Wyatt becoming force inside in third year with Alcorn

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 2, 2006

LORMAN &8212; Juan Wyatt was so excited at what he had done and his team&8217;s second road win that he had to call someone before heading home.

The junior post had put up a double-double in points and rebounds by halftime against Prairie View and finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out. Nevermind the fouling out part &8212; he&8217;s done that several times before &8212; but the double-double in one half was something he had to call his old high school coach about.

But Jefferson County head coach Marcus Walton wasn&8217;t all too surprised. Wyatt had the ability to do that ever since he left the Fayette school. Now he&8217;s reaching the potential of a 6-8, 225-pound post player can do in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

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To put it mildly, this may be just a start.

&8220;One thing I talked to Juan this summer and (ASU head) Coach (Samuel) West &8212; and we both agreed &8212; we talked about him stopping wrestling in the post and use his finesse and quickness,&8221; Walton said. &8220;He was picking up a lot of fouls last year, and that took away from his play. Now he&8217;s playing more aggressive, and that&8217;s the key.

&8220;He&8217;s a big man, and he&8217;s athletic. Most big people can&8217;t run and jump as good as Juan Wyatt.&8221;

Only four games into the SWAC season, and Wyatt has put up numbers to where coaches and players say he&8217;s finally becoming the solid big man in the middle everyone thought he would be. This was a guy who went toe to toe with current Boston Celtic Al Jefferson when both were in high school.

West threw Wyatt into the fray as a freshman two seasons ago, and he had 19 starts. But his first two seasons were marred by time on the bench in foul trouble and inconsistency on the offensive end.

Now Wyatt is the SWAC leader in field-goal percentage (.614), fourth in rebounding at 6.9 a game and has hit double figures in scoring in each of the last three games. He&8217;ll get another chance Saturday when the Braves visit Mississippi Valley.

&8220;He hasn&8217;t scratched the surface yet,&8221; assistant coach Jason Cable said. &8220;He could average a double-double every night. He&8217;s really the best post player in the SWAC &8212; really. He&8217;s the best offensive post player, and Almaad (Jackson) is the best defensive post player. When he&8217;s not in foul trouble, he&8217;s very effective. I think he stayed out of foul trouble the last two ball games, and he had a double-double in one game.&8221;

It&8217;s the foul total that may be keeping Wyatt within his game so far this season. The season started out just as it went his first two seasons with the Braves &8212; he had four fouls in 11 minutes against South Florida and fouled out in 20 minutes in the third game at Arizona State.

Yet even in the face of foul trouble from there on out, the numbers started to pick up. He fouled out in 23 minutes at Ole Miss, but not after putting up 11 points and 10 rebounds. He picked up only two fouls against USC and registered 10 rebounds and eight points.

&8220;I&8217;m just taking my time offensively,&8221; Wyatt said. &8220;When I get the ball, I&8217;ll just be patient. And just playing sound defense and not making fouls. Sometimes I play over-aggressive. I still play hard, but I just move my feet more than my upper body. When I get in foul trouble, I use my hands.&8221;

The first two games in conference, however, were a different story. Not so much the Texas Southern game &8212; six points, eight boards and five fouls in 23 minutes &8212; but the next game against Prairie View when he had 13 points and 12 rebounds in 24 minutes.

In the comeback win over Jackson State Saturday, he had 10 points and 13 rebounds with only two fouls in 27 minutes.

&8220;It&8217;s just a matter of slowing him down,&8221; Cable said. &8220;He came in with a lot of athletic talent without being able to see the game slower. He&8217;s seeing the game slower now, and he&8217;s making better decisions. I just think it&8217;s him maturing as player. He&8217;s scored the majority of his points off crashing the boards.&8221;

His presence is so vital to a team that has relied on its perimeter game each of the last two seasons. Delvin Thompson was the team&8217;s big scoring threat outside, and the Braves were struggled to get points consistently in the paint.

Now the Braves have more shooters on the outside, and teams have to respect the inside with Wyatt and Jackson, who has 27 blocked shots so far this season.

&8220;That&8217;s going to help out a lot down the stretch,&8221; Thompson said. &8220;I&8217;m glad he is stepping up. When he fouls, he doesn&8217;t have a chance to get in the flow of the game. He can dominate the SWAC &8212; he really can. He has the ability. I think his confidence is up now.&8221;