By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Gavin Ware has already become a focal point of opposing teams’ game plans. What he’s trying to figure out is how to render those schemes ineffective.
Mississippi State’s freshman center has had good games and bad games this season, but not many good ones lately. Over his last four outings, the 6-foot-9, 270-pound Ware is averaging 8.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
Entering tonight’s game at Kentucky (19-8, 10-4 SEC), Ware is averaging 8.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. If MSU (7-19, 2-12) hopes to snap out of its 12-game losing skid, it’ll need to find a way to get Ware going.
There are things Ware can do to help himself. First-year coach Rick Ray said Ware needs to understand what opponents are doing to him and how he can combat it.
“What he has to do is he has to do a better job of sealing,” Ray said. “Now when he does get the basketball he doesn’t have to make a dribble move. I think what’s happening right now, Gavin’s being pushed off the block and not getting great post position.”
And that allows opponents to play help defense on him. Ray has spoken with Ware about how he can be a more potent offensive weapon.
“I can score and use my big, strong body to finish over the top,” Ware said. “We’ve just been in practice working with coach (George) Brooks and coach (Chris) Hollender, big man coaches, just to figure out ways I can maneuver my feet around the basket just to create opportunities for me.”
In Saturday’s 72-31 loss to Vanderbilt, Ware was held to five points and one rebound and took just two shots from the field. He praised Vandy’s game plan for being “excellent, on point when it came down to low-post position,” and he said Shelby Moats (6-8, 225) did a good job staying in front of him.
Ware continues to hone his technique, and it’s not yet become second nature to him. He could use a little more help from his teammates, though.
Ray has lamented the passing ability of his young team. It’s evidenced in part by the fact MSU is last in the SEC in assists (9.5 per game), and also in the fact that Ware is averaging only 6.6 shot attempts per game – that ranks sixth on the team.
“I think we have some guys that are open at times and because of either the pressure or people playing off of us, we can’t make that pass,” Ray said. “I think sometimes Gavin Ware is open in the post or Colin (Borchert)’s open in the post and we have the inability to pass right away, and that opportunity is gone.”
Ray would like to bring Ware along at a slower pace, but with such a thin roster that’s not been possible. Despite his struggles, Ware is glad to be gaining this experience as a freshman.
“I’m grateful just to be playing the minutes I am playing,” he said, “because if it was any other (team) I’d be on the bench stuck behind somebody.”