The confidence that Drew McGhee so desperately sought early in the season is now firmly in his grasp.
He looks different. He sounds different. His game is different. And it’s all good.
The redshirt junior center still isn’t a big-number guy for the Miami University men’s basketball team, but McGhee has clearly found his stroke. He’s shooting 80.6 percent (25 of 31) from the floor in the last nine games.
“I know I’ve been shooting the ball pretty well, but I didn’t expect that percentage,” McGhee admitted. “I don’t think I shoot that well (in practice). It’s just starting to get comfortable in the post, and everything’s starting to fall again. I’m getting good post position, and the guards are opening up the middle for me.”
The 6-foot-11, 236-pound native of North Ridgeville was the RedHawks’ top shooter a year ago with a 59.2 percentage under Charlie Coles. McGhee was hoping for more of the same when the John Cooper era began.
He made 4 of 8 field goals and scored nine points in the season opener against North Carolina State. But over the next five games, McGhee was 2 of 12 from the field and scored just six points.
This from a guy that rarely shoots more than a couple feet away from the rim. Cooper said there was a stretch where he didn’t know if layups had become too difficult for McGhee.
“Me and him both,” McGhee said. “But my defense at the time was still doing well, and I knew if I kept working, sooner or later the shots would start falling. You can’t give up that early in the season.”
He didn’t give up, yet his frustration mounted.
“I can remember one time I was on the bench real angry and coach Cooper came over to me,” McGhee said. “He was like, ‘You’re the only one in this gym that thinks you can’t make a layup. Just take your time and make it.’
“Coach Cooper never gave up on me. That meant a lot knowing that the new coach who didn’t know me as well still had confidence in me.”
Cooper said McGhee needed some positive reinforcement and a couple good shooting days to break the cycle.
“He’s human — those things can start messing with your psyche,” Cooper said. “In many ways you have to credit Drew because it was on him to figure out how he was going to be able to get his confidence back. At the end of the day, you’ve got to believe in yourself.”
McGhee now tops Miami with a 60.0 field-goal percentage (and is among the team leaders in free-throw percentage at 78.6), but is still taking less than four shots per game. He figures quality is better than quantity in this case.
“I don’t want to start forcing shots,” said McGhee, who’s averaging 4.8 points and 2.0 rebounds per contest. “Until they start double-teaming me, I feel really comfortable scoring against single coverage. I’m fine with everything that’s going on right now.”