Rockets' Bastfield Makes UT Better

Freshman point guard Larry Bastfield found himself in the starting lineup for the first time of his collegiate career when the Rockets traveled to Western Michigan on January 14. Since then, the rookie has helped the Rockets more then double their wins in the past month and a half.

Under the direction of new Toledo Rockets basketball coach Gene Cross, the '08-09 basketball season has been one giant learning experience. And not just for Toledo's new head basketball coach. It's been a process for each and everyone of the players as well. Point guard Larry Bastfield is no exception.

Listed as a 5-foot-11, 190-pound guard from Baltimore, Md., Bastfield came to the Rockets in Gene Cross' first recruiting class with the expectation of helping to bolster the point guard position. As a rookie in the Rocket program, he hasn't disappointed.

"Larry has been steady. He's been playing better and better and better," Coach Cross said when asked recently about Bastfield's performance this year. "He's learning to make plays and when he needs to make plays for other people. He's learning where the ball has to go, and getting that timing down. He's learning when we need him to score. He's gradually getting better and better. He's come a long way."

It hasn't always come easy this year for Bastfield, however. At the start of MAC play, Bastfield, a prep star at Towson Catholic High School, found himself in an unfamiliar role. One that saw him coming off the bench.

"It was kind of different," Bastfield told RocketDigest.com. "When you're starting the game, you get that extra adrenalin rush. It helped me get into the game quicker rather than coming off the bench. When I was coming off the bench it made it a little bit harder to really get into the game."

In 15 games coming off the bench, Bastfield averaged just 13.2 minutes per game. He scored just 1.46 points per game, added 1.2 assists, and contributed less then one board per game. As a team, the Rockets struggled to a 2-13 start.

"The season, in the beginning, I mean it was kind of tough," Bastfield continued to concede. "Our record indicates we'd been losing a lot, but I feel like we're playing better now. We beat Ball State two weeks ago. We beat Western (Michigan) the other day. If we play the same way we played against those teams, I think we can make some noise in the MAC Tournament."

What Bastfield failed to say, though, is that he, himself, just may be a significant part of that turn around. A mainstay in the lineup since the January 14th trip to Western Michigan, the Rockets have since reeled off victories against Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, and Western Michigan, plus picked up a win over Ball State.

Over that stretch, Bastfield's minutes and numbers have each increased significantly, and all while taking extremely good care of the basketball.

"Anytime you can go into the game, go into the starting lineup, and play 40 minutes with zero turnovers, that's a big positive," Cross continued. "Anytime you're in a situation when you make the coach a little bit more comfortable, that's a good thing.

"Anytime you get into a scenario when your team is probably better off with you handling the ball more times than not, we can deal with that. That's one of the reasons his minutes have increased. He's a young man who wants to do well, and I'm hopeful that he'll continue to grow."

Again careful to avoid taking much credit in the turnaround, Bastfield continued.

"I think the team, we just clamped down. We just got tired of losing. Coach Cross was trying everything with us in practice. It seems like the team has finally got what Coach Cross was trying to teach us all season. We've been better at doing what Coach Cross wants us to do, and when we did we came out with a few vital victories. Hopefully we get another one on Wednesday."

Wednesday night's game is scheduled for a 7:00 start time. Bastfield, who's logged 31.9 minutes per game the past month and a half, plus increased his output to the tune of 4.5 points per game, 2.65 assists, and 1.74 rebounds, will likely again be in the starting lineup.

As a matter of fact, with three more years of eligibility, don't expect him to look back.

"It's just confidence. I've been gaining confidence throughout the season. When the coach gave me the call, I just wanted to be ready to play my game. Once he gave me the start, I didn't want to waste the opportunity. Once I got in, I didn't want to come out of the line up."

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