FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas is losing another player from its 2012-13 roster.
Forward Hunter Mickelson asked to be released from his scholarship Tuesday morning after spending two years with the program. The decision comes after Mickelson averaged 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds a game last season, struggling to find his niche in coach Mike Anderson’s up-tempo system.
Darien Mickelson said his son enjoyed his time at Arkansas, but is seeking a better fit after starting 20 of 32 games and averaging 16.6 minutes as a sophomore.
“He asked for it (Tuesday) morning and coach Anderson was really gracious about it and he granted it,” Darien Mickelson said. “I had big reservations when he went up there in the system Anderson ran. But he’s an Arkansas kid and that’s all he wanted to do was play for the Hogs. That’s what we’re going for moving forward: Just trying to find a better fit and see if he can achieve his goals.”
Mickelson did lead the Razorbacks in blocked shots (39) last season, which helped him earn the team’s Rim Protector Award during Monday night’s banquet. But it was well below his 2011-12 total of 72, which set the school’s freshman record.
Anderson pointed to Mickelson’s weight as one potential problem. Anderson said last month he planned to talk to the 6-foot-10, 245-pound forward about it, believing some changes in the offseason would help him prepare for 2013-14.
“I thought when he was a little leaner, I thought he was really, really active,” Anderson said. “I thought he was just more athletic. Just seemed like a lot quicker.
“It just seemed like this year a lot of people came right at him. Came right at him. And he would get a lot of fouls with people taking it right at him. Last year, he’d come from nowhere and block a shot or be in position to block shots.”
Darien Mickelson said his son “absolutely loves” the university and fans, but basketball-wise it was just “not a good fit. He will finish the spring semester at Arkansas and evaluate his options before deciding where he’ll play next.
“He’s a face-the-basket forward that can shoot the three,” Darien Mickelson said about the type of system his son wants to play in. “He runs the floor great. He’s most effective when he catches the ball. Any system that does that, there’s a lot of really good schools out there that the bigs touch the ball every time down the floor.”
Arkansas did not confirm it had granted Mickelson’s release Tuesday. But Mickelson will be the third player to leave the program since the end of the season, joining Marshawn Powell and BJ Young. Both players declared for the 2013 NBA Draft.
Mickelson’s departure leaves Arkansas with only guard Ky Madden remaining from its heralded, five-man 2011 signing class. Guard Aaron Ross never made it to campus, while forward Devonta Abron transferred to Texas Christian after his freshman season. Young and Mickelson are leaving after two years with the Hogs.
Mickelson’s departure also leaves Arkansas with nine scholarship players returning next season. Arkansas has signed forwards Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley, but the Razorbacks have two scholarships available for the 2013-14 season.
Anderson was asked Monday night if the Razorbacks planned to sign anyone else.
“We never stop recruiting,” Anderson said. “We may sign one at this point in time.”