Arkansas F Powell eyes return to freshman form
Marshawn Powell was never quite right last season - on or off the court.
The Arkansas forward opened the season with a slow-healing broken foot he sustained during the offseason, an injury that hampered his play all year. And when his play suffered, so did Powell's attitude.
The result was a lackluster sophomore season for Powell, a preseason All-Southeastern Conference selection who saw his scoring average dip from 14.9 points per game to 10.8. It was a season filled with frustration for Powell, along with Razorbacks fans and coaches who had expected more after his standout freshman season.
''I can't even sit here and lie to you guys and say I was well the whole season last year,'' Powell said. ''I wasn't. My play showed it, my attitude showed it, probably. Everything, you know. It wasn't one of my best years. I hate to look back on it, to be honest.''
Powell allowed those frustrations to carry over to the court and the results included a one-game suspension by coach John Pelphrey at one point. Pelphrey was fired after the 18-13 season, the third straight Arkansas has missed the NCAA tournament.
Rather than shying away from his own responsibility for last season's disappointment, Powell is now hopeful an offseason full of work will help him thrive under new coach Mike Anderson. That work has included intense conditioning that helped the 6-foot-7 Powell slim down from 245 pounds to 219 - his lowest since his freshman season.
Powell lost the weight so that he'll be better prepared to push the ball in Anderson's up-tempo system.
''I get to run and take the ball off the rim and push it if I want it,'' he said. ''I can't do that when I'm too big.''
Anderson has paid close attention to Powell and he has put plenty of pressure on the junior to fill a void in leadership left by the departure of seven players from last season, including three transfers.
Arkansas has just 10 scholarship players this season, including four highly touted freshmen, and Anderson is counting on Powell to be among the team's leaders.
''He's got a chance to be a tough matchup,'' Anderson said. ''He's got his weight down, he's a good basketball player and hopefully this can be his coming-out party again.''
Powell is well aware of Anderson's expectations for him, and it's that accountability that has helped him mesh with the new coach so quickly. Now he's doing his best to regain - and improve upon - that freshman form.
''I'm in a good situation,'' Powell said. ''And if my situation is good, I'm good.''
That new attitude has even carried over into a mentor role for Powell, who has made it a point to help bring along the Razorbacks' talented freshmen group. He's taken a particularly important role with 6-foot-8 freshman forward Devonta Abron.
''He's been like a big brother to me, teaching me different things about the game and showing me where my game can get better,'' Abron said.
Junior point guard Julysses Nobles is one of the seven returning players who saw Powell's struggles last season. Nobles said his new, more positive attitude has been clear during offseason workouts - even though Powell is only ''90-95 percent'' healthy while recovering from another offseason foot injury.
''Marshawn, he has changed a lot,'' Nobles said. ''Attitude; has that weight down. He's 100 percent right now. We're gonna need that from him.''