FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson decided to do something a little unusual at this point in the season Monday.
He named two team captains.
Forward Marshawn Powell and guard Kikko Haydar were Anderson’s choices. The two were informed before Monday’s practice as the Razorbacks (11-6, 2-2 in Southeastern Conference) prepare for Wednesday night’s game against Mississippi State (7-9, 2-2 in SEC) in Bud Walton Arena.
“It means a lot to me put that belief in us,” Powell said. “I feel like we are the two leaders on this team and can take this team where we need to go.”
Powell was an easy choice. The veteran is averaging 15.2 points and 5.6 rebounds a game this season, serving as one of the team’s most valuable players on both ends of the floor. He averaged 22 points and 7.5 rebounds in Arkansas’ two games last week.
Haydar wouldn’t have been a likely candidate at the beginning of the season, but the junior has commanded plenty of respect for his play off the bench. Haydar is averaging 3.5 points in 12.5 minutes a game this season. He has emerged as Arkansas’ best 3-point shooter, making 16 of 31 (51.6 percent) this season.
Haydar tallied 6 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists without a turnover at Ole Miss.
“It comes with a lot of responsibility,” Haydar said. “It was surprising, but I’ve always had confidence in myself. Hopefully I can help lead this team.”
The two are the first captains Anderson has named since taking over the basketball program prior to the 2011-12 season. Anderson said he has observed both players all year and believed they have earned the honor.
“Our younger guys gravitate to them,” Anderson said. “That says a lot about those guys. It’s all about building trust. … I think those are going to be the guys who will go out and represent us well and be spokesmen for our team.”
Anderson and first-year Mississippi State coach Rick Ray may not share game plans as they prepare for Wednesday’s game. But Ray said he was very appreciative of Anderson, who reached out to him after being named Mississippi State’s coach.
“For Mike Anderson to be that good of a person to reach out and say ‘Hey if you ever need anything, I know it’s your first head coaching position, I’ve been through it if you want to talk about things,’” Ray said Monday. “(It was) more so congratulatory.
“Just knowing that there are good people in this profession makes you feel good.”
It hasn’t been an easy season for Ray. The Bulldogs only have seven healthy scholarship players it has led to some struggles. They opened SEC play with wins against South Carolina and Georgia, but have lost two straight to Alabama and Tennessee entering Wednesday’s game against the Razorbacks.
Anderson — who knows what it’s like to have limited numbers after struggling with the Razorbacks last season — was asked about his message to Ray on Monday. He simply felt it was important to welcome him to the conference.
“If he needs somebody to lend an ear, or listen to him, just give me a call,” Anderson said. “I think in this profession, you need people to talk to every now and then. … He’s a good guy. I’ve known him since he was an assistant at Purdue.
“He’s got a great opportunity, and I just want him to be successful.”
Arkansas center Hunter Mickelson recovered from a rough outing against Auburn during last Saturday’s loss at Ole Miss.
The forward scored 10 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and blocked 3 shots, helping Arkansas trade blows with one of the SEC’s top frontcourts. It didn’t lead to a win, but Mickelson said he felt much better about his play as Arkansas prepares for a Mississippi State frontcourt that has been hampered by foul trouble this season.
“I knew I had to play harder and help out the team more,” Mickelson said. “I was able to do that against Ole Miss.”