Arkansas' senior co-captain Kikko Haydar will get to continue his basketball career after signing a three-year professional contract late Monday with Sagesse of the Division A League In Lebanon.
Haydar (5-10, 170), who was actually born in Iman, Jordan, was the only student-athlete with Lebanese citizenship to play Division I basketball this past season and will join Sagesse (13-4) - who has one regular season game left - for the playoffs upon his graduation.
His three-year contract, which is reportedly for over $100,000 with the team in Beirut, Lebanon, will then kick in next season.
"My time as a Razorback has been unbelievable," said Haydar in a release. "To wear the Arkansas jersey was a dream come true and I will always cherish the times I had as a member of the team. Playing at Arkansas also afforded me the ability to continue my dream of playing basketball and I'm extremely excited to start my career in Lebanon. It is a unique opportunity because I already speak the language and have a lot of family there to support me. I feel like I am leaving home to go home.
"This was an opportunity I couldn't pass up and I'm extremely blessed," continued Haydar. "Arkansas made me who I am and now I want to go make Arkansas proud."
Haydar will be the second former Razorback on the Sagesse roster as Charles Thomas is currently the squad's leading scorer at 19.3 points per game.
"I am very excited," Haydar said at a press conference Tuesday at Bud Walton Arena. "It's the next step and an opportunity that I couldn't turn down.
"I'll be a part of the team playing in the playoffs in May," Haydar added. "Right now they are in first place and hopefully will continue that. Charles Thomas is on that team and I will get to join another Razorback....I watched him when I was a kid. He was 'The Manimal.'"
It will be a place he is very familiar with as he lived there his entire second grade year and has spent time every summer there.
"I speak the language, I have family and we have a house there," Haydar said. "It helped a lot. I don't know if I would have been so quick to jump on something if it wasn't in Lebanon, just because it is a place that I have family and a place that I speak the language. There is no culture shock for me or anything for me. it was a perfect fit.
"Part of the reason I signed a three-year deal was to have some stability and not worry about whether if 'I play well this game, if I don't play well this game' how's my contract going to be? I decided to sign a multi-year deal for stability and to be in a place that I like."
Haydar, a former Fayetteville High standout, averaged 3.0 points and hit 42.3 percent (27 of 63) of his 3-pointer this past season while also netting 17-of-21 free throws for head coach Mike Anderson's Razorbacks..
His best game this past season was a 15-point effort at LSU in an 88-74 loss as he played in 65 games the past two season while starting four as a senior.
That topped his previous career-high of 13 at Michigan last season.
"I guess when you walk about a story - and I don't think the story is finished yet - it is unbelieveable, it is remarkable, but it couldn't happen for a better and more special young man," Anderson said.
Haydar said he was approached right after Arkansas lost at California in the second round of the NIT.
"The fact that it happened so quickly was a shock to me as well and I am just very honored," Haydar said.
"...I go to Lebanon every summer with my family and I would go watch games and I knew that there were a lot of Lebanese citizens in Division I basketball so I always thought it could be an option," Haydar added. "I was contacted shortly after we lost our last game and it took off from there. I signed with the agent and then the deal came very quickly."
Haydar was one of the most popular players in recent Arkansas history despite being a walk on.
"I'm sure he's going to go over there and be a popular player as he was here," Anderson said. "He was one of the most popular players here because he left his blood, he left his heart out on the floor. … You don't measure the size of a guy, you measure the size of his heart and he has a big heart."
The son of two University of Arkansas professors, Haydar was just the third athlete in the school's history to earn a Bodehmamer Fellowship and maintained a 3.88 grade point average as a Kinesiology major.
"Kikko embodies everything we want our student-athletes to be," Anderson said. "He was a leader on and off the court and put every ounce of energy into every single minute he was on the floor. He's a Razorback through and through and I'm very excited for him and his family."
Haydar still plans to go to medical school after his basketball career is over.
"It was a big part of the decision," Haydar said. "I sit down with my family and we thought about it. I figure my legs will give out before my brain does. I will still be able to pursue those goals after I am done playing and this will also be a way to help pay for medical school, which is very expensive and there aren't a lot of scholarships for that. It is a way to continue that as well."
Haydar Signs Pro Contract
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