FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas guard Ky Madden will make his season debut when the Razorbacks play Louisiana in Bud Walton Arena on Friday night.
But Arkansas coach Mike Anderson won’t guarantee the junior a spot in the starting lineup after Madden missed two exhibition games and the season opener while serving a suspension for violating unspecified team rules.
"The competition is still there," Anderson said. "There’s no set who’s going to be starting. So he has his work cut out, just like the rest of the guys."
Anderson and the Razorbacks will be glad to have Madden back in uniform when they return to the court for their second game even if he’s not with the starting group tonight. The 6-foot-5 Madden averaged 4.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 16.8 minutes a game last season, but is expected to play a larger role as one of Arkansas’ primary ball handlers this season.
So his suspension — which was Madden’s third in three seasons — was a setback.
Madden, who continued practicing with the team, had to meet several criteria for Arkansas to welcome him back to the court. Anderson said he met them.
"It was one of those deals where he had to walk a fine line in doing some things to make sure that he put himself in position to have a chance to play," Anderson said. "So he’s done what he’s supposed to do. As a matter of fact, he went beyond, and that’s a sign of growing up. I think more than anything else, you want to see them grow in terms of the decisions they make. Not only on the floor, but off the floor."
Senior Fred Gulley started at point guard in the season opener and finished with a team-high 5 assists and 3 turnovers. Seniors Mardracus Wade and Kikko Haydar shared the team lead in assists during Arkansas’ two exhibition games (six).
Madden, meanwhile, closed his sophomore season with 28 assists with just 5 turnovers over the final 12 games. It included 7 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks without a turnover in the season-ending loss to Vanderbilt.
"Ky has been one of those guys that I always thought he was one of my better closers," Anderson said. "He has good basketball IQ. …
"He can create for himself and others. He rebounds the basketball. He’s a big guard. He’s a big guard. And I think having the luxury of having some guys with some size that have great hands. When you get in there and you make a play to them, they can finish off the play, that’s big. And I want to see him become even better defensively."
Anderson is expecting some rust because Madden hasn’t been on the court for a game. The guard’s only action came in the Red-White scrimmage on Oct. 27, when he had 24 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 6 turnovers and 3 steals in 37 minutes.
Anderson said he’s anxious to see how Madden performs when he does step on the floor for the first time this season Friday night. He’s sure Madden is eager as well after being what he called the "ultimate team guy" throughout his suspension.
"He’s a junior and it’s his time," Anderson said. "We talk about guys coming and learning and understanding what it takes to play at this level, he’s been here a couple of years. So it’s time for him to really step up and showcase what he’s capable of doing on a consistent basis. When you look at the experience factor, he’s one of the guys that probably got more minutes than a lot of guys playing right now."
Arkansas Signs Two
Arkansas has two-thirds of its 2014 signing class officially in place.
Forrest City center Trey Thompson (6-foot-9, 245 pounds) and guard Martin (Texas) High guard Nick Babb (6-4, 195) signed scholarship papers Wednesday, which was the first day of the fall signing period. North Little Rock guard Anton Beard (6-0, 175) is scheduled to sign with the Razorbacks today.
Anderson said he wouldn’t be able to comment on Arkansas’ signees until today.
Scout.com rates all three as three-star prospects on a five-star scale.
Anderson has known his program was getting a basketball practice facility for some time. But that didn’t take away from his excitement Tuesday, when the Razorbacks announced they would break ground on the facility Dec. 7.
"The brick and the mortar is going up," Anderson said about the facility, which will be completed in 2015. "That’s the beauty of it. We have a starting date and there’s excitement about it. But more importantly now, we’re into this season right now. This is the most important season right now as we get ready for Louisiana."