Kikko Haydar was milling around the University of Arkansas basketball offices on a summer day when he was approached with a favor. An Arkansas alum, who worked on the Arkansas Traveler sports staff when he was a student, was in town and wanted to visit with UA coach Mike Anderson, who he covered when the coach was an assistant in the late 80s.
Upon entering Anderson’s office reception area, he bumped into Haydar. He asked the Razorbacks guard if he would surprise his 14-year-0ld daughter and 12-year-old son who were looking around the Bud Walton museum.
Haydar asked the kids’ names and agreed to visit with them.
When the father left Anderson’s office after a brief conversation, Haydar was still talking to the kids. The daughter was on campus for a softball camp — both kids claimed the former walk-on as their favorite player. They were surprised by the goodwill gesture.
When asked about
the encounter a couple of months later while being interviewed for an Arkansas Life article, Haydar flashed a huge smile.
“The kids are important to me. I want to be a good role model for them and give them someone to look up to. I take that seriously,” Haydar said.
In his four years as a Hog, Haydar has made the kids, and all Hog fans proud. The nearly lifelong Fayetteville resident and Fayetteville High School alum grew up attending Razorbcks games and refused to give another university a look, even when he wasn’t offered a basketball scholarship.
Haydar, whose parents are both UA professors, earned the prestigious Bodenhamer Fellowship given by the UA Honors College to a small group of freshmen each year. The program provides $50,000 to the students over four years. With his education paid for, the former FHS all-stater worked hard on the court to earn playing time.
He averaged 13.3 minutes and 3.3 points per game last season. In his senior year, he’s at about the same clip with 3.3 points in just over 12 minutes of action.
The 5-foot-10, 160-pounder has earned minutes over the past three years under Anderson with his willingness to get dirty and hit timely three-pointers. Despite looking more like the Pre-Med honor student (He’ll graduate in May.) than an SEC student-athlete, Haydar has found ways to out-smart and out-hustle opponents.
Anderson talks about Haydar with enthusiasm and lauds the team captain for leading by example in the classroom and on the court.
“That kind of work ethic is contagious,” Anderson said last fall.
Haydar plays his final home game Wednesday night. It will be an emotional night for the five Arkansas seniors, but particularly for Haydar. He’s lived a childhood dream playing a contributing role in an arena he’s visited since he was in grade school. And like many of the teams he cheered, the current team has a good chance of playing in the NCAA Tournament — a goal Haydar mentioned prominently in September.
Haydar’s love for basketball is only surpassed by his adoration for the Razorbacks and the campus. Being a hometown boy, and crowd favorite, his ovation will be among the louder of the seniors.
There’s a good chance many cheering will be kids hoping to follow the same path he has. Haydar’s proven anything is possible.