Trying Times

Trevor Gaskins is a college basketball player. So having only played eight games in a little more than a year has been frustrating.

Since those eight have all been played in the last month after a season's layoff due to injury, Gaskins has had a little trouble getting his old form back.

Actually it's mostly been his shooting. And a big part of what Gaskins brings to the table is making shots.

"He's just trying so hard," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "His effort has never been questioned. He's very emotional and sometimes those emotions can work against you. I think Trev is going through some of that right now."

It's not like he lost his way with it or anything. It's just that he hasn't found that comfort zone he had a couple of years ago as a true freshman that made him one of the program's bright future stars.

The coaches of the Southeastern Conference named him to their All-SEC team after that first season when he helped lead the Rebels to the National Invitation Tournament's Final Four at Madison Square Garden. He played in all 35 games that season, averaging six points and a couple of rebounds, seeing nearly 15 minutes a game.

Then came a year off because of a knee injury in preseason practice in the fall of 2008. Surgery followed and then months of rehab. And a little rustiness set in.

This season the 6-foot-2, 210-pound guard from Alpharetta, Ga., has averaged 3.6 points per contest with a couple of rebounds and assists each time out. More was expected from him, but obviously there's still time.

His next chance to make some things happen comes today with a 1 p.m. tip against McNeese State at Tad Smith Coliseum.

"It boils down to him not shooting the basketball the way we know he's capable, and so he's putting a lot of pressure on himself," Kennedy said. "That one facet has unfortunately sent him in a direction from a confidence standpoint that we all would like to see him be removed from.

"I just think he's putting too much pressure on himself to make shots as opposed to just playing the game and letting the shots come. That's easier said than done. We've all been there, and that's where he is right now."

Kennedy said some of it may actually be mechanical with Gaskins.

"In order to be a consistent shooter, you have to have a consistent release point," he said. "I think his release point has been inconsistent, and therefore his results have been inconsistent. We've worked on that. We've also tried to get him some reps and tried not to allow it to become so much mental. He just needs a game when he knocks down two or three and all of a sudden it's behind him and he can move on."

Gaskins agrees.

"Coach has been telling me I haven't been following through on my shots, so I've been working on that," Gaskins said. "Shooters go through slumps, and I've just got to keep shooting."

But he's also working to make sure other parts of his game compensate while his shooting touch returns.

"Coach has said even though you're not making shots, you're doing good things on defense," Gaskins said. "He said just keep doing that and your shot will come. I really think a little bit of it is not playing last year and getting back in the flow of the game. Some of it is just not being able to play in a long time."

Today's opponent, the Cowboys, are 3-4 on the season. McNeese State is coming off a 101-54 win over NAIA Paul Quinn College and also has victories over Louisiana College and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Coach Dave Simmons' squad relies on a stingy defense, allowing just 65.4 points per game, while producing 9.6 steals per contest. McNeese holds a +3.3 turnover margin, but is getting outrebounded by an average of 2.9 boards per game (34.0-31.1).

Three Cowboys average in double-figure points, led by Stephan Martin's 12.3 ppg. Patrick Richard adds 11.9 ppg, and Diego Kapelan chips in 10.9 ppg. As a team, McNeese scores 69.0 ppg.

The Rebs have prepared as best they can since a thrilling 81-79 victory against Southern Mississippi last Saturday in Oxford. Semester exam week is always challenging for basketball teams. But now that's behind them.

"Coaches like schedules," Kennedy said of the routine. "I'm not a big surprise guy. I like to know what's going on. This week our schedule has been thrown out of whack simply because of the demands of finals. I always get nervous for that next game when we're not in our normal routine."

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