Nash Learning From Early Struggles

Le'Bryan Nash understands the hype he had coming in to Oklahoma State. He knows because he earned it. Nash, a consensus top 10 player coming out of Dallas Lincoln, was a McDonald's All-American because he proved himself on the court night in and night out at an elite level. Suffice to say, of all the people disappointed with his play so far at OSU, no one is more disappointed than Nash.

While he is admittedly frustrated, he is trying to make the best of it and learn from his early trials.

After a convincing 26-point, 11-rebound debut against Panhandle State in exhibition play, Nash has struggled and the public opinion of him has plummeted.

The critics were already loud after performances of 13, 5, 18 and 16 points in his first four games because of the lack of efficiency but the doubt has reached a fever pitch after a scoreless outing against Virginia Tech last Friday. Against VT Nash played only 11 minutes and remained on the bench the majority of the second half in the narrow defeat.

The freshman is third on the team in scoring at 10.4 points per game, which is roughly half of what he said he expected of himself in the preseason, and he is shooting just 35 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent from 3.

The struggles have led Nash to an early realization.

"When I got to New York (the competition) got harder; it got way harder," Nash said. "The second game against Virginia Tech, it was a learning process, it just told me, ‘Hey, you better wake up or you're going to be on the bench.' It really taught me that I need to get out here and work harder in practice if I'm going to help this team win games."

Nash has done his best to remain positive and to understand that ups and downs come for all freshmen, but he admitted it's wearing on him.

"In my mind, it's getting to me," Nash said. "I really want to do good for this school. They say I'm the highest recruit to ever come to this school. That's really pressure right there. I'm just trying to deliver.

"I think if I don't score well, my coaches and my teammates are going to be, ‘Where you at, LB? You're a main focus on this team, so you need to deliver.'"

And he knows Wednesday night's game against in-state rival Tulsa is going to be an important game in that process. He knows he needs to start delivering and soon.

"The Tulsa game is going to be real big," he said. "(Sunday's) practice was a great practice for me. I really worked hard and I'm just trying to get better because I need to help this team win games. We're a family and I want everybody to be happy."

And right now, Nash is not happy but he is far from beaten down, despite what his body language might convey. Part of the reason for his less-than-flattering public opinion is his demeanor, as he often appears to not care or to be giving a half-hearted effort, which Ford says is a misconception.

"You wouldn't believe the phone calls I get," Ford said. "Does he look like he's not interested? Does he have bad body language? Does he seem like he's moping around? He does, you can't deny that. And it does affect him to some extent. You can ask anybody around here, everybody loves him. He's a great young man. But his perception is read wrong."

Ford compared his body language to that of James Anderson. But a laid-back approach isn't the similarity most wanted to be able to make between the two. OSU supporters were expecting an All-Big 12 type season from the preseason conference freshman of the year. And so far, that hasn't happened. At least not yet.

"I know he feels (some pressure)," Ford said. "I know that he knows that all the fans and everybody thought he was going to be the guy right away, and I still think he will be the guy. I do still think he will be that. None of that has changed."

Senior captain Keiton Page feels the same as his coach on the matter, saying that Nash will get to where people expected him to be already but it won't happen instantly.

"I just think it takes time, time and experience," Page said. "He's going to get there. We see the type of player that LB is every day in practice. It just takes a little to translate over into games.

"I have no doubt LB is going to get there and LB's going to be a tremendous player by midseason, doing great things for us."

His next step in that process will come Wednesday when the Cowboys take on the Golden Hurricane at 7 p.m. in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

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