State of the Hogs: Leaning on Lee

Jabril Durham has been leaning on Lee Mayberry as he learns the successful traits of an Arkansas point guard.

The length arrived last year with the additions of Bobby Portis, Moses Kingsley and Alandise Harris. Perhaps this season it’s the point guards that finally fill out the Arkansas roster to make Mike Anderson’s fourth team the best on campus since … well, when the Hogs had above average play at point guard.

That might date back to Kareem Reid, or perhaps Corey Beck. It’s clear that the glory days of Arkansas basketball fall in line with the time when great point guards led the Razorbacks. It was no coincidence that the Hogs went to the Final Four with Ron Brewer, Sr., in the lead guard spot, along with Lee Mayberry and Beck.

For now it’s just about getting back to the NCAA Tournament, not so much dancing all the way to the Final Four. But if the Hogs are dancing in March, it’s probably because junior college transfer Jabril Durham, along with holdover Ky Madden and freshman Anton Beard give Anderson solid play at the point.

Mayberry is around to help that happen. He’s back in school to finish degree work and is on the court as a student assistant for Anderson. And, it didn’t take Durham long to begin to take advantage of his time with Mayberry.

“It’s been a great benefit for me,” Durham said. “He’s helped me learn how to score the ball better and defend point guards better. I’m trying to spend as much time with him as possible.”

Mayberry was a bit surprised when Durham came to him last week with a tape of the Hogs’ 1992 victory over LSU. It was one of the great shootouts in the history of Barnhill Arena, a 106-92 overtime thriller that included Mayberry’s best offensive performance, a 35-point explosion.

“I don’t know when I saw that one last,” Mayberry said. “It brought back some great memories of Barnhill. I remember that place fondly. What stood out watching that tape, how great the fans were in Barnhill. They were great that night.

“I remember that and I remember how hot Barnhill could get. I love hot gyms and that night it might have been as hot as ever.”

Mayberry was red hot, nailing 9 of 12 on 3-point shots after a scolding from coach Nolan Richardson at halftime when LSU, behind Shaquille O’Neal, had roared to a 51-36 lead.

“We were down big and Coach Richardson got on me for not being aggressive on offense,” Mayberry said. “I tried to assert myself in the second half.”

Durham said it was Mayberry’s idea to watch the tape. Not so, said Mayberry.

“I don’t know where he found that tape,” Mayberry said. “I didn’t even know it still existed. He brought it to me and we sat down and watched it. He went and found it.”

Durham said, “We watched it twice. We watched how he attacked as a point guard.”

That’s not always what Mayberry did. He played so hard on defense, he sometimes was accused of coasting on offense, allowing Todd Day and Oliver Miller to carry the scoring load. He was content to shut down the opposition point guard, playing intense defense.

That’s not to say Mayberry didn’t score. He finished his career with 1,940 points (for third behind Tod Day and Sidney Moncrief) and added 729 assists (second behind Kareem Reid). But he is the all-time leader in career steals with 291.

It’s the defense that Mayberry said Durham is still learning. It’s no secret that there isn’t a lot of defense played in the juco ranks.

“His defense is coming along,” Mayberry said. “That always takes awhile, to play the kind of defense that Coach Anderson wants. You don’t learn that right away, but Jabril has improved.”

Durham’s offense is strong.

“He can hit the outside shots and he can get to the basket,” Mayberry said. “And, he’s shown the ability to lead from the point guard position. He shows that take charge attitude in practice.

“He’s sneaky quick off the dribble. He gives you a hesitation and he’ll go by you and get to the basket. He’s got that no-look pass.

“What I really like is that he’s a student of the game. He wants to be good.”

Durham knows he’s got two great point guards to learn from on the UA staff. Anderson played the point for Richardson’s first Tulsa team.

“It was an honor that Coach Anderson recruited me to be his point guard,” Durham said. “I’m taking instruction from him on how to play the position. What he is trying to get me to do is to see plays before they happen.”

That may be the easy part of the game in the last five months since Durham arrived on campus from Seminole, Okla., Junior College. It’s the conditioning that was tough.

“I’ve always had work ethic,” Durham said. “But I had to learn about conditioning here. After you get that, then you feel like you can help the team. I’m in shape to do that now.

“It’s been a great learning curve after we began actual practice, but I’m starting to get it down. It’s a humbling experience to be playing point guard here. You know you have to earn it and I don’t want anything given to me.”

Durham has given Anderson the luxury of moving Madden to the two guard to give the Hogs two ball handlers on the court. Anderson loves it.

“I’ve always said, the more ball handlers you have out there at the same time, the better you are going to be,” Anderson said. “I think that helps Ky. But he’s still going to handle the ball for us some.”

The leadership comes naturally for Durham and it’s something he figured out the Hogs needed when he watched tapes of last season.

“They were just needing someone at the end of the season that calmed things down,” he said. “I thought I could bring that to the team when I watched tape. I have always been able to do that, get people I the right places and control the game.”

Mayberry thinks Durham can bring that to the team.

“I think he can hit the big shot,” Mayberry said. “He’s not afraid to get on his teammates. He can lead.”

That’s not to say he’s on the level of what Durham saw Mayberry do to LSU in that tape.

“Amazing,” Durham said. “Just amazing. You saw all of the characteristics of a great point guard. He was ready to take over the game and he did.”

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