Growing up faster

<h3>Several Big 12 freshmen are maturing quickly
and becoming team leaders in a hurry</h3>
Tuesday, January 25, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:24 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

On paper and in the classroom Richard Roby is considered a freshman. But when he takes to the basketball court he doesn’t feel like one.

That’s the way Colorado coach Ricardo Patton prefers it.

“Coach told me I can’t play like a freshman for us to win,” said Roby, a 6-foot-6 freshman guard who wears No. 23.

Roby’s attitude and his numbers show he has lived up to Patton’s summationin the Colorado Media Guide.

“Rich is a young man who will not play as a typical freshman; he’ll be thrown in the fire very early and I think he’ll respond,” Patton is quoted as saying.

Several freshmen across the Big 12 Conference, like Roby, have inherited key roles with their new teams and coaches spoke highly of their players during a conference call Monday.

Roby is averaging a team-high 14.5 points for the Buffaloes.

“Coach let me know that I’d play a big role in scoring and that’s why he recruited me,” Roby said.

As a result, Roby has become the focal point of opposing defenses.

But when your half-brother is Denver Nuggets’ Kenyon Martineven those details seem less problematic.

“He gives me advice a lot,” Roby said. “He went to college (at Cincinnati) and knows what I’m going through.”

Baylor coach Scott Drew said the higher the level the tougher the challenge, especially physically.

“If you ever watch ESPN Classic, we weren’t as strong as we are now-a-days,” Drew said.

That’s why Drew appreciates the mentality of freshman guard Aaron Bruce, a native of Australia, who leads the Bears with 16.1 points and 3.67 assists.

“He grew up playing that Aussie rules football so he’s not afraid of backing down from any contact,” Drew said.

The play of Texas Tech’s Martin Zeno, a freshman guard, might be a surprise to many across the Big 12, but not to Red Raiders coach Bobby Knight.

Zeno is averaging 13 points and 3.7 rebounds.

“I don’t think that you should be surprised if you’ve recruited a kid that you thought was going to be a very good player,” Knight said. “If he isn’t then you should be disappointed. If he is that’s what you recruited him to be.”

In addition to his play during games, Knight appreciates Zeno’s work effort and his willingness to learn.

“From my standpoint as I look at him as a freshman, I think that he has grasped things far better than the normal freshman does and then he’s always inquisitive about things,” Knight said. “To me that’s key to a player’s development.”

Another freshman that has attracted attention in the Big 12 is Daniel Gibson, a guard for No. 16 Texas.

Gibson was named the Big 12’s newcomer of the week Monday, averaging 22.5 points, six rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals in two games last week.

In a 64-60 loss at Oklahoma, Gibson had a team-high 18 points, with five assists and three steals.

“I think he’s going to be special,” Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said. “He can score, he can create, can set up the offense himself. They let him go make plays a lot like they did when they had T.J. Ford. And if I mention him in the same sentence with T.J. Ford, you know I think very highly of him.”

Nebraska coach Barry Collier convinced Joe McCray to leave the sun of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the cornfields of Nebraska to play for the Huskers and the move has paid dividends.

“It’s a good thing it wasn’t snowing when he came up here,” said Collier.

McCray, a freshman guard, leads the team with 16.1 points a game.

“He’s gotten off to a great start,” Collier said. “He’s been improving every day, and I think he has an aggressiveness that is kind of uncommon in freshmen.”

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