Coach John Pelphrey’s decision - against Texas Southern during the 2010-2011 season.
Powell said after the Razorbacks returned home from College Station, he stayed up until the early morning hours watching old game tapes and realizing he needed to stay out of foul trouble and get off to a fast start.
In five SEC games since then, Powell’s play has been one long highlight tape.
“He’s a very difficult matchup at the four position because he can play inside and out,” said Auburn Coach Tony Barbee, who watched Powell get 28 points, 11 rebounds and 6 steals in 44 minutes to lead the Razorbacks to an 88-80 double overtime victory against the Tigers. “He’s a nightmare for any team.”
In home victories against Vanderbilt, Auburn and Mississippi State and road losses at Ole Miss and South Carolina, Powell has averaged 20.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals in 32.8 minutes per game. During that span he also has shot 57.1 percent from the field (40 of 70) and hit 73.7 percent of his free throws (14 of 19) and 46.2 percent of his three-pointers (6 of 13) while not having more than three fouls in any game.
“I think he has a total package of what you’re looking for in a skilled forward,” Mississippi State Coach Rick Ray said. “That’s the type of skilled forward that I’d like to have on my team.”
Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said the Crimson Tide approach games from a team concept, but he can’t help but see how well Powell is playing.
“You look at some of the numbers he’s putting up from an offensive standpoint, he’s a guy to me that’s just wired to score,” Grant said.
Ray said he’s impressed by Powell’s ability to create his own shots.
“I think the thing that’s unique about Marshawn is he doesn’t need to have deep post position or an angle,” Ray said. “You can throw the ball to him off the block and he’s still a threat to score.”
Powell, averaging 15.7 points and 5.8 rebounds in 19 games, has yet to declare himself 100 percent recovered from surgery he underwent last year to repair torn ligaments in his right knee, but he has to be getting close, considering a fast-break dunk he had against Mississippi State.
While the basket was disallowed - Powell was called for charging as his right knee caught Bulldogs 6-3 guard Tyson Cunningham in the face - the play showed Powell isn’t holding himself back in any way, though he continues to wear a knee brace.
“I just think it’s been a progression with Marshawn,” Anderson said. “I mean, just from the way he’s playing, the way he’s walking, the way he’s talking.
“I think he’s having confidence in what he’s doing. ... He’s feeling like, ‘Hey, I’m the most experienced guy here and these guys will follow.’ So I just like his body language at this point in time and what he’s saying to our players.”
Last week Anderson named Powell a team captain along with junior guard Kikko Haydar.
“If I’m going to look up to somebody, it’s Marshawn,” Arkansas freshman forward Jacorey Williams said. “Everything he says is pretty much right, and he’s out there busting his tail every day.”
Sports, Pages 19 on 01/31/2013