FAYETTEVILLE — Former Arkansas guard Kikko Haydar played his final game as a Razorback during the National Invitation Tournament loss at California last month.
But the outgoing senior isn’t ready to put away his basketball uniform just yet.
Haydar has agreed to a three-year contract with play professional basketball in his home country of Lebanon. The 5-foot-10 guard signed with Sagesse, which is in Division A in Lebanon, and will join the team after graduation next month.
“I don’t know if I would’ve been so quick to jump on something if it wasn’t in Lebanon,” Haydar said Tuesday in Bud Walton Arena. “Just because it’s a place I’m very familiar with. It’s a place I have family and a place that I speak the language. There’s no culture shock for me. It was a perfect fit.”
Haydar, who has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Lebanon, spent most of his childhood in Northwest Arkansas after his parents became professors at the University of Arkansas. But Haydar said he went back to Lebanon during the summer and his family still owns a house in the country.
He’ll get to live and play there now after averaging 2.4 points in four seasons for the Razorbacks. Haydar – who played at Fayetteville High in the same backcourt with Fred Gulley — began his career as a little-used walk-on under former coach John Pelphrey. But he played a big role under Mike Anderson the past two seasons.
In fact, Arkansas named Haydar a team captain for both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. He averaged 3.3 points as a junior and 3.0 as a senior. Haydar played in 65 games with four starts during his final two seasons at Arkansas.
“I’m sure he’s going to go over there and be a popular player as he was here,” Anderson said Tuesday. “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.”
Haydar had an even more impressive career in the classroom. Haydar became just the third Arkansas athlete to earn a Bodenhamer Fellowship and has maintained a 3.88 grade point average as a Kinesiology major. Haydar also was a two-year member of the Southeastern Conference’s community service team.
Haydar, who said he’s the “lone wolf” in a family of doctors, still intends to attend medical school. But he wants to play professional basketball first.
“I sat down with my family and we thought about it,” Haydar said. “I figured my legs will give out before my brain does. I’ll still be able to pursue those goals after I’m doing playing. This is also a way to pay for medical school. Medical school is very expensive and there aren’t a lot of scholarships for that. This is a way to continue.”
Haydar will leave for Lebanon on May 11, which is the day after Arkansas’ graduation ceremony. He’ll be joining a team that is currently 13-4 and in first place in Lebanon’s Division A. Sagesse will be in the playoffs when Haydar arrives.
There will be a familiar face when he gets there, too. Former Arkansas forward Charles Thomas is Sagesse’s leading scorer, averaging 19.3 points a game.
Haydar said he grew up watching Thomas play for the Razorbacks and is looking forward to joining him. He’s also ready to play basketball in his home country.
“I always thought I could play in Lebanon, just going back and playing in the summers and stuff,” Haydar said. “But it happened so quickly. It shocked me as well. I’m just very honored and excited.”