LITTLE ROCK — Without fanfare, thousands of college students transfer every year.
Finances. Family obligations. Homesick. Social climate. Love. Change of majors. There are a myriad of reasons — some the result of unavoidable circumstances, others rooted in personal feelings.
Often involved in the decision, friends and relatives who care want the students to be happy.
Hunter Mickelson’s departure from the University of Arkansas is talk show fodder and merits newspaper headlines because he is a Razorback basketball player. Long before and after basketball, he is the son of Darien and Lynne Mickelson and they want him to be happy; every parent can empathize with that.
Extricate the young man from basketball, know that he is unhappy, and the goodbye includes “Good luck.”
Mickelson’s decision was not a huge surprise. His minutes were down from his freshman year and there were rumblings when he played 10 minutes or less in six of the last 10 games.
His father was up front with beat writer Robbie Neiswanger about the “big reservations” he had about his son fitting in Mike Anderson’s system when Hunter decided on Arkansas. “But he’s an Arkansas kid and that’s all he wanted to do was play for the Hogs,” Darien said. “That’s what we’re going for moving forward. Just trying to find a better fit and see if he can achieve his goals.”
It is interesting that Anderson mentioned how Mickelson’s weight had affected his mobility. Because of hype, I went to an AAU tournament in Little Rock in the spring of 2011 to see Mickelson, Aaron Ross, and Rashad Madden compete. My impression of Mickelson was twofold — he could really run the court, a must in Anderson’s system, and he was only 200 pounds max. In Fayetteville a few months later for football media days, I dropped by Walton Arena and was struck by the weight Mickelson had gained.
In the UA media guide this year, he is listed at 245, something Anderson had planned to address during the offseason.
“I thought when he was a little leaner, I thought he was really, really active,” Anderson said. “I thought he was just more athletic. Just seemed like a lot quicker. It just seemed like this year a lot of people came right at him. And he would get a lot of fouls with people taking it right at him. Last year, he’d come from nowhere and block a shot or be in position to block shots.”
With the impending arrival of inside players Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley, the guess is that Mickelson would have faced the basket where he would be more comfortable. There is no way to say for certain how things would have worked out, but I pictured him doing what big men Gorgui Dieng of Louisville and Mitch McGary of Michigan did in the NCAA title game, hitting shots from around the free throw line.
Mickelson’s departure means Madden is the only member remaining from a recruiting class that was considered top-notch at the time. BJ Young is going pro after two years, Devonta Abron transferred to TCU, and Ross never made it to Fayetteville.
Two weeks ago, I thought Arkansas would land junior college 6-foot-8 shooting guard Jamal Jones and that 6-foot-4 combo guard Desmond Lee was a viable alternative. Like Mickelson, they are no longer part of the picture at Arkansas.
Lee committed to North Carolina State and Jones said this week that he is going to Texas A&M. Jones’ decision goes back to the relationship he developed with Glynn Cyprien, associate head coach at A&M, who was on John Pelphrey’s staff at Arkansas when Jones was at Searcy.
For Anderson, the silver lining is that he has two scholarships available. Unless somebody transfers in, he is likely to wait on what is supposed to be a crackerjack group coming out of Arkansas high schools in 2014.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau.