This will appear in Saturday’s paper, but I thought I’d go ahead and post it now:
“Tim Tebow” is one of the reasons behind Georgia State’s seven-game winning streak in basketball.
Coach Ron Hunter said without “Tebow,” the Panthers wouldn’t have a chance to tie the school’s longest win streak when it visits Utah Valley on Saturday.
Hunter’s “Tebow” isn’t the one who signs off on Twitter as GB2 (God Bless and Go Broncos), but there are some similarities.
His Tebow is James Fields, good-naturedly described by Hunter as one of the least athletic guards he has ever played. But, like the NFL’s Tebow whose perceived lack of skill is offset by 7-1 record as a starter, Fields has a certain quality his coach loves.
“He can’t shoot, he can’t pass, he’s not really athletic, he just knows how to win,” Hunter said, half-jokingly. “Everyone laughs [when I call him that], but that’s who he is. Since he’s been back, we’re 7-1 and I’m not ashamed to say I’ll call him that every time. I’ll call him out, ‘It’s Tim Tebow time.’ I love him. I swear I love the kid.”
During preseason planning, Hunter thought Fields would come off the bench and play a maximum of 12 minutes a game. Hunter’s assumption was partially based on Fields’ career averages of 3.7 points and 1.8 rebounds per game his first three seasons, mostly spent as a reserve under former coach Rod Barnes.
But then practice started and Hunter began to notice that, in various competitions, whichever team Fields was on always won. Always.
“He’s one of those guys that you realize you can’t win without him,” Hunter said.
Fields didn’t agree with his coaches “no pass, no shot” description – though one of his teammates smiled without commenting when asked if his coach was accurate — but he did agree that he’s pretty good at winning.
“I’ll do whatever I can do to win,” he said.
Fields played just 16 minutes in the season-opener against Washington before suffering a strained groin. Without Fields, the Panthers lost that game as well as the next two in the three-game event in Seattle.
Fields missed the home-opening win against McNeese State but recuperated and returned for the game at Samford. Put back into the starting lineup, he missed all four of his shots and had just one assist – supporting his coaches’ description — but the Panthers won.
His stats, just like those of Tebow, the current Sports Illustrated cover boy, are somewhat pedestrian. Fields is averaging 8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 4 assists per game. But his value lies on the other end of the court: he’s especially good at defense. So much so that Hunter entrusts him to make most of those calls.
During the three-game losing streak, the Panthers allowed 80.3 points per game on 49.2-percent shooting. During the seven-game win streak, the Panthers are allowing 49.4 points on 32.6-percent shooting. Hunter and the players recognize that William and Mary, which they beat 66-34, isn’t to be confused with Washington, which beat them 91-74. But they also recognize that they aren’t just squeaking by opponents. They are beating them by an average of 24.3 points and some of those games were over by halftime, an accomplishment that didn’t occur often during the last three years.
“It’s a whole different style of play,” Fields said. “We are flying up and down. It’s a whole different type of defense.”
Fields has yet to inspired any kind of phenomena like “Tebowing,” in which one celebrates by taking a knee and praying. When Fields shoots a 3-pointer, his coach usually does the opposite of praying – he jokes he starts screaming, “No, No, No.” It happened in the win against Florida International.
Of course, when the shot dropped, Hunter started screaming, “Good shot, good shot, good shot,” prompting everyone on his bench to start laughing.
“He’s just a winner,” guard Jihad Ali said. “He just finds a way to win. He’s always poised. If the game gets close, I look at Fields and he’s prepared to make the next play.”
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu