December 8, 2012

Nash could finally be buying into Ford's system

After holding off South Florida on Wednesday night, [db]Le'Bryan Nash[/db] celebrated with teammate [db]Phil Jurick[/db], who had grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds.

He had probably thought about his 6 points by then, and how he had one of the worst statistical games of his collegiate career in front of a group of NBA scouts and Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti, but at that moment he didn't seem too worried about it.

He's a mystery. He always has been.
Last season, when it was Nash's team and Nash's team only, the Pokes lived and died by his scoring. Against second-ranked Missouri, Nash went off for 27 points and led the Cowboys to one of the biggest upsets in school history.

It seemed like it was a turning point. It was the beginning of his double-digit scoring streak that lasted fifteen games, but on the sixteenth he came crashing down to earth again against USF.

"It was just one of those nights," coach Travis Ford said. "When you get in foul trouble in a game like this, when you have to sit out, you aren't going to get in a flow. It's impossible. If you aren't able to stay out there for an extended period of time, get a sweat going and get a feel for their defense, it's hard to get going."

That was the case in that game against the Bulls, but there was a different feel to it.

Last year, Nash would've been frustrated and it would've been evident. He's never been great at hiding his feelings, and he would've worn his frustration on his sleeve if he had had a game like that.

But this year it was different. He was there celebrating with big Phil, who had finally gotten the performance he'd been working for since blowing out his Achilles tendon this past February, and Nash knew that.

He's different, or at least seemed to be in that moment. Maybe it's the players around him.

Freshman Marcus Smart is grabbing the headlines Nash was expected to get last season. Smart has already been talked about in the Player of the Year race, and was projected as the fourth pick in an NBA draft projection last week, yet the phenom focuses on hard work on the court and lets his game do the talking.

That's what was expected out of Nash, and maybe he's picking up something from his new teammate to try and perfect his art.

Maybe it's the dunker. Guard Markel Brown has grabbed headlines for his monstrous throw-downs for a year now, but has made huge improvements in other aspects of his game, most notably from three-point range. Maybe his development has helped push Nash.

Could he be seeing what's going on around him and letting it all click? After being the only player on whatever team he's played on, could he finally understand that there are legitimate guys around him?

Only time will tell, as possibly one of the biggest mysteries in college basketball for the last year and a half continues the dramatic storyline, but things look good for the sophomore. If he keeps the team aspect in mind, he could be the key to a very successful season for the Cowboys.

Even bigger than that, his teammates see him celebrating their success, just like he did with Jurick last week.

Chemistry is growing and it's evident when you watch them play. Nash finally buying in could be the difference between a great season, and a championship season.
But only time will tell.


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