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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Mickelson has liking for hoops, hunting, fishing

Kansas forward Hunter Mickelson (42) wrestles away a ball from Baylor guard Ishmail Wainright during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Hunter Mickelson (42) wrestles away a ball from Baylor guard Ishmail Wainright during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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When one thinks of great outdoorsmen in recent Kansas University basketball history, the names Greg Ostertag and Wayne Simien (fishing, hunting), Luke Axtell (fishing), John Crider (mushrooms, fishing) and, yes, Hunter Mickelson, are some that quickly come to mind.

“He’s the real deal,” former KU All-American Simien said of Mickelson, a 6-foot-10, 245-pound senior center from Jonesboro, Ark., who on Saturday against Iowa State will play his final home game as a Jayhawk.

“I actually learned a few things from him duck hunting. That’s his main trade,” added Leavenworth native Simien. “It’s been fun not only sharing experiences of being big guys that played here, but also sharing some hobbies as well,” added Simien, the first person to take Hunter fishing in Kansas after his transfer from Arkansas in 2013.

“Him, my dad and I went fishing at Lake Perry, and we went duck hunting south of town by Baldwin last winter. He’s a lot of fun to be around. He’s one of those guys I wish I could have played with him. He has such a great attitude and work ethic and really appreciates all that Kansas basketball is. That’s why it’s fun hanging out with him,” noted Simien, KU’s team chaplain and campus director for the Called to Greatness organization.

Regarded as one of the most polite individuals on KU’s team — did you notice the firm handshakes Mickelson gave his teammates when introduced as a starter 10 times this season? — Mickelson might need to bring some of the current Jayhawks on outdoors excursions in the future.

“He hasn’t (invited me) yet, but every now and then he’ll bring his personality to the weight room with some country music or something,” said KU forward Landen Lucas of Portland, Ore. “Of course I’d go with him. I like that kind of stuff. In the offseason I’d do that for sure.”

Mickelson actually spends most of his hours on the court and in the classroom during his months in Lawrence, leaving his hobby as something he mostly enjoys back home.

“I’ve fished a little bit here,” Mickelson said. “Sometimes I’ll go by myself. I’ve gone to little farm ponds. You’ve got pretty much what everybody else has got — crappie, bass, everything.”

Of his duck hunting passion, he said: “We get to go home three days during Christmas. The season goes out the 24th, 25th, so I have to miss it. I keep in contact with a bunch of buddies back home. They tell me how they are doing, send me pictures of what they get. I’ve been invited to a few places, but with school and practice you’d have to miss a class to go.”

Also ... “I didn’t bring my gun with me and didn’t bring any of my gear with me (to school),” he added. “It’s a big hassle (to borrow), so I’ve been sticking to fishing and playing basketball, really.”

In a recent interview, Mickelson, who in May will receive a general-studies degree from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, joked: “The last thing I shot technically was a Coke can.”

Not to mention basketballs.

Mickelson has worked tirelessly on his game in the gym since his arrival before his red-shirt season in 2013-14.

“He’s fallen in love with the game,” KU coach Bill Self said of Mickelson, who averages 2.5 points (off 50 percent shooting) and 2.4 boards while logging 8.1 minutes a game in 22 games for the 26-4 Big 12 champs.

“You could see that last summer in Korea (where he played a huge role on KU’s gold-medal winning World University Games team). Everybody loves how hard he works, and everybody loves his attitude. What a great kid,” Self added.

“He always does well in practice,” noted fellow big man Lucas. “And whenever he’s called on, he’s shown he is more than capable of playing at a very, very high level. It’s great to have someone like him that’s always ready to go when called on.”

Mickelson plans to continue his career onto the pro level next season — “I’d go pretty much anywhere,” he said.

He agrees with his coach that he’s in love with hoops.

“Definitely coming here re-ignited the flame. I’m definitely having a great time,” Mickelson said. “I just enjoy doing every little bit of it.”

He looks back at a time his main love was baseball.

“I played on a bunch of travel teams during the summer. It was fun until I got really tall. Sixth, seventh grade I got to the tall and awkward stage. It was kind of hard to play. I got frustrated with it and ended up quitting for a while,” he said.

But his senior year at Jonesboro Westside High School, “I played because all of my buddies were playing. I batted ninth in the lineup, played right field. We had a stacked team, so there was no room for me to be pitching,” he added, laughing. “I was glad to be out there anywhere.”

He said he didn’t receive any scholarship offers for baseball, instead heard from Arkansas, as well as KU, Florida, Kentucky, Baylor, Arizona and many others for basketball his senior year. In all, he had 24 scholarship offers, choosing Arkansas.

“It’s been great,” he said of KU. “I’ve gotten a lot stronger, played with a bunch of great guys, talented guys. Everybody I’m surrounded by is good people. I’m definitely happy. Graduating is very important to me.”

A batch of family members will be here Saturday for his Allen Fieldhouse farewell.

“I might try to keep it short and sweet,” he said of his postgame speech to the fans, “thank everybody I need to thank. I’m not trying to be out there forever.”

Then it’s on to the postseason.

“If we keep playing how we’ve been playing,” he said of the Jayhawks, who have wrapped up a 12th-straight Big 12 title, “and tighten up a few things down the road, I think we’ll have a real good chance.”

Comments

Jared Reeves 3 years ago

I still expect great things from Hunter this year. I predict there will be a game in the Big Dance with lots of fouls and Hunter will come in and play a big role.

Henry Joseph Hofmeister 3 years ago

you are correct. this has nothing to do with hunter or basketball. something is wrong with you for posting it here.

Jay Scott 3 years ago

If you don't care about KU's reputation it wouldn't matter.... Grownups care.

RJ King 3 years ago

Let's see . . . four days between games. Articles about Evan and Hunter - check. Articles about Jamari and Perry still to come. The league is decided. Polls out 3 days ago. No player currently injured. Doghouse empty. Draft declarations a month off. Recruits on hold for answers. All quiet on the Western front.

I remember when Jaybate, Tony, or others would throw out a non-basketball-related topic just to encourage discussion among KU fans on a slow day. God I miss the old site.

Ironic that the article Jay posted is about free speech.

Mike Greer 3 years ago

I saw that as well and was very disappointed in how it's being handled by the University.

Jared Reeves 3 years ago

This is old news. Outrageous, but old.

Suzi Marshall 3 years ago

This makes me sick to my stomach. The Kansas Legislature cut the KU Budget this week. It's really hard to support KU when they do this kind of thing. Disgusting beyond words.

Harlan Hobbs 3 years ago

While Jay's post may be better dealt with in another setting, he is absolutely right that this gives KU a black eye in my opinion. Just ask the Mizzou administration how much they lost in donations because of all the silliness, political correctness, and Fascist attempts to silence free speech in Columbia.

The same thing is progressing at KU and prompted my wife and me to rescind last December our pledge to the Endowment Association that was listed in our living trust.

Nobody condones racism or true discrimination. However, these people are searching for an issue to give them their 15 minutes of fame.

I will always root hard for KU on the athletic fields, but financial support for my alma mater is no longer viable for us.

RJ King 3 years ago

I hope the Endowment Association was made aware of the reason behind your action.

Suzi Marshall 3 years ago

I followed all the tactics of RCIH and support groups such as the MSA. There attempts to impeach the current student government leadership, blanket lies and ridiculous demands were all met by an absurdly weak administration.

Harlan Hobbs 3 years ago

They were, R.J., and I received a follow up call from them, which I appreciated. They understood my position, even though I know that they disagreed with it. Therefore, there are really no hard feelings as far as I am concerned.

It is simply a philosophical issue I guess, but as a great supporter of the value of education, we choose to find other avenues which we believe are more in tune with our priorities and principles. Obviously, this is everyone's right, and I encourage everybody to support education, as I firmly believe that it is the key to the future success of the country.

Thanks for the inquiry, R. J.

Tony Bandle 3 years ago

And now for something completely different.

How would a team of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Aquaman and Robin do against the team of Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Captain America, The Scarlet Witch and Nick Fury and either of them against the team of Prof.X, Magneto, Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey, Ice Man and The Beast.

Please keep your answers short and succinct but please feel free to use any words you wish.

Doug Cramer 3 years ago

Mickelson would have been a great post player Jayhawk had he come here right away as a freshman.

We need more Mickelsons in this program in the future.

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