Why Hunter Mickelson Is Very Important To The Jayhawks These Next Two Years


You can’t go wrong with experience in college basketball. The more experienced a team is, the more success they will find. After transferring from Arkansas to KU over a year ago, junior Hunter Mickelson took a redshirt season during 2013-2014 to work on his game and learn how head coach Bill Self runs things in Lawrence. He ditched Arkansas because he did not fit their “AAU-style” of play due to the fact that he is 6’10. It is clearly a struggle for a big man to sprint back and forth down the court for the entire game. Unless you are Joel Embiid, of course…

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Mickelson came to KU in hope to find the right system that fits his body-type and athletic ability. With former successful Jayhawks comparable to him like Jeff Withey, Sasha Kaun, and Cole Aldrich, many people believe Mickelson may have chosen the correct program to save his college career.

There were high expectations for Mickelson in 2011-2012 considering the fact that he was the 8th ranked power forward in the 2011 ESPN100. In his freshman season at Arkansas, Mickelson averaged 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in a steady 17.1 minutes of play. Other than protecting the rim, Mickelson was not much of a factor for the Razorbacks.

Mar 22, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) dunks over Miami Heat forward Michael Beasley (8) and forward Udonis Haslem (40) during the second quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

In both match-ups that year against Kentucky, he was forced to defend National Player of the Year Anthony Davis and future lottery-pick Terrence Jones. Obviously getting abused by both of them. Mickelson’s freshman year was nonetheless a learning experience to prepare him for an even tougher sophomore season slate. A season in which things did not improve one bit.

He lost minutes (16.6) and he averaged one less block per game (1.2). The struggle occurred due to his inept ability to cover front-court players that were smaller than him. Players very similar to Perry Ellis and the Morris Twins. These undersized power forwards would go underneath Mickelson as he left his feet attempting to block their shot. Mickelson struggled to score over these players as well because his post-moves were still a work-in-progress. His weaknesses played into exactly what coach Self can fix, making Kansas the perfect landing spot for him to transfer to.

Mickelson will have 2 years of eligibility left to play at Kansas. As a matter of fact, Jeff Withey transferred to KU in a very similar fashion, except he had 3 years of eligibility remaining after his freshman season with Arizona. With Joel Embiid and Tarik Black out the door, expect Mickelson to see a lot of minutes at the center position in 2014-15.

Mar 24, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas Jayhawks center Jeff Withey (5) reacts after a score against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second half during the third round of the NCAA basketball tournament at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander will be manning the front-court for a majority of most games, but at times when Ellis struggles defensively, Mickelson will be there to step in. Ellis is not on coach Self’s good side when it comes to his defensive ability, so Mickelson will be the answer to that problem almost 100% of the time. Not to mention, he had the honor in watching Embiid play center last year as well as Tarik Black at times. He therefore has gained knowledge from a physical and leadership standpoint, something that was very needed last season for KU.

Mickelson’s senior season at Kansas has potential to be something very special. With Alexander most likely entering the NBA, the front-court opens up in 2015-2016 to the likes of Mickelson, Ellis, Jamari Traylor, and Landen Lucas. Making the future front-court talented and most importantly, experienced. Overall, unless coach Self keeps going to work on the recruiting trail, don’t be surprised if Mickelson’s importance to KU over these next 2 years increases game by game. Thus making another stud player for us KU fans to never forget.