There are only three freshmen in the country who have a blocked shot in each of the college basketball gamesof their young careers so far.
There's Kentucky's Anthony Davis, Houston's TaShawn Thomas and Arkansas rookie Hunter Mickelson (6-10, 234).
Mickelson will try to extend that streak to 14 games on Tuesday night with the Razorbacks (10-3) host Savannah State (5-8) in a 7 p.m. game inside Bud Walton Arena.
"He has got good instincts," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said of the former Jonesboro Westside star. "He is figuring it out defensively and playing better angles also. But more than anything it is his instincts kicking in. He can see guys getting beat and he is using his quickness and his athletic ability. I think he is playing with an attitude. He is very aggressive at this point."
Mickelson blocked seven shots in his team's 77-49 win over Texas Southern last Thursday and thus join an elite group of Razorbacks who have blocked at least six shots in a game.
That list includes Steven Hill, Oliver Miller, Delvon Johnson, Andrew Lang, Darian Townes and Nick Davis.
Mickelson now has 33 swats (third in SEC) for the season and is on pace to break Oliver Miller's freshman record of 60.
He will be working his way up a ladder that includes Alonzo Lane (34), Marshawn Powell (42), Chris Jeffries (46), Townes (48) and Hill (54) in terms of the Razorbacks' best rookie rejectors.
"He just stays active," Anderson said. "He has a chance to be a special one. Again, this is a guy that was just in high school not many months ago so this is a lot that is coming on his plate. But he is coming at the right progress. He is progressing and that is what you want to see. A freshman just progresses at his own pace. Some guys do it a little quicker than others and we can see the confidence growing in Hunter Mickelson."
Mickelson has done a great job at staying out of foul trouble, something that Anderson hopes will continue as the competition level begins to rise.
Arkansas opens SEC play Saturday night against No. 15 Mississippi State (13-2), which boasts 6-11 junior Arnett Moultrie and 6-10 Renardo Sidney in its starting frontcourt.
"So far," Anderson said. "We'll see as the competition level rises up. We certainly will see. I have been happy with him so far defensively, causing disruptions in the backline of our defense. I am an aggressive coach and I like aggressive players. He has been doing a good job."
The Tigers are coached by former Georgetown player Horace Broadnaux and recently joined the MEAC, where they are 1-1 this season.
The Tigers, who average just 57.8 points per game, are led by 6-7 junior Rashan Hassan (12.2, 4.2) and 5-11 junior guard Deric Rudolph (7.8).
"He has transitioned this team from an independent to now they are in a conference," Anderson said. "So they are playing for something. They have been battle tested by going on the road for quite a few games.
"It's a team that wants the tempo to be a possession game," Anderson continued. "That means they want the score to be in the 60s and obviously we want the game to be in the 80s, 90s, possibly 100. They take care of the basketball but hopefully we can disrupt them from in terms of what they want to do."
Savannah State has not played since Dec. 22 when it beat Mount St. Mary's 45-41.
"Well, they will be rested, I know that," Anderson said. "I am sure they will come in with nothing to lose and they will get after our guys. So it can work one of two ways. Obviously not having played any games - I know when we don't play any games we try to get officials in to try to simulate a game. But that's a little different than having a game. Hopefully that will play to our advantage since we have played some games.
"But more than anything else i just want to see if we can get better, clean up some of the sloppiness, the turnovers that we had," Anderson added.
Most of the turnovers in the last contest came from the freshmen.
"The 18 turnovers that we had (against Texas Southern), 14 were accounted for by our freshmen," Anderson said. "And of course sometimes those occur when the game kind of gets out of hand.
"We have got to make sure our guys understand as we get ready to take our play to the next level that we are getting ready for something bigger than Savannah State," Anderson added. "It's getting ready for the SEC."
Arkansas will be trying to win its sixth straight game on what is the sixth game of the current seven-game home stand.
"I look for our guys to continue to play good basketball," Anderson said. " Defensively, I think we have been pretty solid. Offensively I don't think we have shot the ball well but we have taken good shots. So I am looking for some of that carryover from practice. We had a good workout today and hopefully we can bring that practice to the game."
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