Tigers' Pumphrey shows perseverance
In his first game as a Fort Hays State Tiger, Jordan Pumphrey immediately displayed his outside shooting touch, hitting four 3-pointers in the season opener against Washburn.
Pumphrey then encountered a slump that lasted for the first half of the season, missing 13 of the next 14 3-pointers he attempted.
But the California native broke out of the funk in a big way in the Tigers' last two outings, setting back-to-back career highs.
He put up 19 points at Pittsburg State on Jan. 23 before erupting for 25 points and hitting 7 of 9 3-pointers last Saturday in a 79-68 win over Nebraska-Kearney.
"The season's a roller-coaster," Tiger coach Mark Johnson said. "You're going to have highs and lows. When things when things were low, Jordan never pouted. He never got down, he's just kept coming every day, coming every day, and now he's rewarded."
Pumphrey said he tried to remain confident in his shot during the slump.
"My teammates helped me through a lot, just mentally getting my confidence," he said. "Coach always tell us if we're going to go out there, play with confidence, so that's all I did (Saturday) was play with confidence and just try to produce in a win."
Before starting to heat up offensively, Johnson said Pumphrey turned in a strong outing against Missouri Southern on Jan. 21. He grabbed nine rebounds in the Tigers' win.
"(After the Pittsburg State game) I told him, 'What you got to understand is that you're going to get another opportunity next week, but it was more about your defense and nine rebounds against Missouri Southern than it was your 19 points,' " Johnson said. "He still needs to get better and improve and value that end of the floor as much as the offensive end.
"But we had to have him out there. He made such a difference and I'm really happy for it."
Pumphrey said he's been focusing on improving defensively.
"Just giving more effort," Pumphrey said. "That's all I can really do. Honestly defense is about effort and heart so instead of (concentrating) on the offensive side, I just think defensively. And once I do good on defense, my offense will come."
Pumphrey will look to keep his hot streak going when the 5-8 Tigers host Newman at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
"Obviously there's a little bit of a streak shooter in there, but hopefully that streak stays hot," Johnson said.
Newman enters with a 2-11 record. The Tigers beat Newman 81-75 in overtime back on Dec. 12.
Joel Boyce leads the Jets with 13.8 points per game.
"The Boyce kid is hard to handle. He's a big key, he's a tough matchup," Johnson said. "... You've got to be able to limit him but still get out and contest the 3-point shooters."
Wright cleared to return
Johnson said junior guard Nyjee Wright, who has missed all of the season so far while recovering from surgery on a broken foot, has been cleared to play for the Tigers.
Johnson said the Tigers will look to ease back Wright back, hoping to get him time in the last two weeks of the season.
"I don't foresee us putting him in the game this week outside of unforeseen circumstances," Johnson said. "But I think probably here maybe in the last two weeks of the season, he might be able to get a few minutes to help us with foul trouble, depth. If we have a rash of turnovers like we've had in the past, he might be able to get in there and help that out.
"But also you're putting him in a challenging situation. We'll just have to play it by ear, but he has been released to be full participation in practice and games."
Saturday basketball game times swapped
The game times for Fort Hays State's basketball doubleheader against Central Oklahoma this Saturday have been switched, with the men's game set to open the day at 2 p.m. and the women's game to follow.
The game times were reversed to allow the Broncho men's team more travel time before they play a rescheduled contest Sunday afternoon at Missouri Western.
Tickets are now available for purchase to both Thursday's doubleheader against Newman and Saturday's action against UCO.