“Primetime at the Palace” Yields Promising Results

In case you weren’t able to attend last night’s events, here’s a quick run-down.

Bud Walton Arena hosted “Primetime at the Palace” last night, the program’s first (variation of) midnight madness in several years.  The event featured scrimmages from both the women’s and men’s teams, a hot-shot contest, and a dunk contest.  Oh, and we welcomed home a winning basketball coach from his brief vacation at UAB and Missouri.

Hunter Mickelson’s team won the hot-shot contest.  That’s about all I have to say… about that.

The dunk contest was quite fun, especially for the younger generation (I must admit, I get a little giddy over those-type things) and gave the crowd a glimpse of some athleticism from the newcomers.  Devonta Abron, Davion Spivey (a high-flying walk-on), Ky Madden, and BJ Young participated.  Highlights of the contest can be seen on the official Arkansas Razorbacks website, but if you just want a quick summation, BJ Young won with some spectacular dunks, including his winning dunk over one of the team’s staff members.  Madden showed some athleticism and tried to impress the crowd with a between-the-legs dunk but just couldn’t get it to go down.  Abron showed some hops for his size and made an early display of his unselfishness by letting Kikko see above the rim.  Spivey sort of came out of nowhere and opened some eyes with some acrobatic slams, including some oops off the backboard.

Onto the scrimmage…  Before I begin, remember that this 20 minute scrimmage was just that – a 20 minute scrimmage.  One can’t draw too many conclusions from such a short event.

Now, I know that they are few in number, but if you’re (gasp) a lazy reader, here are some main points gathered from the scrimmage:

  • Guard play shouldn’t be a problem this year.
  • The freshman all pretty much come as advertised.
  • Post play is still a bit of an unknown…
  • The returning players should carry the majority of the load this year.

The Backcourt:
As expected, guard depth will not hold us back this year.  This is very refreshing news given the pace of Anderson’s teams.  Julysses Nobles (perhaps one of the most important returnees this year) wasn’t a huge factor in the game last night.  His shot form looked a bit different, but he was shooting off momentum most of the night.  He should still be a force when playing on-ball defense.  Mardracus Wade, another returnee, looked solid driving to the hoop… I hope to see less hesitation out of him this year.  Rickey Scott quietly stole the night with 12 points and scored at will in the open court.  He also knocked down two shots from the perimeter and showed quickness and true basketball IQ.  He has a great frame to accompany his quickness and should help on the boards this year.  Ky Madden is very lengthy and has a nice mid-range jumper (the lost art of basketball if you ask me).  He’s also athletic and can play above the rim.  Madden could create some matchup problems when defended by smaller guards.  Few left the building without knowing who BJ Young was.  Young showed freakish athleticism and the ability to score in the open court.  He’s fast and furious and should bring some energy to the team.  I’d expect a few highlight dunks from him this year.  He didn’t shoot much sans a few close-range jumpers, so I have no evaluation on that end.  Kikko Haydar is a sniper from downtown and a fan-favorite.  I don’t know whether to expect minutes from him this year or not, but he and Spivey look like serviceable walk-ons.

As a whole, the Arkansas backcourt should be quick, carry the scoring load, contribute to rebounding, and fit Mike’s defensive philosophy perfectly.  The lack of a consistent threat from the perimeter might haunt this team down the road, though, especially in crunch-time.

The Frontcourt:
Most fans following the basketball team closely know to expect a possible drop-off in production down low.  Unfortunately, Michael Sanchez was yet again on the sideline due to his body continuing its self-destruction mode.  The injury *seems* minor this time, so we’ll see how it pans out.  Devonta Abron, a lefty freshman PF out of Texas, already has the body of an SEC post-player.  He’s also athletic for his size.  His choices offensively left a bit to be desired as he was resorting to tough shots rather than utilizing his big frame to back-down defenders and get easier looks.  He has time to improve, though, and last night was his first time playing college ball.  Abron should contribute on the boards as well.  Mickelson, another newcomer, looked solid with 12 points and 6 rebounds and has definitely worked on his frame since arriving on campus.  He has a nice jumper from the elbow and wasn’t afraid to go down low and fight for points and rebounds.  Marvell Waithe also fought down low but couldn’t get much to go down.  He’s extremely lengthy and will hopefully contribute to rebounding this year.  I’m still waiting on his shot to start falling, which was one of his main selling points while being recruited.  Marshawn Powell has his body back but wasn’t able to get into the game (his shot was flat).  There shouldn’t be any cause for concern here.  I expect Powell to lead the team in scoring.

Although this song has looped endlessly for the past few years, youth and inexperience as a squad will haunt us this season.  Thankfully, the leader of the pack is at home and not missing his friends in Omaha or still trying to make a name for himself.  We have a proven winner on the sidelines with a group of talented players about to be molded into a solid team.  They should be fun (abeit sometiems frustrating) to watch this year.  Go support them!

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