Freshman brings energy to men’s basketball

Freshman brings energy to men’s basketball

Freshman brings energy to men’s basketball
November 11
00:12 2014

Scott Sidway / Staff Writer

During the 2013-14 season, the Mean Green men’s basketball team averaged less than 70 points per game, which was less than the Conference USA average. North Texas will also enter the upcoming season without three of its top four scorers from last year, who accounted for 25.9 points per game.

But in comes freshman forward Jeremy Combs, a three-star recruit, according to Rivals.com, who averaged 23.2 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game and even scored 50 points in a game as a senior at Dallas Carter High School. He was also the 14th-best high school senior in Texas last year, according to TexasHoops.com, and led all Texas 4A players in scoring.

Because of these numbers, the former All-American was heavily recruited by other Division I programs such as Texas Tech University, Colorado State University and Murray State University. But Combs said he chose the Mean Green because of the relationships he had within the program.

“I just loved everything about it,” Combs said. “I loved the coaching staff and knew some of the players on the team. I was just ready to get here.”

Head coach Tony Benford is familiar with the coaching staff at Carter High School and has recruited its players before. These existing relationships combined with North Texas’ location are what opened the door for the team to attract a player of Combs’ caliber.

“He felt comfortable. I always tell kids that there’s got to be a fit. It’s all about a fit,” Benford said. “His dad, his uncles watch all of his games, so they want to be able to watch him play. So I told them that he can come here and help put North Texas on the map.”

But Benford said that Combs brings more to the table than raw athletic ability.

“He’s a program kid,” Benford said. “He’s the type of kid that I want, that epitomizes what we’re about. And that’s about accountability, about toughness and selflessness. He epitomizes all of those things.”

In addition to saying that the freshman is already showing strong leadership qualities, Benford said Combs provides a consistent winning mentality every day.

“There’s not many guys that bring the energy and passion every day, and he does,” Benford said. “A lot of times you go out and watch AAU teams play, and I’ve got to say, they play to play. They don’t play to win. He plays to win.”

The selfish mentality that often exists in AAU basketball is a trait that does not follow Combs to North Texas, Benford said. The level of selflessness in Combs’ play can be seen on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

“He’s trying to get the rebound. On a loose ball, he’s going to be the first one to the floor,” Benford said. “You don’t have to run a play for him, and that’s rare. Everybody is like, ‘Coach, where’s my play?’ in this day and age. So he just knows how to play and is a great teammate.”

Combs joins a North Texas squad that is vertically challenged this season, with its tallest member measuring in 6 feet 8 inches. Combs stands at 6 feet 7 inches and will be relied upon to be active on the boards, but he also brings defensive versatility to the table. Senior forward Collin Voss said Combs’ defensive skillset can help a Mean Green defense that allowed 72.3 points per game last season.

“He can guard a lot of different positions. He can really guard one through five,” Voss said. “He’s fast, he can stay in front of people, and yet he can guard the post.”

Pressure can build up quickly for an athlete as heavily recruited as Combs was, especially when joining a program that struggled the past two seasons. But Voss said North Texas is not going to put too much on Combs.

“We don’t need him to come in and be a stud or anything like that,” Voss said. “We just need him to come in, bring energy, do the stuff he’s good at and just be him.”

Whether it is from the bench or in the starting lineup, the coaching staff plans to give Combs plenty of playing time this season. Combs said he plans to bring energy to the team.

“I’m just going to do whatever I can to help the team,” Combs said. “Rebound, just be energetic all the time when I’m in the game.”

As far as Benford’s recruiting pitch to Combs about putting North Texas basketball back on the map, Combs accepted the challenge and set an individual goal that could help the Mean Green break back into the national picture.

“My goal is to be the best person to ever come through here,” Combs said.

Featured Image: Freshman Jeremy Combs joins the Mean Green basketball team this season. Photo by Harris Buchanan – Staff Photographer

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