Michael Qualls averaged 11.7 points during the Razorbacks' four exhibition games in Italy in August.
In other words, Anderson sees an extremely athletic player – one much like those guys from the Razorbacks’ past.
“This guy (Qualls), over in the Italy trip, he put on a dunk-a-thon it seemed like,” Anderson said Thursday during the Razorback basketball team’s media day event at Bud Walton Arena.
Anderson calls Qualls one of the most athletic guys he’s coached in a long time, someone who catches alley-oop passes that might normally fly out of bounds, and someone who can be that piece on the front end of the press that the Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball needs.
Junior guard Mardracus Wade sees something else in the 6-foot-5, 205-pound kid from Shreveport (Huntington) High School.
“He’s a freak, man. He just jumps like for no reason,” Wade joked. “He’s very athletic. Very long. Very good defensively. He rebounds. Has a really good basketball IQ. He’s just an all-around good player. I think he still needs to improve on some other things just like we all do, but other than that, Mike Qualls is a great player.”
The Razorbacks men’s and women’s basketball teams kick off the season tonight when they practice in front of the fans during their Primetime at the Palace event at Walton Arena. Members of the team will sign autographs at 8 p.m. when the doors open, and practice for the women begins at 9 p.m.
After the ladies are done, the guys hit the court, and before the 20-minute scrimmage, the first event is a dunk contest.
Wade figures fans might see Qualls, B.J. Young, Coty Clarke and Jacorey Williams among those ratting the rim, and he said he’s got a good idea who’ll win.
“I'd put my money on Qualls,” Wade said. “That guy's a freak, man. When we run, he's like never tired. He's just laughing. He's just swinging his arms. … I don't know what's wrong with him.”
Wade was kidding – mostly. He’s serious about the athletic ability, though. Qualls might only be 6-5, but he’s got a 7-1 or 7-2 wingspan and in high school had a 45-inch vertical leap.
“Well, I just try to use my God-given abilities to help us win, help us play,” Qualls said. “If I have to just go over the rim and make statements, that’s what I’m going to do just to help the team.
“You just want to use it to your benefit. So the 40 Minutes of Hell, you’ve just got to go hard, so you’ve got to sacrifice your body in ways to help the team.”
When Qualls – one of seven new faces on this year’s team – hits the court, expect some excitement, much like what the Hogs saw on their four-game exhibition tour of Italy in mid-August.
He averaged 11.7 points in Italy, one of four Hogs to average in double figures along with Wade (15.8), B.J. Young (15.0) and Coty Clarke (14.3).
“Italy, I made a couple of big plays that probably caught them by surprise,” he said. “I know he (Anderson) really liked that, but at the same time, I feel like I can do better, so I’m just trying to make the team better.”
Qualls talked about his personal expectations for the coming season.
“I see myself just benefiting the team, pushing the team, no matter what, no matter if I’m in, I’m off,” he said. “If I’m on the bench, I’m fixing to cheer for my team. If I’m on the court, I’m just fixing to give it all I got.”
According to Wade, he’s already doing that. Wade called Qualls a “great teammate” who “works hard each and every day.”
“I never have any worries about him. He always comes in happy, smiling. He’s that energy guy we need. He’s going to be a big part of this team this year.”