Notae faces Goergia

Razorback senior guard JD Notae (#1) from Covington, GA drives to the basket against Mercer at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, AR.

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – The last time Georgian turned Razorback JD Notae faced a Georgia based team he scored 30 points in Fayetteville.

Wednesday night Notae plays THE Georgia university flagship team, the University of Georgia Bulldogs, in a 6 p.m. (CST) ESPNU televised SEC game at Georgia’s Stegeman Coliseum in Athens.

Growing up in Covington, Ga., Notae as a high schooler had gone to Mercer University’s summer basketball camps in nearby Macon, Ga.

The Mercer Bears never recruited him as he first proceeded out of state to Florida at the University of Jacksonville.

Notae didn’t let them forget it. He scored 30 in Arkansas’ 74-61 season-opening victory over Mercer on Nov. 9 at Walton Arena.

Postgame, Notae asserted how much had it in for Mercer not recruiting him.

Did the University of Georgia recruit him?

“Naw, they didn’t recruit me at all,” Notae replied Monday to media.

So same incentive he harbored goes for Georgia?

Notae laughed.

“Man for sure,” Notae said.

Actually Notae dogged the Dawgs effectively last year as the sixth man scoring 12 points in 16:40.

The Bulldogs hardly noticed. Starting with Moses Moody’s 25 points, Arkansas marched through Georgia, 99-69 at Walton.

Redshirted in 2019-20 transferring from Jacksonville to Eric Musselman’ Razorbacks, Notae emerged 2020-2021 as the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year for the 25-7 Elite Eight Hogs,

In Athens Wednesday night for the 16-5 overall, 5-3 in the Razorbacks vs. Coach Tom Crean’s 6-15, 1-7 Bulldogs, Notae arrives in a new role twice removed from last year’s SEC stellar sixth man.

He began this season switched from sixth man to Arkansas’ starting shooting off-guard and led the SEC in scoring.

Six games ago, coinciding with a 6-game winning streak including five SEC games and last Saturday’s SEC vs. Big 12 Challenge victory over West Virginia, Notae became the point guard. Notae moved to the point as Musselman revised the starting lineup moving 6-6 forward Au’Diese Toney to off guard and starting forwards Trey Wade and Stanley Umude with 6-10 center Jaylin Williams.

Playing the point where the premium generally is setting up others to score over scoring yourself would seem to impede a scorer like Notae.

It hasn’t. Averaging 18.8 points per game, Notae still leads the SEC in scoring. He’s ranged from scoring 15 to 25 points the last six games on point.

The 6-2 senior also is a set ‘em up point guard with 68 assists, second on team to Devo Davis, the point guard the season’s first 15 games now filling Notae’s valuable old role as sixth man.

“Just going off what the defense is giving us,” Notae said of his point guard role. “Knowing that I’ve got to be aggressive, too, and try to get my teammates involved. Try and see the game and just allow what the defense gives us and go off of that.”

With that redshirt year plus a season and a half active, Notae knows what Musselman expects from every spot,

“Just being a guy that knows the plays I feel like I can play the 1 through the 3 (point guard, off guard and small forward),” Notae said. “So just knowing where guys need to be. Just putting them in the right places.”

He and Toney have meshed well in the backcourt.

“Au’Diese being the off guard, he’s a great defender,” Notae said. “And on the other end just crashing the glass and cutting hard and making plays that you don’t see in the box score.”

Like Toney, Notae isn’t just geared to offense. Notae leads the SEC in steals averaging 2.4 thefts per game.

Notae said he’s playing good defense because everybody is playing good defense, exemplified by holding six straight opponents to under 40 percent field goal percentage.

“Just knowing we can switch 1 through 4,” Notae said. “Sometimes 5, with J-Will. It just gives us a versatile play style and allows us to go out there and switch most and keep the guys in front.”

Musselman says Notae on point is a great work in progress likely only to improve.

“He’s still evolving as a point guard,” Musselman said. “But I can’t praise him enough for how much he’s grown. From a concepts standpoint, he’s grown as much as any guy I’ve been around.”

Apparently his circle of friends and family has grown, too. Before it was Musselman’s turn on Monday’s Zoom press conference, Notae remarked he’d probably have “50” friends attending in Athens.

“Thanks for telling me he might have 50 people,” Musselman said wryly. “Because I’ve got a bunch coming with my wife being from Atlanta and her mom coming and her brother and her sister and knowing that (freshman reserve) Chance Moore is from the ATL as well. And then Trey Wade (from Marietta, Ga.) I’m sure our ticket allotment will go very, very quickly.”

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