Stanley Umude expands game beyond just scoring for Arkansas Razorbacks
basketball Edit

Umude expands game beyond just scoring

Stanley Umude has been playing better defense for Arkansas of late.
Stanley Umude has been playing better defense for Arkansas of late. (Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports)

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During Arkansas’ three-game winning streak, the team has put an emphasis on taking care of the little things.

Rebounding, aggression and leadership have been at the forefront for the Razorbacks and all of those aspects can be improved on individually. Stanley Umude is the perfect example of that individual improvement.

Entering the season as arguably Arkansas' most intriguing scorer, Umude averaged just under 22 points at South Dakota last season. However, his scoring is not what has been most valuable for Arkansas this season.

“I think that everybody knows he can score, but it’s can he play in our defensive scheme, can he rebound?,” Arkansas assistant coach Gus Argenal said Thursday. “With his athleticism, I think that’s why we challenge him so much. Because he has all that talent, he has those skills, so we’re just trying to pull as much [out of him] as we can.”

The value that Umude provides as a scorer is great, but the team cannot win games without limiting the opponents from scoring. To do that, it all begins with playing aggressive defense and rebounding the ball.

Even when he's put the ball in the basket, Umude said the coaching staff has put a big emphasis on him working on those aspects of his game.

“(Eric Musselman) has done a good job of making sure I’m focused on defense and rebounding more than anything going into the game,” Umude said. “Because with my athletic ability and versatility on the defensive end, I can make an impact on that side of the ball. I think it’s going in with that mindset of ‘I’ve got to lock somebody up.’”

During Arkansas’ 0-3 start to conference play, Umude put his scoring ability on display by averaging 19 points. The issue was, though, he was adding just three rebounds per game and virtually nothing on defense.

Since then, Umude has contributed more on defense and on the glass. During the Razorbacks’ three-game winning streak, he has averaged just under six rebounds per game along with adding five blocks and a couple of steals.

“I think he’s moving his feet better and I think he’s much more alert,” Argenal said. “I can sense something in him on the defensive side. He’s aggressive, he’s confident and he knows our scouts better than he has.”

According to Argenal, Umude has begun to take on a leadership role within the team, too. Though it is just his first season in the program, Umude has plenty of experience at the college level. Argenal said Umude was tired of losing games.

“I thought when we were going through our stretch of losing three in a row… I remember him saying this to me, he said, ‘Coach, I came here to win big and be in a winning program,’” Argenal said. “There was a sense of ‘I don’t want this to happen,’ and you can see that in his preparation, how hard he’s playing.”

It is no secret that Umude is one of the more talented scorers on the roster. When he gets hot, it is tough to stop him. That was best on display when he scored a season-high 28 points in the loss to Vanderbilt.

Argenal said the scoring aspect of Umude’s game is an added bonus, but it’s the play on the glass and defending without fouling that is most important. Umude said the coaches have been harping on him about that.

“All the coaching staff has been on me about using my athleticism to get more rebounds,” Umude said. “Even when I score well, (Musselman) is on me about my rebounding … Because he knows I can score. People know I can score. I’ve just got to make sure I’m doing all the other things to help us win.”

With the Hogs finally narrowing down to a consistent group of seven or eight players, everyone in the rotation has to do his part to win. Umude said the team has confidence moving forward.

“We feel like we’ve got good momentum going right now, honestly,” Umude said. “We’ve got a good feeling going around campus. We’ve got three straight wins. I think Saturday is probably going to be our biggest game of the season to date. So we’re excited and we’re happy to be at home.”

The Hogs will get a shot at revenge against Texas A&M when the Aggies enter Bud Walton Arena this Saturday. Tip is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CT and the game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

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