Winans eager to follow up on his big freshman debut

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Derek Winans is focused on avoiding a sophomore jinx and helping lead Southeast Missouri State University men's basketball back to prominence -- although not necessarily in that order.

Winans broke on to the college basketball scene in a big way last year when the redshirt freshman guard led the Indians in scoring (14.9 ppg) and four other statistical categories while being voted Ohio Valley Conference freshman of the year.

But Winans, a former Shawnee (Ill.) High School star, said it was hard to find comfort in a 6-22 season and an eighth-place OVC finish.

"Last year was real frustrating. We don't want to go through that again," Winans said.

Winans said he has improved his game in several areas, but he's not overly concerned about individual honors.

"After having a good year last year, I won't be a secret anymore," he said. "But I'm not out to prove to anyone I'm a good scorer. It's more about the team.

"The main goal I have is to win a lot more games. If it means me scoring more, that's fine. I just want to do whatever it takes to help the team."

That's the kind of unselfish attitude that has had Southeast coach Gary Garner raving about Winans since he joined the Indians' program.

"You couldn't ask to coach a better young man," Garner said. "He's a real warrior with a great attitude and he's going to give you everything he's got every minute.

"He proved last year that he can be a very good college basketball player and we look for him to only get better."

While the team struggled last season, the 6-foot-2 Winans didn't. In addition to his scoring, he led the Indians in 3-pointers (53), steals (45), assists (80) and minutes played (34.8). Winans was second on the squad in 3-point field-goal percentage (36.6) and third in free-throw percentage (79.7) and rebounding (4.6).

"I was pretty happy with the way I played, but I know I can get a lot better," Winans said.

Winans said he was particularly lacking last year with his defense and strength, but said he worked hard on both in the offseason. Solid work in the weight room helped add 10 pounds to his frame, which is about 183 pounds.

"Those were two aspects I needed to work on," he said.

One area Winans evidently doesn't need to improve in is academics. The two-time OVC Medal of Honor winner has a 4.0 grade-point average during his Southeast career and doesn't plan for that to change.

"I take pride in that," he said. "I think it's a challenge to be able to combine athletics and academics."

Combining another strong basketball season with a much better team record is what Winans has on his mind these days. The Indians began practice Saturday and open the season Nov. 22 at Arkansas State.

"Our young guys have another year of playing together and we have some junior college transfers who will definitely help us," he said. "We have to realize it's a new year and we can turn it around."

mmishow@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 132

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