Projected by some pundits to be a 2010 NBA Lottery pick, Fresno State sophomore Paul George struggled early this season with turnovers and poor shot selection. Now, as WAC play has begun, the talented forward has found his stride and is threat to score from anywhere on the floor.
“If I’m not trying to make the tough plays [it limits turnovers],” said George. “That’s where I struggled with beginning of the year – trying to make plays when I didn’t have to. Now, the game is starting to flow for me.”
He credits tireless before and after practice sessions with assistant coaches for improving his ball handling skills in recent weeks. “That’s been helping me keep the ball tight, be able to penetrate and find open guys,” he said.
George is the only Bulldog to start every game the last two seasons – 50 straight starts. He leads the ‘Dogs in scoring (17.3), rebounding (7.8) and he leads the WAC in steals with 40 (2.7 per game). He also boasts the squad’s best free throw percentage (91.4%) and averages the most minutes played (33.6 mpg).
George has done nothing but improve those numbers through two WAC contests, scoring 21 in wins over Boise State and Hawaii.
“I definitely have,” he said about stepping up his game in conference play. “I take it upon myself to keep this team going and try to give it my all every night. It would be sad with the talent we have on this team to let us fall to sixth, seventh or wherever they have us picked.”
In San Jose State (6-6, 1-1), the ‘Dogs are going to see their toughest challenge of the young WAC season. George must continue his solid play and match one of the best scoring threats in the conference in Spartan guard Adrian Oliver, who is averaging 21 ppg.
SJSU may try to cut the game in half and limit Fresno State’s transition scoring opportunities. But the Spartans can run the floor despite getting beat by 29 on the road Saturday in Reno. They also have a huge inside presence in center Chris Oakes, who leads the conference in rebounding with 10 per game.
But George could be the deciding factor with his newfound ability to take over a game in the clutch as we saw against Boise State nine days ago. Moreover, the ‘Dogs are playing like team for possibility the first time this season.
“It meant a lot,” George said of the last minute 71-68 win over the Broncos. “I think it brought us closer together. We all got each other’s back now, through tough times, we can still stick it out and win ball games.”
Another reason George has become a more complete player has been improved point guard play. Sophomore junior college transfer Steven Shepp has enhanced the play of those around him since taking over the starting role a month ago, something George says was lacking last season.
“Last year, Bryce [Cartwright] did a good job but with Shepp being here, he’s much more of a ball handler, he sees the court better and he just makes great passes,” said George. “That’s what we struggled with last year just handling the ball from the point guard.”
BOGO Night vs. Spartans
All upper bowl tickets are buy one, get one free for Monday night’s game with San Jose State. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.
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