By ROBBIE NEISWANGER
Arkansas News Bureau
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas forward Marvell Waithe doesn’t yet know how to define his role with the Razorbacks after 12 games.
But with Arkansas inching closer to Southeastern Conference play, the senior can take comfort in something after sitting on the bench for much of 2010-11: he at least has a role.
"You know if you put in a certain amount of work and do the right things you know good things are going to happen," Waithe said. I don’t know if last year that was the case."
Waithe, who didn’t get up off the bench much last year for former coach John Pelphrey’s Razorbacks, is making an impact in new coach Mike Anderson’s up-tempo system right now.
The 6-foot-9 Waithe is averaging 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds entering tonight’s game against Texas Southern (1-10) in Bud Walton Arena. But his biggest contributions aren’t necessarily statistics. His willingness to go all out, providing Arkansas (9-3) with effort has been key during the seven-game homestand.
"He’s starting to play," Anderson said before the Charlotte game. "I think he now gets what I’m wanting out of him, even if it’s coming off the bench. He’s bringing me energy. He’s bringing me athletic ability.
"He’s playing the game the right way."
Waithe backed it up with a well-rounded outing against Charlotte on Wednesday, finishing with 7 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocked shots in 19 minutes.
His work was especially critical during one sequence in the first half, when Arkansas’ big lead was trimmed to 29-22.
Waithe came across the lane to block Charlotte forward Chris Braswell’s shot at the rim, taking away a layup. Forward Hunter Mickelson missed a short jumper in transition on the other end, but Waithe tipped the ball back out to the top of the key to Mardracus Wade. The guard then found freshman B.J. Young open for a 3-pointer to make it 32-22.
The Razorbacks never lost the double-digit lead the rest of the game, winning 80-67.
"Marvell Waithe, what tremendous effort," Anderson said afterward. "When you get a guy out there that’s giving you everything he’s got, it’s hard for those other guys to go out there and not give you everything."
Waithe is averaging 8 points and 3.3 rebounds during Arkansas’ four-game win streak, becoming an all-purpose player off the bench. He was asked about his role earlier this week and, while believing it’s not quite defined, admitted it’s nice to be on the floor helping the Razorbacks.
Waithe — a junior college transfer — played in 23 games last season. But most of his work was limited to nonconference games. He appeared in nine SEC games, played 61 minutes in conference play, and averaged 1.7 points in those appearances.
It was a frustrating season, one Waithe said he survived with some much-needed help.
"I have positive people in my life like Scotty Thurman and (former Arkansas assistant Rob) Evans who was here last year," Waithe said. "If they weren’t here I probably would have gone crazy. ... If not for them, especially, I probably would have been somewhere else."
Waithe considered leaving after the season, but stuck around when Anderson was hired. It was a good decision, considering the Razorbacks entered the year with 10 scholarship players and are now down to nine with Marshawn Powell’s knee injury.
"I am glad I stayed the course and I honestly think things are going to continue to get better," Waithe said.
The fact he’s playing and contributing is a step in the right direction after last season’s frustrations. But Waithe also knows playing time must be earned under Anderson, so there’s plenty left as the Razorbacks inch closer to conference play.
"I just need to make sure to keep on working and I will be fine," Waithe said.