Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy, has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, and has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Not first choice, Durham can score if needed
Arkansas guard Jabril Durham drives the ball against Southern on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Jabril Durham explained his point guard's creed after totaling 16 assists in the Arkansas Razorbacks' two exhibition basketball victories.
"Being a point guard, I just want to help my teammates," Durham said. "I feel an assist makes two people happy. It makes me happy and it makes the person who scores happy. So I would rather have two people happy than one."
Occasionally Durham violates his point guard's creed. For occasionally his teammates' happiness not only begins with their second-year junior college transfer senior point guard but completes with him, too.
Certainly it did in Arkansas' season-opening 86-68 victory over the Southern University Jaguars last Friday night at Walton Arena.
Statistically, Arkansas prevailed primarily on Durham dealing 10 of Arkansas' 21 assists while center Moses Kingsley scored 22 points with guards Dusty Hannahs, Anthlon Bell and Jimmy Whitt scoring 21, 14 and 12, respectively.
So Durham surprised Southern shooting the game's pivotal shot.
Down 19 late in the first half that the Jaguars ultimately trailed 40-25 at intermission, Southern sliced it to 62-56 with 7:36 left.
On the perimeter, Southern forced Arkansas' point guard to pass. Durham had taken only five shots total in the two exhibitions and was shooting an innocuous 2 for 5 against Southern.
But Arkansas hadn't hit a field goal since Kingsley's three-point play at 10:36. The Hogs needed a big shot. Durham took it. His three-pointer upped Arkansas by nine. Southern never again drew closer than eight.
"It was a big shot," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "It stopped their run and got us back to where we could get our defense set and ease away from Southern. For him that was a good confidence booster. I said, 'Hey, man do it again. Don't just do it one time."
Anderson doesn't want Durham too frequently firing away when other Hogs shoot with hot hands.
But the coach wants his point guard shooting well enough and often enough that defenses respect his shot and pay a price like Southern did if they don't.
"Hopefully he is going to be a guy that gets in there and distributes and finds the open guys," Anderson said. "And when people back off of him he has to be able to knock shots down."
Defensively, Durham continues "to be all over the place," Anderson said approvingly.
Against Southern, Durham gathered four rebounds with team highs of four steals, 10 assists and 34 minutes played. He also logged a dubious team high six turnovers after committing only three total in the two exhibitions.
"Six turnovers," Durham said disgustedly. "That was a pretty sloppy game for a senior guard. I will get better at that."
He knows he must.
With sophomore Anton Beard indefinitely suspended pending his December court date, Jabril Durham is Arkansas' only true point guard. That renders his role truly important.
"As long as I run the team and we win the point guard battle, we have a nice chance of winning each game," Durham said.
Sports on 11/16/2015
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