Arkansas' Wade enjoying breakout season

KURT VOIGT AP Sports Writer Published:

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Even now, Mardracus Wade refuses to compare himself to some of the best shooters in the country.

The Arkansas guard, who leads the Southeastern Conference in 3-point shooting, might just want to reassess that stance.

Wade connected on all five of his 3-point attempts in a loss at Georgia on Wednesday, and has now hit 50 percent (51 of 102) of his shots from behind the arc this season. While he falls just below the minimum 2.5 3-pointers made per game to qualify for NCAA statistics, Wade's percentage would rank second nationally.

Arkansas (16-8, 4-5 SEC) has yet to lose in Bud Walton Arena this season, a streak it will look to continue when it hosts South Carolina (9-14, 1-8) on Saturday.

Part of that home success can be attributed to the breakout season for Wade, who averaged only four points per game and hit barely 20 percent of his 3-point attempts last season as a freshman. The performance couldn't have come at a better time for the Razorbacks, who entered the season with serious outside shooting concerns following Rotnei Clarke's transfer to Butler.

Clarke was renowned for his 3-point shooting ability in his three seasons at Arkansas, hitting 274 shots from behind the arc during that time -- second in school history.

Prior to this season, Wade was a relatively anonymous 6-foot-2 guard who was known more for his defense.

Times have certainly changed.

Wade is averaging 11.1 points per game this season, second on the team. He leads the Razorbacks with 1.6 steals per game, but it's his shooting that has provided some much-needed relief from the outside.

"Mardracus has worked to become someone people have to pay attention to on our basketball team," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "Percentage-wise, he is one of the better 3-point shooters in our league. He has done a good job."

Wade was a strong shooter in high school, first in Memphis for three seasons and then during his senior year at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy. He averaged 20.1 points, five assists and five steals per game that last season at Hargrave, but lost his confidence once arriving at Arkansas under then-coach John Pelphrey.

He scored in double figures only once and averaged 17.2 minutes per game -- shooting 38 percent from the field overall and 20.5 percent on 44 3-point attempts.

"I came in as a freshman, and I thought I was going to be able to do a little more," Wade said. "My confidence was down a little bit once (Pelphrey) told me this is what I'd be doing and they didn't want me doing this or that. It kind of took away from my game a little bit."

Wade's confidence returned after Anderson was hired in March following Pelphrey's firing, both because of the new system and an offseason dedicated of hard work and shooting.

That confidence has translated this season, with Wade failing to score in double figures only seven times. His current 3-point percentage is close to the school's single-season record of 50.4 percent (65 of 129), set by Lee Mayberry in 1990.

Despite his success, Wade still isn't quite ready to place his shooting ability on the level as one of the best. That includes Clarke.

"I'm not going to lie to you, Rotnei is one of the best shooters I've seen in my life," Wade said. "It was unbelievable. I used to look at him all the time, his form.

"I don't know if I'm that type of guy on this team yet," Wade added, "but I do think I'm that guy that we kind of need and can knock down shots."