By BRAD KEITH
Sport: STEPHENVILLE (December 22, 2014) — Undefeated Tarleton State is picking up significant contributions from a pair of true freshmen. But you won’t see it just looking at box scores.
Freshman guards Nosa Ebomwonyi and Deshawn Riddick have each played crucial roles in the Texans winning their first 10 games for the second straight season. Ebomwonyi, in fact, is the first Tarleton freshman to start more than one game since Dan Eichel in 2006-07.
“You have to have tremendous character to start as a freshman, but Nosa has that type of character, they both do,” said 27th-year Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman. “We knew they were good players coming in, but they have exceeded our expectations because of their work ethic and because they immediately bought into our program and the way we do things.”
Ebomwonyi has started the last four games and has just one turnover while playing 17.2 minutes over 10 games.
“That just shows his basketball IQ and that he can handle the speed of the game at this level,” said Reisman. “Most freshmen at any position will struggle with turnovers, but Nosa has not done that, and it’s a big reason we’ve been able to leave him on the court so he can develop as quickly as he has.”
While his other season stats don’t jump off the page – he averages 4.7 points and shoots 41.4 percent – Reisman says he likes the intangibles Ebomwonyi brings to the court that can’t be seen on traditional stat charts.
“Nosa takes charges, dives after loose balls, gets where he’s supposed to be in our offense and can be trusted with the ball,” Reisman said.
Riddick was averaging just more than nine minutes per game before playing 23 minutes against Drury and 2014 Midwest Region Tournament MVP Kameron Bundy. The Tarleton freshman knocked down a key second half 3-pointer to re-establish a double-digit advantage in what was ultimately a 64-60 win over the Panthers. He is shooting 44.4 percent from the arc early in the year.
“If he doesn’t come in and give us those good minutes I don’t know that we win that game,” Reisman said. “He was a big part of that win, and I hope that it gives him the confidence he needs to build on that performance when we come back from Christmas.”
It’s not that Reisman, who has won 568 games at Tarleton, and his son, former player and associate head coach Chris Reisman, didn’t believe both players would make an impact for the Texans. Chris Reisman said when the tandem signed their letters of intent just days apart that Ebomwonyi would be seeing time early and that Riddick may as well.
They just didn’t realize the youngsters – Riddick turns 19 today and Ebomwonyi will be 19 on Dec. 28 – would come so far so soon.
“I don’t think anybody could have predicted they would progress as quickly as they have,” said Lonn Reisman. “It’s very exciting to think about having them in the program for four years as they continue their development both as ballplayers on the court and leaders on and off it.”
Both played a high level of high school basketball, and even faced off against one another back home in Pflugerville, a suburb of Austin. Ebomwonyi played for Pflugerville High School, where he was first-team all-district and second-team All-CenTex on a 5A district championship team as a senior.
Riddick played across town at Pflugerville Connally, where he was a three-time all-district selection and an all-region pick as a senior on a team that reached the Region IV-4A final.
“You can see that these are the type of players we are beginning to hang our hat on now,” said Reisman. “If you look at the players that are the glue of our team, they are guys who came here from high school. Davene Carter, Mike Hardge, Damion Clemons, all of them are guys who we have been developing for three, four years.
“There was a time when we thought those guys are our future,” continued Reisman, who has led Tarleton to three Lone Star Conference tournament titles and two South Central Region championships. “Now, those guys are the leaders of our team and guys like Nosa and Riddick are the future.”
And the future appears bright.
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