Fresno State’s Kevin Olekaibe, left, drives in past UNLV’s Katin Reinhardt in the first half of their game at the Save Mart Center in Fresno Wednesday, February 6, 2013. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE)
Kevin Olekaibe gets a chance to get home for the Mountain West Conference Tournament, not only to Las Vegas, where he grew up, but on Tuesday the Fresno State Bulldogs practiced at Cimarron-Memorial High, where as a senior he led the state and was fifth in the nation in scoring.
Surprisingly, his teammates did not make him sing the alma mater or the school fight song, the words to which are painted in big letters on one wall of the gym.
Olekaibe did not miss much during practice, which should come as no surprise, given the familiar surroundings. The 6-foot-2 guard scored 1,065 points in that senior year, averaging 35.6 per game. He hit 50 percent of his shots including 37 percent at the 3-point line.
‘’I still wish I could play back in this gym,’’ he said. ‘’There’s a lot of memories in here.’’
But with the Bulldogs opening the Mountain West Conference Tournament on Wednesday against Colorado State, Olekaibe knows that he does not have to replicate that senior season for Fresno State to have success in its rapidly-evolving offense.
Down the stretch, the player movement and the ball movement have improved dramatically, the result victories at Nevada, against Air Force and at UNLV, and losses to Boise State and Colorado State in which they scored 63 and 67 points, above their average of 58.1 in conference play.
‘’It’s much-needed. We needed it a lot sooner. But it’s better late than never,’’ guard Tyler Johnson said. ‘’Coach (Byron) Jones is always the one coming at halftime reading how many assists we have to how many turnovers and he always tells us when we have more than 15 assists, we’re a very good team.’’
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