Kingsley earning his shot

By: Bob Holt
Published: Saturday, January 4, 2014
Arkansas' Moses Kingsley runs to defend against South Alabama's Aakim Saintil as he receives the ball during their game at Verizon Arena December 21, 2013.
Photo by Melissa Gerrits
Arkansas' Moses Kingsley runs to defend against South Alabama's Aakim Saintil as he receives the ball during their game at Verizon Arena December 21, 2013.

FAYETTEVILLE - After California took it to Arkansas physically in the Maui Invitational opener, Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson figured it was time to give freshman Moses Kingsley a shot to show if he could perform on a big stage.

Anderson wanted to see what Kingsley, 6-10 and230 pounds, could do for a team the Bears beat 85-77 on the scoreboard, 48-32 on rebounds and 24-10 on second-chance points.

“He got an opportunity to go out and play, and he played well for some extended minutes,” Anderson said. “It kind of steamrolls. You get in a situation to go out and prove and showcase yourself, and he did.

‘“He took advantage of it, and that has led to great confidence in what he’s doing.”

Kingsley - who didn’t play against California after combining for 14 minutes in the first three games against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Louisiana-Lafayette and SMU - helped the Razorbacks beat Minnesota 87-73 in their second-round game in Maui when he had 7 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in 10 minutes off the bench.

Then Kingsley played another 10 minutes in Arkansas’ Maui finale and had 9 points, 7 rebounds and 1 blocked shot in a 91-81 loss to Gonzaga.

In Arkansas’ past seven games, Kingsley is averaging 7.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots in 13.5 minutes.

“He’s bringing something we didn’t have,” Anderson said. “As a young player, you can sit there and watch and say, ‘Hey, we’re not getting the boards. We’re not physical. I see what Coach says about needing a presence on the back line.’

“So, I think he’s listening, took me at my word, and the result is that he’s playing and impacting our team.”

Kingsley said sitting out the California game made him more eager to show Anderson he deserved playing time.

“I was ready to play whenever he called on me,” Kingsley said. “I think I took advantage of that as motivation to play hard any time I got on the floor.”

The Razorbacks (10-2) will be looking for more progress from Kingsley when they play Texas-San Antonio (4-8) at 7 tonight in Walton Arena. It is Arkansas’ final nonconference game before opening SEC play Wednesday at Texas A&M.

“We’re really going to need him, because we’re still not the biggest team team in the world,” sophomore forward Michael Qualls said. “But with him, we’re solid and we’re tough.”

Kingsley hasn’t started a game, but the Razorbacks love what he provides off the bench.

“He does all the little things that people don’t want to do,” sophomore guard Anthlon Bell said. “He rebounds, he blocks shots. He does all the dirty work.”

Kingsley, who was born in Nigeria but moved to Mississippi a few years ago and played at Huntington (W.Va.) Prep last season, was rated a top-50 player by most recruiting services. He also had scholarship offers from Florida and Louisville.

Qualls said the Razorbacks can be aggressive in extending their defense, knowing Kingsley is guarding the rim. His 22 blocked shots lead the team and his average of 2.0 per game ranks fourth in the SEC.

“He’s been a great last line of defense,” Qualls said.

Kingsley was an AAU teammate of Razorbacks freshman forward Bobby Portis on the Arkansas Wings and helped them win a national championship in the summer of 2012. Kingsley spent the Christmas break with Portis in Little Rock.

“In the years before Moses got here, you could just see he was a guy hungry to learn the game, to get better at it,” Anderson said. “I think as he’s come to this level here, the competition and the repetition each and every day has helped him. And when one of your hardest-working guys is like your brother, which is Bobby, it tends to make you do some of the same things.”

Kingsley’s strengths are rebounding and blocking shots, but he is shooting 62.9 percent from the field (22 of 35) and 67.9 percent from the free-throw line (19 of 28). He scored a season-high 12 points against Tennessee-Martin and High Point, combing to make 9 of 13 shots and 6 of 8 free throws in those games.

“Moses has progressed a lot, because in AAU he didn’t really want to shoot the ball,” Portis said. “It’s like Moses’ confidence is just high right now, so the sky’s the limit for him.”

Kingsley said he has surprised himself “a little bit” with his offensive production, but that he’s worked hard on post moves in practice.

“My offensive game is coming around little by little on a daily basis,” he said. “Compared to the beginning of the season, I’ve got a lot of confidence at this point.

“The main thing is, every day I try to bring a lot of energy. That’s what keeps me going.”

Moses Kingsley glance

COLLEGE Arkansas POSITION Center CLASS Freshman AGE 19 (born Nov. 16, 1994) HEIGHT/WEIGHT 6-10, 230 pounds HIGH SCHOOL Huntington (W.Va.) Prep HOMETOWN Abuja, Nigeria. Moved to Mississippi when he was in the 10th grade.

NOTEWORTHY Averaging 5.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 11.1 minutes in 11 games.

… Didn’t play against California, but in 7 games since then is averaging 7.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots in 13.5 minutes. … Leads Arkansas with 22 blocked shots. … Rated as a top-50 player by most recruiting services last year when he averaged 8.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.1 rebounds. … Also had scholarship offers from Florida and Louisville. … Was a teammate of Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins at Huntington Prep. … Played for Arkansas Wings AAU national championship team.

Tonight’s game

Arkansas men vs. Texas-San Antonio WHEN 7 p.m.

WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville RECORDS Arkansas 10-2, UTSA 4-8 TELEVISION Razorback Sports Network on KATV, channel 7, in Little Rock; KFTA, channel 24, in Fayetteville; and KAIT, channel 8, in Jonesboro.

Sports, Pages 21 on 01/04/2014