Feb. 3, 2012
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By John Denton
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - So much of thriving as a basketball player depends on being in the flow and having a rhythm about your game. And oftentimes it's difficult to find that flow when playing only in short bursts or not at all for games at a time.
But when UCF freshman forward Kasey Wilson got his first chance this season at extended minutes, he gave the Knights coaching staff a glimpse of the things he can do when on the floor for an elongated period of time.
Wilson, a true freshman from North Port, shined in 20 minutes of playing time in Monday's non-conference game against Palm Beach Atlantic. Not only did he set career highs in points (15) and rebounds (five), he played with great freedom and ferocity and excited the crowd with two thunderous dunks. For Wilson, it was a relief knowing that he was going to be on the floor for extended minutes instead of playing in short spurts as often is the case in tight Conference USA games.
``It was good (playing extended minutes). I'm not really used to that, but it was good to be able to get out there and contribute to a win,'' Wilson said following UCF's easy, breezy win on Monday.
Wilson was so good and his improvement of late has been so drastic that UCF coach Donnie Jones said he is looking for ways to play the 6-foot-7, 225-pound Wilson more in the coming weeks. The first opportunity to do so could come Saturday in Dallas when the Knights (16-6 overall and 5-3 in C-USA) face SMU (10-12 and 2-6).
The game is critical for the Knights, who have hopes of staying near the top of the C-USA standings. UCF trails Southern Miss (7-1) by two games and Memphis (6-2) and Tulsa (6-2). Tulsa, which won 66-60 at SMU last week, has a tough home game against Marshall (5-3) Saturday night.
UCF snapped a two-game losing streak earlier in the week with an 84-69 whipping of Palm Beach Atlantic. The nonconference game not only kept the Knights sharp during a down time in the schedule, but it also allowed them to give some extended playing time to freshmen Rod Days, Wayne Martin and Wilson.
After showing flashes of greatness in his snippets of playing time previously, Wilson's game looked dazzling against Palm Beach Atlantic. He made seven of 10 shots by regularly blowing by defenders and scoring in traffic. His follow-up dunk late in the second half was highlight worthy and it caught the eye of Jones.
``I'm really happy with Kasey Wilson and you can see him improvement now each and every game. His confidence is growing,'' Jones said. ``I'm just happy that we're getting a chance to get him out there to play more.''
Wilson is getting more of a chance to play more because he has attacked practice and has seriously embraced the idea that he needs to improve to compete at the college level, Jones said. Despite being a Class 6A all-state performer in high school while averaging 21 points and 9.0 rebounds a game, Wilson has worked hard to improve his strength and agility to go against bigger, faster athletes.
``The toughest transition is getting used to the speed of the game and the physicality,'' said Wilson, who has bulked up from 209 pounds when he arrived on campus to 225 pounds now. ``In high school, the court is shorter and it's easier moving up and down, so I've had to get used to (faster and more physical play) here.''
Jones has taken notice of Wilson's work and thinks the power forward has a bright future because of his shooting skills and willingness to bang inside. And that bright future could begin right away with more extended playing time in the coming games.
``He's really improved because of his attitude and focus. He's come every day in practice and earned his way. We've got to continue to find more minutes for him as he's continued to improve,'' Jones said. ``The good news is that Kasey brings us a different dimension in that he can step out and shoot it, too. As we saw (against Palm Beach Atlantic), he's a shooter and a very good rebounder. He's gotten a lot stronger. He's put on some size and he's starting to adjust to the physicality that he needs to be able to handle at this level.''
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at email@example.com.