Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Passing the torch (Mullings the next big thing?)

I've never seen another player take an offensive rebound away from Wendell McKines.

But it happened on Saturday in NMSU's victory over Louisiana Tech. But it wasn't a La. Tech player. It was freshman guard Daniel Mullings.

"On one particular play, I felt like, 'I'm about to get the ball.' And I guess he felt that way too and he took the ball away from me," McKines said.

Although they play different positions, Mullings reminds me of a young McKines in terms of energy level, athletic ability, a non-stop motor and an opportunity to contribute as freshmen.

"I have always had and he's always had it," Mullings said. "People are born with it, just that want for the ball. We are similar in that facet of the game, especially when it comes to rebounds. It's just a knack for the ball that we both have. That's good for the team. It's an extra possession and a lot of times, people aren't willing to put their body on the line for that possession. It's good for you if you have one person on the team like that but we have multiple, especially at different possessions."

One difference perhaps is that Mullings has an opportunity to play a larger role to the Aggies' success as a freshman than McKines, who played on a senior laden team that had just been to the NCAA Tournament. Fellow freshman Herb Pope also got more involved as the season went one. McKines started 12 games as a freshman, playing 18.7 minutes per game in 35 appearances and still averaged 6.4 ppg and 5.9 rpg.

McKines sees a bit of  himself in Mullings and genuinely seems to like the freshman from Toronto. Against La. Tech, I noticed McKines pulling Mullings aside on two or three occassions during timeouts. 

"He just has that extra energy, extra effort for the ball and not taking no for an answer," McKines said. "And I'm going to get this play done whether you like it or not. I definitely see that in him. I tell him little things, even if it's in the heat of battle that I think can help him. Hopefully he takes it."

McKines and senior point guard Hernst Laroche are two players who Mullings can certainly take advantage of in terms of experience, just as McKines was able to learn from Justin Hawkins, Fred Peete, Hatila Passos etc.

"Especially being in the starting lineup and practicing with them everyday," said Mullings, who will make his 15th start on Thursday at Idaho. "A lot of times, they take me aside. I am a freshman so a lot of times I make a lot of mistakes. They will give me little pointers here and there for future reference that will help me out and help the team out."

Mullings is averaging 8.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals on the season. He's stood out here and there this year (eight straight points to put La. Tech away, 17 points while shutting Utah State's Preston Medlin down) but he's still a freshman. 

Mullings is shooting 48 percent from the floor, but he's obviously much better around the basket than his jump shot. He's shooting 27 percent from 3-point range and often passes open shots. In the past two games, he's shooting 67 percent from the floor, averaging 15.5 points while providing the perimeter defense that he's played all year.

McKines has turned into the player we see thanks to individual work in the offseason. From all accounts, Mullings is a humble person with a similar work ethic. He also has Tony Delk to learn from in the offseason.

"My jump shot being consistent and getting used to taking shots and being confident in it," he said. "I'm looking forward to this offseason, especially with coaches and Coach Delk. Just having more reps and shooting, taking jumpers and being more confident and comfortable shooting."

Fellow Canadian native Christian Kabongo described Mullings as "oxygen" coming off the bench. McKines described him after one game as "My favorite player." 

Takes one to know one.


Anonymous said...

JY went into BSU his freshman year and scored 33. Mullings needs to do that at Moscow tonite. Then I'll say, yeah, Okay he's the second coming of Wendell. Hopefully he doesn't realize how big this game is and he'll go lights out! DM has that kind of game in him if the Aggies can't score.

Anonymous said...

Just think of the kind of tandem the Kabongo and Mullings would have made next year. Too bad Kabongo never figured out the team game.

Anonymous said...

Thats what Im talking about!!!! Love to see some energy especially competative hustle from the younger guys.

Awesome post

Anonymous said...

Oh well, Nevada won anyway. Now this loss to the Vandals turns out to be a good one because the Aggies never exorcised the demons from the UTEP loss that ruined their season (to that point). Now they can confront whatever is going on in so called "winning" time before Las Vegas WAC tourney. Did Charlie Sheen hire on as their sports psychologist recently?