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.
Madden elevates game, now go-to guy for Hogs
Arkansas guard Rashad Madden (00) passes around Kentucky center Dakari Johnson during the second half of play Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
BATON ROUGE - Ky Madden, who ranked sixth in scoring among Arkansas’ returning players, is now the SEC’s sixth-leading scorer.
The 6-5 junior guard from Lepanto is averaging 17.7 points in SEC play going into the Razorbacks’ game against LSU at 4 p.m. today at Maravich Assembly Center.
“Who would’ve ever thought it? Me, being the go to guy for this season, for this team?” Madden said. “But it’s really just the coaches and my teammates having the confidence in me to go to me.
“When you’ve got somebody behind you, believing in you … I don’t want to let them down. So it drives me to go harder and harder and harder just for my team and for the state.”
After averaging 3.2 points in SEC games last season, Madden has scored a career-high 24 points against Auburn, 23 against Florida, 20 against Missouri and 18 against Kentucky. He ranks third in SEC play in three point shooting at 46.3 percent.
“He’s made a huge jump from last year to this year, in my opinion,” Florida Coach Billy Donovan said. “He’s shooting the ball exceptionally well behind the three point line. I think when he does that, he becomes very difficult to guard because he can play in the lane, too.”
Arkansas senior guard Fred Gulley said he has been impressed by Madden’s consistency.
“Everybody can come out and do it one game, but he’s been doing it game in and game out,” Gulley said.
Madden has developed into a team leader since missing the first two exhibition games and the opener against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville after Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson suspended him for the third time in three seasons for disciplinary reasons.
“Coach A has been good,” Madden said. “He’s been pushing me along.”
Madden also credited his cousin, Marcus Monk, with helping his turnaround. Monk, who played football and basketball for the Razorbacks, is a graduate assistant coach with the basketball program.
“He’s in my ear all the time, good or bad,” Madden said. “He tells me everything I need to hear. He tells me the truth no matter what.”
Madden said he had a long talk with Monk after last season.
“He asked me what do I want to do. Turn the page and move forward, or stay in the same spot I am and be average?” Madden said. “I don’t want to be average. Nobody wants to be average. I want to be the best, so in order to be the best, you’ve got to put in the work. Do the small things on and off the court to be successful.”
Madden came to Arkansas from East Poinsett County High School as the one of the top 40 players in nation, but he averaged 5.4 rebounds, 2.9 rebounds and 18.3 minutes in 63 games his first two seasons.
After coming off suspension this season, Madden quickly asserted himself with 9 points against SMU, 10 against California and 11 against Minnesota while hitting 8 of 13 three-pointers. He has started the past 14 games.
Anderson said maturity has resulted in Madden finally making the transition from high school to college.
“He probably had never been challenged,” Anderson said. “Now you’re playing with other good players, but not only that, your demands are a little different, too. In high school, your schedule is not as rigid as it is once you get up here, so you’ve got to be disciplined.
“I think Ky is just getting more serious about basketball and school, too. It kind of goes hand in hand.”
After Madden was suspended for a game at South Carolina last season, he combined for 28 assists with 6 turnovers in the final 13 games. Against Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament, he had 7 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocked shots without a turnover in 24 minutes.
His strong finish helped motivate him to work harder in the off season.
“Late nights in the gym,early mornings,” he said. “I took no days off, didn’t go home in the summertime. I stayed up here and just worked hard and tried to get better for me and better for my team.”
Auburn Coach Tony Barbee said Madden has helped fill the void from the departure of guard BJ Young, who averaged team highs of 15.3 and 15.2 points for Arkansas the previous two seasons.
“Last year’s team was built around BJ and his ability to score,” Barbee said. “Now with him gone, Madden fits into that role perfectly because he scores it the same way, if not even better because of his ability to shoot the ball.
“It’s all about confidence and opportunity, and he’s got both now.”
Madden said he was humbled by his first two seasons at Arkansas and felt pressure for immediate success so he could leave early for the NBA.
“Everybody wants you to be the one-and-done,” he said. “You have people in your ear every day, telling you what to do. Now, I’ve learned, the challenge is just to block it out.”
Today’s game ARKANSAS MEN VS. LSU WHEN 4 p.m. Central today WHERE Maravich Assembly Center, Baton Rouge RECORDS Arkansas 13-7, 2-5 SEC; LSU 13-6, 4-3 SERIES Arkansas leads 31-25 TELEVISION ESPNU RADIO Razorbacks Sports Network
Sports, Pages 21 on 02/01/2014