FAYETTEVILLE -- The other half of the SEC's top scoring tandem is leaving Arkansas, too.
Michael Qualls, who along with SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis averaged a combined 33.4 points to lead the Razorbacks to a 27-9 record and their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008, announced Wednesday that he's declaring for the NBA Draft rather than returning to Arkansas for his senior season.
Scored career-high 30 points in Arkansas’ 93-91 overtime victory against Alabama this season.
Averaged 23.5 points in NCAA Tournament games this season against Wofford and North Carolina and had 27 points and 10 rebounds against the Tar Heels.
A putback dunk with 0.2 seconds left in overtime lifted Arkansas to an 87-85 victory over Kentucky at Walton Arena last season.
Scored 1,100 career points, making him 1 of 38 players with 1,000 or more points for Arkansas.
1 of 26 Razorbacks to score 1,000 or more points in his first three seasons
Scored 1,000th point on a dunk against LSU in the regular-season finale. Scored 10 or more points in 30 of 36 games this season.
Averaged 15.9 points and 5.2 rebounds this season to earn second-team All-SEC honors.
As a freshman, had a career-high 11 rebounds against Tennessee in his first start.
Portis, a 6-11 forward, announced Tuesday that he's entering the draft after averaging 17.5 points and 8.9 rebounds as a sophomore.
While Portis is considered a lock to be a first-round pick, Qualls said his feedback from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee is that he's projected to be an early to middle second-round pick.
Qualls, a 6-6 guard from Shreveport who averaged 15.9 points and 5.3 rebounds this season and earned All-SEC second-team honors, said he's hopeful he can move up into the first round with strong workouts for NBA teams.
"I just feel like man-to-man on the same court with everybody else, I can open eyes and open doors for myself," Qualls said. "I've got a feel for a lot of other guys that have entered their names.
"These are the guys I'm going to have to match up against. I have the utmost confidence in myself to be able to outshine somebody and move myself up the charts."
Qualls said his primary reason for leaving Arkansas a season early to pursue a pro career is to provide financial support for his son, Michael Jr., who lives in Shreveport. Playing professionally overseas also will be an option if he doesn't make an NBA roster.
"While I've been here, my family, my girlfriend's family, they've been taking care of my son for three years," Qualls said. "I just wanted them to watch over my son until I had a definite way to put food on the table.
"Now is the time to do what I have to do."
Qualls said he made the decision Tuesday night to declare for the draft after talking with his father, Anthony.
Leaving school is especially tough, Qualls said, since he will be 13 hours shy of a degree in recreation and sports management.
Qualls said he will finish this semester and plans to complete his degree with online courses.
"I've got a brain and I can use it," he said. "Arkansas' been wonderful to me over these past three years. I thank them for everything that they helped me achieve, but it's my time to go."
Qualls told Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson about his decision Wednesday morning.
"I think Mike is doing the thing that he feels in his heart," Anderson said. "So I support him in what he's decided to do and wish him the best."
Qualls became known nationally for his high-flying dunks -- most notably a putback with 0.2 seconds left that beat Kentucky 87-85 in overtime last season -- but he expanded his game to the perimeter, hitting 55 of 165 (33.3 percent) three-point attempts this season.
"He got nicknamed 'Mr. Walk On Air,' but I thought he wasn't just a highlight waiting to happen," Anderson said. "He became more of a basketball player as we saw this year when we were in the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament."
Qualls averaged 17.7 points in SEC Tournament games against Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky, then averaged 23.5 points in NCAA Tournament games against Wofford and North Carolina. He had 27 points and 10 rebounds against the Tar Heels in his final game for the Razorbacks, an 87-78 loss.
"My confidence is through the roof," Qualls said. "If you do this, you have to be all-in. I can't be hesitant and wishy-washy. So now it's all business."
Qualls said he hasn't signed with an agent.
"Since I declared a couple hours ago I've had a lot trying of agents trying to get in contact with me," he said. "I'm going to sit down and have those meetings and see who's the best fit for me."
Qualls took a break from playing a pickup game with the Razorbacks to do interviews.
"I asked Coach today can I come play pick-up?" Qualls said. "He said yeah, and he didn't even look at me any type of way because I was leaving. I'm still in the family.
"It's Woo Pig Sooie forever. I mean that. It's always going to be love."
Qualls said he and Portis -- who also was playing in Wednesday's pickup game -- talked after the season about what they could help the Razorbacks accomplish next season.
"We talked about coming back, how great it would be to try to win a national championship," Qualls said. "But at the end of the day, you have to make a decision for yourself."
Sports on 04/16/2015