Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America, and was awarded 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
'We've relied on him a lot': Hogs need prime Council in postseason
Arkansas guard Ricky Council celebrates a field goal during a game against Georgia on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Ricky Council’s first postseason at Arkansas began with a pair of All-SEC honors.
Council, who transferred from Wichita State, was selected Monday to the coaches’ second team, and he was the lone Razorback named to The Associated Press’ All-SEC second team Tuesday. According to the AP release, he also received one vote for SEC newcomer of the year.
Council is the second Eric Musselman-recruited transfer to earn all-league recognition at Arkansas, joining guard JD Notae, who was a consensus All-SEC first-team choice in 2021-22.
“He basically doubled up his scoring and his assists totals from last year,” Musselman said. “You would say that he transferred up maybe a little bit, but his stats (improved). We’ve relied on him a lot.
“He’s come off the bench for us of late (and) he’s started for us.”
Council has largely been consistent for the Razorbacks regardless of his role.
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In 25 starts this season he has averaged 16.6 points on 44.9% from the field, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists. And in 6 games as a reserve, Council has added 16.5 points on 47.6% shooting, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists.
The wing enters this week’s SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn., as Arkansas’ leading scorer at 16.5 points per game after averaging 16.8 in the final five games of the regular season. He led the team in scoring (14.9) in conference play.
“I think we saw that a couple years ago with JD Notae, the importance of a guy that can come in if you're not scoring the ball,” Musselman said after Council scored 22 points off the bench against Georgia. “It changes the way people have to defend us as well, because he's such a good isolation player. He's such a good free-throw attempt player.
“It changes who we are when he's making perimeter shots to go along with his transition dunks and transition points and free throws attempted.”
The Razorbacks are scheduled to open the postseason Thursday against Auburn at 6 p.m. Council finished with 14 points on 5 of 15 from the field during Arkansas’ 72-59 road loss to the Tigers in January.
There is perhaps reason for optimism that Council can show well in the postseason. In four neutral-site games as a Razorback, he is averaging 21 points on 47% shooting, 2.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.2 steals.
Council scored 24 points during Arkansas’ loss to Creighton at the Maui Invitational in November, then added 26 points in a 10-point win over Oklahoma at Tulsa’s BOK Center in December.
For his career, he has averaged 13.6 points in 10 neutral-site games.
“We need him to play really, really well for us to play at our best, because, again, any time you have a player who is the third-leading scorer in the conference, that’s a heavy load to carry every single night,” Musselman said.
“We need Ricky, now that we’re in postseason play, to have good games for us.”
Musselman said Council has adjusted well to coming off the bench late in the season.
“Coach (Anthony) Ruta put in the group thread we have amongst our staff what he’s done over the last five games (and) his production actually went up slightly in a lot of areas,” Musselman said. “Having said that, as we continue to just try to figure out who we're going to start for Auburn, I mean, we could change the starting lineup. We're still talking to the team about matchups.
“Whatever role we ask of him, whether it is coming off the bench or whatever, he has been a heavy-minutes player and heavy-production minute guy for us.”
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