Arkansas' Qualls turning pro after junior season
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Michael Qualls entertained Arkansas fans for three seasons with his variety of powerful dunks.
The high-flying forward announced Wednesday he was taking his rim-rocking ways to the pros, skipping his final season of eligibility following a breakout junior season.
Qualls averaged 15.9 points per game this season for the Razorbacks (27-9), who reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. He made his announcement one day after Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Bobby Portis said he was leaving Arkansas for the NBA after his sophomore season.
''After sitting down with my family, I felt the best decision for me is to continue my basketball career as a professional,'' Qualls posted on Twitter. ''I'm ready to provide for my family and my son.''
Qualls had 91 dunks during his three seasons with the Razorbacks, none more dramatic than a two-handed putback with 0.2 seconds remaining in overtime to give Arkansas an 87-85 win over Kentucky last season.
The 6-foot-6 forward averaged 11.6 points per game as a sophomore before emerging as one of Arkansas' most consistent performers this season. He was a second-team All-SEC selection, averaging 5.3 rebounds per game and scoring a career-high 30 points in an overtime win over Alabama on Jan. 22.
Qualls had 20 points in the Razorbacks win over Wofford to open the NCAA Tournament, and he followed that with 27 points and 10 rebounds in a season-ending loss to North Carolina. He scored in double figures in all but six games this season and was sixth in the SEC in scoring.
''We certainly wish Mike all the best as her pursues his basketball career after college,'' coach Mike Anderson said. ''I know this was a difficult decision for Mike, but one he ultimately thought was best for him. Mike has improved so much since he arrived on campus three years ago, and hopefully that progression continues.''
Qualls averaged only 4.6 points per game in limited minutes as a freshman, but he already showed the explosive athleticism that would make him a fixture on national highlight shows across the country.
The Shreveport, Louisiana, native talked often during his time at Arkansas about the pride he felt being a father to his son, Michael Qualls Jr., and Wednesday's decision should help Qualls take care of him in the immediate future - whether that's in the NBA or overseas.
''I can't say thank you enough to the Razorbacks fans,'' Qualls said. ''Coming in as a kid from Louisiana, they embraced me from the start like I was one of their own and have always shown me an amazing amount of support. That means a lot to me, and I'll forever be a Razorback.''