Marshawn Powell’s knee injury might have cost him most of last season. However, his down time provided the Arkansas junior with an unexpected benefit.
Known primarily for his work underneath the basket before this season, Powell has turned into one of the team’s best outside shooters. The 6-foot-7 forward leads Arkansas (5-4) in 3-pointers made (11) and 3-point shooting percentage (50 percent), both surprising considering the source.
Powell entered the season a career 22.4 percent shooter from behind the arc, having connected on only 15 of 67 attempts. But he’s hit 11 of 22 this season, including an 8-of-12 stretch over his past three games.
”I knew he could shoot 3’s, but I didn’t think he was going to shoot this many, or at least land (them),” Arkansas junior Rickey Scott said. ”I’m as shocked as you.”
The secret behind Powell’s sudden shooting prowess isn’t all that much of a secret at all.
He credits the long hours in the gym while rehabbing from last season’s torn ACL in his right knee. For much of that time, he was forced to stand on the sidelines while his teammates practiced, unable to do anything but shoot.
”I learned my touch, and I’m shooting it with confidence,” Powell said.
Powell said he was ”definitely” a 3-point shooting threat while a high school standout in Virginia, though he hadn’t shown that ability during his first two full seasons with the Razorbacks.
He was 8 of 37 from behind the arc as a freshman during the 2009-10 season, when he was third on the team in scoring with 14.9 points per game. His percentage (25 percent) rose as a sophomore, but his attempts (28) decreased as Arkansas relied on his post offense.
Powell didn’t have much of a chance last season to show his outside game in his first season under coach Mike Anderson, injuring his knee during practice after just two games. Anderson hasn’t been surprised by Powell’s hot shooting, which has him averaging a team-high 16.6 points per game.
”It’s something he has in the arsenal; he works at it,” Anderson said. ”It’s something that people are giving him, so to me it showcases his versatility.”
The addition of a consistent outside game also has helped improve Powell’s inside play. He’s shooting a career-best 52.4 percent (52 of 103) from the field this season, besting the 50 percent he shot as a freshman and showing a new spring in his step.
Powell, who played primarily below the basket his first few seasons with the Razorbacks, has found plenty of operating room around and above the basket this season. He’s shown off a variety of spin moves and dunks in his first season after the knee surgery, adding to an ever-improving array of offensive options while trying to ”take all wide-open” 3-pointers.
”What (the 3-point shooting) does, it presents problems for people,” Anderson said. ”You’ve got to figure out how you want to play him. I think it helps us from the standpoint, now we can really space the floor. We don’t have to just clog the offensive lanes up, but at the same time we’ve got a guy we can get it to that can make some things happens.”
Powell’s recent hot hand outside has benefited a team that was in dire need of some 3-point shooting help. The Razorbacks shot just 26.2 percent (27 of 103) from behind the arc over their first six games, but they’ve hit 29 of 63 (46 percent) over their last three.
Overall, Arkansas is hitting 33.7 percent of its 3-pointers this season, ninth in the Southeastern Conference.
”That’s the rhythm,” Anderson said. ”You can see the rhythm; things are starting to fall in place for our guys. They are starting to understand (how) to get the ball to the right people at the right time. Guys are shooting the ball with confidence, that’s what shooting is. It’s about confidence and taking shots you can make.”