Austin looks to up his game

After coming on strong over the course of last season to the surprise of many Cougar hoops fans, big 6-foot-11-inch, 230-pound forward Nate Austin looks to become more of a force and provide a one-two punch for the Cougars on the court.

Now with a year of experience under his belt, Nate Austin looks to advance his role on the court this year after an overall very favorable performance upon his return from his mission last year.

"I think as far as my role this year in comparison to last year will be very similar," said Austin. "I'm just going to do whatever the coach needs me to do, whether it's to play defense or to score points on offense. I'm always going to be in there to box out and rebound.

"I think my role this year will be that I need to have more of the load be on my shoulders. I take pride in that knowing that more of the load should be on my shoulders. I need to crash the boards more and get those secondhand shots and be more of an impact player on the team."

With the success he was able to have last year, Austin's confidence rose.

"Yeah, I think last year when I came home from my mission I wasn't quite sure how much I was going to play," Austin said. "I think this year I now know what to expect, I know the system and how the team plays. I can now go into this season with the expectation of knowing what to expect and how to play.

"I also think I have the trust of my teammates now. You know, last year I think they were sort of unsure about me shooting it and what I could offer. I also think I have the trust of the fans this year as well."

This season in order to expand his role on both ends of the court, he will need to actually stay out on the court.

"I think this year, one thing I need to do is stay out of foul trouble, and I think this year that will be key for me," Austin said. "Last year I would come in and foul and that was alright because we had Brandon [Davies] and Noah [Hartsock] there. I could come in and foul and hack guys, but this year I have to play more defense and expand my role. If I can do that on the defensive end and then become more of an offensive threat, then it will take some pressure off the shoulders of some of these guys."

With Davies being a dominant player for the Cougars down low in the post, having another big man to complement Davies could be a nice one-two punch for Coach Dave Rose.

"I think me and Brandon first of all are both unselfish players," Austin said. "We both just want the team to win no matter what it takes. He's more of a low post player and I think he's more comfortable with his back towards the basket and can score in a variety of ways. He can also face up and shoot the ball.

"I'm sort of the same way. I'm a little more comfortable stepping out and shooting it straight on as opposed to my back to the basket, but I think our games really complement each other. If needs be, we can kind of go vice versa. He can go out and inside and I can do the same. I think our game can cause a lot of havoc for teams because we can both go inside and outside."

That versatile one-two punch would make the Cougars more formidable in the West Coast Conference.

"I think that would be huge, and if you look at our conference, there are a lot of big men. There are a lot of big four and five big men," Austin said. "If we can establish that on our team, we should have some good battles in conference.

"I think with our team in general, I think our guards have the ability to also post up down low and create mismatches down low. If I step out, I cause the four man to come out and that leaves Brandon down wide open in the post so he can have a one-on-one in the post. I can shoot outside if the four man stays down low in the post, so it creates a lot of mismatches."

Austin was a player that came onto the scene last season as a pleasant surprise for Cougar fans. So, who will be that guy this year?

"I think that will be Josh Sharp, who will be that surprise player this year," said Austin about his old high school teammate at Lone Peak. "He's worked really hard this summer and it's taken him a little longer for him to get his legs to get back from his mission. His legs are back now and he's just jumping out of the gym like he was in high school and really throwing it down.

"He understands the game well, he running well, he's shooting it really well and he's rebounding well. He is a very versatile player, and I think he can be a really big player for us. He can go to the three, the four and the five and can play a lot of different positions because he's long and athletic and can do a lot. I think he can be a real big player for us this year."

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