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What did IPFW men's basketball coach Jon Coffman do on his summer vacation? Among other things, he has developed more confidence in some of his student-athletes.
The Mastodons wrap up a three-game tour of Canada with a game today at the University of Windsor (5 p.m.), and if the first two games (both wins) are any indication, Coffman will see some solid performances out of players both experienced and new.
“I don't know necessarily if I've learned anymore about our guys,” Coffman said. “It has sort of reiterated what I already knew. But I have realized that a couple of these guys, who haven't played for us these past years, have a real chance to be good players. Not necessarily down the road, but more in the immediate future.”
Players like redshirt junior wing Herbert Graham have made the most of this trip when given an increased opportunity more so than he's received during the regular season.
After redshirting his first year in Fort Wayne, Graham has played in just 25 games combined. But if this trip tells Mastodon fans anything, they'll be seeing him more this coming season.
“Herbert has shown some really good glimpses,” Coffman said. “I'm going to continue to give Herbert minutes. I'm going to give him minutes even if he screws up.”
Which he did during an earlier game on this tour – sort of.
Graham's offensive play hasn't been questioned by the IPFW coaches ever since he arrived from North Miami Beach three years ago. However, it has been his defense, or lack thereof, that has kept him off of the court.
The other night, he made a defensive error and “shot a gap,” according to his coach, which resulted in a breakdown of the Mastodon team defense. But then the new Herbert Graham made an appearance.
Instead of giving up on the play, Graham hustled back into position and made a deflection and a steal.
“He made a second effort,” Coffman explained. “That is where he has quit in the past on plays. He made that play and I couldn't have been more happy.”
Coffman said if the FIBA rules (which Canadian teams play under) would've allowed him to call a timeout, he would've done so immediately. However, he waited until the next break in play and spent all 60 seconds congratulating Graham on his effort.
Graham has still been good offensively, as he has sank six of his nine shots (including two of three from 3-point range) and has totaled 15 points in as many minutes so far on this trip.
And Graham isn't alone in his level of play.
Freshman guard John Konchar has also been a pleasant surprise for Coffman. The 6-foot-5 combo guard (he can play three positions) opened his collegiate career with a six point, thee assist effort and has done a nice job of passing and playing within the team concept.
“I'm going to get John significantly more minutes (tonight),” Coffman said. “Konchar has really shown out well.”
Coffman also cited the play of redshirt sophomore Brent Calhoun and junior college transfer guard Michael Calder, as guys that will be utilized this coming year.
“I've gained confidence in some guys who I just didn't know what they could do in a live game,” Coffman said. “When it comes to a difficult situation in the season, I'm going to have confidence to stick with them.”
It's been nearly 17 months since IPFW redshirt junior guard Max Landis has played in a game after transferring from Gardner-Webb, and his play on this trip has shown that at times.
He's gotten minutes (33 total in two games), but made just one of his five shot attempts (he's 0 for 3 from 3-point range) and has five turnovers. But Coffman isn't overly concerned at this point.
“Max has to shake the rust off a little bit,” Coffman said. “The game is a little fast for him right now and we talked about that. He hasn't been ready to shoot. You can tell it's been a year off. This has been good for him.
“It's been a good experience for him because now he's shaking (the rust) off in games that don't matter.”