Arkansas is 10-2 on the season and will end its non-conference portion of the schedule on Saturday night when the University of Texas-San Antonio comes to town.
Michael Qualls is enjoying a very successful sophomore season for Arkansas' basketball squad.
The Razorbacks have been pretty consistent so far this season and no one has been more consistent than sophomore Michael Qualls. The 6-foot-6 Qualls is averaging 13.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. He has started seven games and played in all 12 games. He has scored in double figures in 11 of the 12 games this season. Qualls likes where Arkansas is at as the SEC season nears.
“I feel like we have progressed,” Qualls said. “A lot of the players we were looking to step up they have done so in the games.
“Bobby (Portis) has really picked it up since the season first began. Moses Kingsley too. Ky Madden has been scoring the ball for us so that is all like key ingredients to have a very successful season. Fred Gulley has been coming in the game and doing positive things playing positive minutes.”
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson feels this team is much more mentally tough than his first two teams at Arkansas. Qualls agrees with his coach.
“I really do feel that way,” Qualls said. “Last year the people would put their head down and try to give in. Now everybody is focused and tuned in to the game.”
The five games when Qualls hasn't started fans start to suspect something is wrong. In two of the games, Qualls was late for practice once and a team meeting the other time, but the rest of the time it isn't any disciplinary measures. Does Qualls want to start?
“Coach likes to be unpredictable,” Qualls said. “We don't find out who starts until like 15 minutes before tipoff time.
“I'm not focused on that. I want to come in and be a positive influence on the team. I feel I can come off the bench. I want to give anyone else their shot to come out and do what they have to bring and give so they can show coach they can do positive things as well.”
Michael Qualls scored 21 points against California on Nov. 25 in the Maui Classic.
Despite the different lineups, Qualls says the chemistry on the court remains a positive.
“All five players that's out on the court at the same time they're not just trying to go get it,” Qualls said. “In the past, we've had players that just tried to go out and get it. Everybody is out for the same goal (now). There's ball movement and everybody wants everybody else to do good. A lot of teams don't have that and I feel like because we have that unselfishness that's what is going to really separate us from other teams.”
As a true freshman last season, Qualls averaged 4.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. He shot 40.1 percent the field last year and is hitting at a 55.9 percent rate this year. Qualls talked about the things that has allowed him to make such vast improvements this year.
“Just stepping up and taking over situations,” Qualls said. “A lot of time last year I would be more laid back in situations. That's why I didn't shoot the ball as much because I was just out there trying to go with the flow of the game.
“Now, I try to make a will of what we're trying to do and what we're trying to accomplish.”
Gone from last year's team are guard B.J. Young and forward Marshawn Powell. Last year, those two had the ball in their hands most of the time. This year's team has a different flow on offense.
“We've got basketball players,” Qualls said. “We have way more basketball players than we had last year. That's big for us. Even if I'm having a big night I'm not going to stray away from it because I know we have others who can knock down shots. It's even better for us because it spreads the floor.
Arkansas hasn't played since this past Saturday. Qualls said the team is ready to move from the practice to the games.
“Nothing like we're not used to,” Qualls said. “Like before the season we were so ready to show what we have worked on. It's kind of like that now. It gets a little edgy in practice, but I like that. That shows me everybody is ready to play and get after somebody else.”
Arkansas and UTSA will tip it off at 7 Saturday night at Bud Walton Arena. The game will be televised on the Razorback Sports Network.