Armon Bassett - In His Element
Feb. 22, 2007
He takes the pass from inside at the left elbow. One dribble, jump shot, good from downtown. Another pass from inside, this time in the corner. Catch and shoot, good off the back of the rim.
He's on the court, in his zone, like there's no one else in the building but him and his teammate.
That's because it's a Wednesday night, 10 p.m., with just a few remaining stragglers in the building from the women's basketball game that wrapped up an hour ago.
This is his time, free time, and here he is on the court, working on his shot from outside. Pass to the top of the key. Jumper. Good.
Hard work has helped Armon Bassett go from being a wet-behind-the-ears rookie to a poised starter in just five months, but he still has a long way to go. So here he is, with senior Rod Wilmont, working on his jump shot when he could be doing just about anything. Swish.
"Three people have helped me out more than anybody," Bassett said. "Errek [Suhr] is just a good example of work ethic and Earl [Calloway] helps me out a lot. Rod has been like a big brother to me. We come in and shoot all the time together, just us two, and we hang out off the court, like going to get something to eat."
In his first three games as a Hoosier, Bassett looked like nothing special - four points, six turnovers. Fast forward to February, and he's like a different player. He has 12 games in double figures in scoring, is shooting better than 40 percent and has started every conference game for IU in the backcourt.
"I'm a little bit more mature and I have a different mindset when it comes to working," Bassett said. "When I first came here, I had to do some soul searching to get myself ready to prepare for the workouts. Right now I have more confidence. When I first got here, I kind of second guessed myself."
When Mike Davis resigned in February 2006, Bassett, who had already signed a National Letter of Intent, was unsure of where he would wind up. Coaches from all over the country were contacting him and his coach, trying to bring him in to their program. But after talking to Sampson and spending a couple of weeks thinking about it, the Terre Haute, Ind., native decided to come to Bloomington. And as of now, he's more than happy with the decision.
"It really does feel good," Bassett said. "I figured it was a big deal, but I didn't know how they worshipped basketball players until I got here. As Coach says, we get treated like rock stars."
Playing for Sampson has been a wake-up call for all the Hoosiers this season - the coach's intense style demands hard work and attention to detail from all. But for Bassett, that's all part of the equation, and he knows that he and the team will be all the better for their hard work.
"The best thing is knowing that you will get better," Bassett said of the benefits of playing for Sampson. "The hard part is that it is so intense and I am so laid back. I'm still laid back off the court, but the thing I try and do is change my personality to his style."
Bassett has shown that he has a penchant for hitting shots in the clutch this season. In a hard-fought win over Illinois on Dec. 10, Bassett showed that poise in the final minute of the contest. Trailing 61-60, the freshman took the ball on the left side and drove the baseline past the defense, kissing a layup off the glass and in to give the Hoosiers a one-point lead with 44 seconds to play.
"For us, our way of scoring is attacking the basket," Sampson said following that game. "Armon is a kid that we looked in the eye and said, `You have to drive the ball and make plays.' He is getting better at that."
How sure was Bassett of his ability to get to the basket?
"I've been called for some traveling violations, but I can get past any guard," he said.
Against Connecticut on Jan. 20, Bassett hit four crucial free throws in the closing minutes to salt away a 77-73 victory on the road. The freshman was not only unfazed by the crowd, he relished the opportunity to silence it.
"It's fun to hit big shots on the road," he said. "When you're on the road, on the court, it really isn't as hard because you don't hear much of what the fans are saying because you are in your own little zone. But every kid wants to hit shots like that."
So here he is, the freshman, just 60 miles from where he grew up, and living his dream of playing college basketball. And regardless of whether he is the only one inside Assembly Hall or if 17,000 or his closest friends are there to cheer him on, it's a special feeling.
"That's why I wanted to come here," Bassett said. "Being close to home, a lot of people I know are watching the games, some that weren't fans beforehand. Playing at Indiana is good exposure and we have great fans that are real fun to play for."
But even Bassett's fan club doesn't come without its own problems.
"I wish I could get more tickets. I have to tell them I only get four. People get bent out of shape sometimes."
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