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Arkansas Basketball Preview: A One-on-One With Michael Qualls

I was able to sit down with the Arkansas forward last week to preview the upcoming season and get an inside look at what motivates him as a player and person.

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Scottie Bordelon:  How is the team looking in practice so far?

Michael Qualls:  The team is looking real good. We're clicking on all cylinders, and everyone is putting in their full effort into making this team great.

SB:  What part of your game have you worked on improving the most for this season?

MQ:  I've been working on shooting the basketball and becoming more vocal as a leader.

SB:  Not having Marshawn Powell and BJ Young this year leaves a big void for others to step in. Do you feel like you're the guy to fill that void or help fill it?

MQ:  I do feel like I can fill that role. I feel like in every stage of life that's how it works. Like in high school as a freshman, there's going to be good players leaving, so I'm pretty much used to that.

SB:  I've read that you have a son. How does he motivate you to want to be not only a better basketball player but a better person?

MQ:  I feel like I can speak up for every father in the world, not being able to take care of your son is the worst feeling ever. So, it's just motivation times a thousand. I just use that as my motivation every day. You know, when you want to hold your head down, you may not be having some of the best days, but knowing you have somebody to take care of its pushing me further.

SB:  I understand the mother of your son and current girlfriend (Khadijah West) also plays for the women's team at Arkansas. Could you describe your relationship with her?

MQ:  With that situation, it can be rough if not handled the right way, but I just tell her to focus on what she's doing – her school work, and playing ball. I'm always going to want to provide for my son, but at the same time, as a woman, she wants to provide for him just as much or even more than I do. So she's out here working hard just like I am.

SB:  Was it basketball that brought you and Khadijah together?

MQ:  Just kids from around the town, I guess. I've been knowing her for a long, long time.

SB:  How tough is it to balance time with your son, basketball, and your school work?

MQ:  You have to make sacrifices. In my situation, I put down all the unnecessary things and focus on what I really need to focus on to take care of what I need to take care of, and to strive in my career so I can give my son the best future he can have.

SB:  I don't know if there's any truth to this – I wouldn't doubt if there were – but I've heard rumor that you have a 44-inch vertical leap. Is that true? Have you always just been a gifted leaper?

MQ:  My junior year in high school it was, like, a 38, but it's way higher now. Maybe it could be true, but I feel like I just jump as high as the team needs me to jump. I haven't had my vertical measured since I've been here.

SB:  Personally, what was your top moment from your freshman season? Any one moment stand out?

MQ:  Most likely playing Florida. Starting as a true freshman, coming out there and producing, playing in front of all these loud, crazy fans, making a crazy percentage of shots. It's wonderful to feel, especially on primetime television.

(Qualls also said the dunk on Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein is also up there on his favorite dunks list.)

SB:  Finally, what can Arkansas fans expect to see from Michael Qualls this season?

MQ:  The fans can expect to see me give my all every game, no matter what. I'm going to try to give as much as I can and be more vocal as a leader, keep calm through rough situations, and do whatever's needed.