With Joel Embiid and Tarik Black both moving on, Kansas will have room for front court contributors to step forward in 2014-15. Of course there’s returning starter Perry Ellis and elite freshman Cliff Alexander, and redshirt junior Jamari Traylor will also compete for more minutes. But there’s also junior Hunter Mickelson, who could do nothing but practice last season after transferring in from Arkansas.
In two seasons at Arkansas the 6-foot-10 Mickelson averaged 5.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game, playing 16.6 minutes per game as a Razorback. The year away from game action provided Mickelson with the opportunity to hone his craft against some talented interior players, but it also has the transfer itching to contribute to a program that has won at least a share of the last ten Big 12 regular season titles.
In a story written by Gary Bedore of the Lawrence Journal-World, Mickelson also touched on the work he’s been able to do with Kansas strength and conditioning coach Andrea Hudy and how that’s impacted his physique.
“I actually kind of dropped a little bit (of weight) to kind of tone up. I put on a little too much when I was at Arkansas,” said Mickelson, who left Arkansas at 240 pounds. “My goal here was to increase strength and tone up a little bit. I feel a lot stronger. Our workouts with coach Hudy (Andrea, strength coach) have been great. I’ve been doing the best I can. I can definitely tell I’m getting stronger.”
Also of note in the story are the complimentary words of both head coach Bill Self and assistant Norm Roberts, with the latter stating that Mickelson can hit shots from the 15-18 foot range in “pick and pop” situations. How much of an impact can Mickelson have for Kansas next season? That remains to be seen, and the fight for minutes will clearly be fierce based upon who’s returning and the addition of Alexander.
But at the very least Mickelson gives Kansas another body in the front court, and each of those interior players will be important as the Jayhawks look to remain atop the Big 12.