Making his way to KU from Anchorage, Kansas guard Mario Chalmers started 21 of 33 contests, was second on the team in scoring, among the top 15 players nationally in steals per game and was named MVP of the Big 12 Tournament. On top of all of that, he also earned spots on the Big 12’s All-Freshman and Defensive teams.
Not too bad when you look back at it, but according to Chalmers it was just an ok year as he made the transition from high school ball in Alaska to the big time.
“I’d say I had an average season last year. There were a lot more things that I could have done to be better that I really didn’t know I could do,” said Chalmers of his freshman campaign. “I think everybody was just a lot stronger and there was better competition every game you play. Being in Alaska there wasn’t great competition every game, it was a great difference.”
Because of his competition level in high school, Chalmers was often able to coast while still putting up huge numbers. While he wouldn’t admit to coasting during his freshman season, he does think that there were times early on where he didn’t quite grasp how hard he needed to play and that maybe his effort wasn’t up to par
“There were some games that I used to play like that,” said Chalmers. “Coming into college you can’t have that mindset because you’ve got to go hard every night. That was one of my biggest things was learning that.
Now ready for his sophomore season, Chalmers has spent the off-season bulking up and working on his game. He says that people can still expect him to use his quick hands to wreak havoc on opposing ball handlers and that he’ll be looking to be more aggressive attacking the basket and looking for his shot. Actually, he thinks he’s improved quite a bit in both areas.
“I’d say my defense, my defense has really improved since high school and last year,” said Chalmers. “My shooting has gotten better too and I think those are the two major things I’ve improved over the summer.”
Something else Chalmers learned as a freshman is that he has to take care of his body. The competitor in him wants to be on the court as much as possible, but at the same time he now understands that you need a break from time to time during the long and physical season.
“You just have to know when to take your breaks. If you’re tired it’s ok to ask to come out and things like that. You have to take care of yourself out there,” said Chalmers. “It was hard for me in the beginning because I thought I knew everything. By the end of the season I bought into what coach was saying and it really helped me out.”
As Thursday night’s season opening exhibition game with Washburn approaches, Chalmers is anxious to get back on the court. He doesn’t want to think about last season’s early exit from the NCAA Tournament at the hands of Bradley anymore and he’s ready to go. Actually, he thinks the entire team is ready to go and according to Chalmers nobody is worried about measuring their success with post season accolades, they are looking for results.
“I’ve tried to get stronger and focus on playing hard, I just want to do the little things that will help my team,” said Chalmers. “I think we have all bought in and it’s going to go well. We’re just ready to play.
“We just have to stay level-headed and don't get too ahead of ourselves and think that we can't be beat. The biggest key for us this year is don't take anybody lightly."