Rookies adjust to rigorous demands on student-athletes

Despite young age, freshman set aspirations on winning Mid-American Conference.

Usually, the things at the top of a college freshman's priority list are rather mundane. Finding classrooms, buying books and trying not to shrink clothes in the dryer are major concerns.

Add to that list learning complex offensive and defensive schemes, going to study tables and practicing with a Cardinal men's basketball team with aspirations of Mid-American Conference glory, and you get a pretty good idea of the daily routine of Scott Bushong, Matt McCollom and Gabe Miller.

Bushong, McCollom and Miller join Michael Bennett as fresh faces on a Cardinal team that finished 18-12 last season and advanced to the semifinals of the MAC tournament. Though Bennett is technically a freshman, he started three games for the Cardinals last season before being injured and receiving a medical redshirt.

As the season progresses, the three true rookies might find a niche, or grow into a roll like Bennett did. But for right now, their contributions are measured by one simple task.

"I work my butt off every day and try and get the team going," McCollom said.

This idea of effort in an attempt to make their teammates better is shared by Bushong.

"Right now, my role is just to bang with T (Theron Smith) in practice and make it as hard for him as I can," he said. "I might not play a lot but I try to set the example with my attitude."

Miller sees his role in a different light. After finishing his career at Fort Wayne's Carroll High School as the school's all-time scoring leader (1,196 points), as well as single season scoring leader (536), Miller feels he can be a valuable weapon for the Cardinals in time. Miller is a probable redshirt this season, but still feels he can make things difficult for the Cardinal defenders in practice.

"Offensively, I can play inside and outside," he said. "It will be tough for opposing defenses to guard a person as versatile as I am."

Head coach Tim Buckley is pleased thus far with his rookies, saying that they have met his expectations.

"We were expecting them to come in here and be good teammates and hard workers, and they already bring those qualities," Buckley said. "They're good listeners, ready to be coached, and they want to be winners."

That desire to win is evident in the words of McCollom, who set high goals for the Cardinals.

"We want to win the MAC," McCollom said. "But I think we'd be selling ourselves short if we don't go to the tournament and do something there, not just play in the first round."


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