Nov. 23, 2012
Sullivan and the Bearcats success starts on defense
By David Boyce
In old-school basketball slang, Northwest Missouri State senior guard Alex Sullivan can shoot the rock.
For basketball traditionalists that means Sullivan is a good shooter.
Who knows what kids are calling a good shooter today.
But for Sullivan, the key to his game is defense.
He’s not seduced by his 19.3 scoring average that has helped Northwest to a 3-0 start.
It doesn’t matter that Sullivan has already scored 28 points in one game and 20 in another. A year ago, his best scoring output was 15 points, which he accomplished twice.
“I’m a really hard worker. I pride myself on defense,” Sullivan said.
“I am a shooter. Our point guards and our post players do a good job of finding me and giving everybody open shots.
“With our offense, we are very unselfish. My role is to take good shots, make my shots and play good defense.”
Sullivan fits the role of an unselfish player. Last year he came off the bench and provided an offensive spark at key times.
He clearly had the ability to start and average in double figures. There were several guards in front of him. It wasn’t his time to start. But Sullivan worked hard and did his part to help lead the Bearcats back to the top of the MIAA after several seasons in the bottom half.
“He works at it,” Northwest coach Ben McCollum said. “He really works hard at the process and we are seeing the results with his hard work.
“He didn’t play as much as he liked last year. That is hard for kids. He kept fighting and playing defense and did what he could do to help the team. Now he is reaping the rewards.”
The Bearcats needed him in the first three games. Senior point guard DeShaun Cooper has been hobbled by an injury and has yet to see action this season. Cooper is the motor that runs the Bearcats offense. He is coming off a season in which he earned first-team all-conference honors.
But like they did last season, the Bearcats are showing they are more than a one-player team. They are a team.
“We are missing Coop in action,” Sullivan said. “We are trying to come together with the pieces we have. I think we are playing well as a team.
“I think we have started off pretty well. We have high expectations coming into the season and we are trying to exceed those expectations.”
So far, Sullivan characterizes the personality of the team as strong minded and defensive oriented.
“We just have real good team chemistry and a good bond on this team,” Sullivan said. “I think how hard we practice will translate in games.”
Sullivan said it was important for the Bearcats to continue to practice hard this week.
While most of the students return home for Thanksgiving, the men’s basketball team will remain on campus preparing this weekend for the Bearcat Classic. At 3 p.m. Saturday, Northwest takes on Upper Iowa and 3 p.m. Sunday, faces Southwest Minnesota State.
“We are going treat it like any other week,” Sullivan said. “We are going to work hard. We have a full week of practice. We are going to make sure we work hard every day. Even though we are coming off wins, we have to critique ourselves and make sure we prepare ourselves and are even better going into the next game.
“I think we will be fine when we come home.”
McCollum is glad the Bearcats have two quality opponents coming up.
“It will help us keep our sense of urgency,” McCollum said. “We really want to grow this week, get better and continue to focus on the process.
“The last two games I thought we played good defensively. Offensively, we moved the basketball and everybody got a chance to put a few shots up and score so that is encouraging.”
It is definitely encouraging that Sullivan is one of those shooters. He is making 51 percent of his shots.
“I just play,” Sullivan said. “I miss some shots, but when I start making them, I stay humble and try to make the right plays. I do not try to force anything. I try to make open shots.”
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