Thursday, February 23, 2012

Learning From The Bench

By Nathan Shoup, Sports Reporter

Last offseason, seven first-years joined the Pacific Lutheran men’s basketball team, five of whom earned awards for outstanding play in high school.

But college is different than high school, and the seven experienced this season from a different perspective: the bench.

First-year Cole Parker, a post from Monroe, was an honorable mention All-State selection last year. Parker averaged 7.5 minutes per contest in four games this season before season-ending back surgery Dec. 15.

“Coming into the season, I knew that as a freshman I was going to get limited playing time,” Parker said. “You have to earn your time as a freshman and can’t come into college basketball expecting that you’re going to receive substantial minutes.”

First-year Daniel Landram, a guard out of Kent, was twice a second team all-league selection. In seven games, Landram averaged 3.3 minutes per contest.

“My expectations were pretty right on,” Landram said. “I knew that as a freshman there’s a lot I need to improve on before I start seeing more time.”

Despite preparing for the drastic cut in playing time, several of the first-years struggled with the transition to the bench.

“As a competitor you always want to be in the clutch moments of a game,” guard first-year Terrell Williams said.

The Lutes had their share of clutch moments this season. Two of PLU’s first three Northwest Conference losses were by a combined two points. The third loss of the season was dealt by Whitworth 103-94 in a 2OT thriller Jan. 6.

“Sitting during that is kind of hard,” said Williams, who averaged 8.7 minutes per game.

Williams’ 8.7 minutes per game is the highest of all the first-years. Williams was a second team All-League selection last year out of Mount Rainier High School in Federal Way.

“The hardest part about not getting on the court is just all the hard work in practice,” guard first-year Andrew Alness said. “You feel like you get yourself to a point where you are ready to contribute and don’t get that opportunity.”

Alness was a second team All-League selection out of Duvall and averaged 2.7 minutes per game.

With limited time on the court, the first-years are staying positive. The first year’s effect on the final score of each game goes beyond what is reflected in the box score.

“Without sounding corny, I do feel like I affect the final score because all of us freshman push the starting squad as hard as any other defense in the league would in every single practice,” Alness said.

Not only are the first-years pushing their teammates, some have grown through the experience of reduced playing time.

“You can see a lot of things differently than if you were actually on the court,” Williams said. “It helps you prepare and learn more about the game.”

As the first-years fight the internal battle between desire to play versus acknowledgment of their roles, they realize this is the first of four years.

“Naturally you want to show what you are made of,” Landram said.