January 29, 2008

Huertas looking to turn things around

Monday afternoon, the media gathered around waiting on Ole Miss sophomore guard David Huertas, and he knew what was coming.

Huertas has been struggling, and it's come at a time when the Ole Miss offense has been struggling.

And as he walked towards the media, Huertas smiled.

"Why do you guys want to talk to me?" Huertas said. "I haven't scored in two games."

In the No. 22 Rebels' last two games, losses at Auburn and Mississippi State, struggling might not do the situation justice. Huertas has been dreadful, shooting 1-of-16 from the field.

He's had open looks and has forced shots, leaving head coach Andy Kennedy to scratch his head.

"I don't know what more we can do other than continue to make sure he gets reps and make sure he gets shots within the offense," Kennedy said. "Then, we just hope he can do the rest."

There's plenty of frustration around the situation. Huertas is frustrated with his struggles and said he knows he's hurting the Ole Miss offense.

And there's frustration because the Rebels (15-3, 2-3 SEC) have seen it before.

Over the first eight games this season, Huertas looked like a player who hadn't seen game action in a year - which in fairness, he hadn't.

He looked out of sorts on offense, with the lower half of his body seemingly operating independently of the upper half.

But during the San Juan Shootout, it appeared things had changed. Huertas worked his way back into the starting lineup and scored a season-high 17 points in the Rebels' fnal tune-up before SEC play.

Once in conference, Huertas has regressed. In the Rebels' five league games, he's shot just 20 percent from the field (8-for-40) and 13 percent from three-point range (3-of-23).

"You can see it in his eyes that he wants to make the shots," Ole Miss assistant coach Torrey Ward said. "That's what he does. It's all mental. It's not his ability to shoot. It's not a mechanical thing.

"You just have to let it take its course, and hopefully he'll come out of it. He's a shooter. He's got to keep shooting; that's what he's born to do."

But when his birth right has been missing, Ward said Huertas still has to find ways to help the team, and that can help a shooter bust out of a slump.

"We'd like him to do whatever he can to get going, whether it's going to the foul line or rebound, which he's doing," Ward said. "You just want him to do things that'll get him confidence. You don't want him rushing a shot or being anxious."

Whatever the cause of the problem, Huertas has taken it upon himself to fix it. In the short period after the Rebels' loss at Mississippi State and practice Monday afternoon, Huertas said he'd taken somewhere around 800 shots.

But, Huertas has a job to do, and if he's not doing it, the Rebels may have to make some changes.

Kennedy said the Rebels have other options at shooting guard, including using freshman Chris Warren and senior Brian Smith in the backcourt at the same time.

Regardless, Huertas needs to start meeting expectations.

"We're kind of demanding. If you're supposed to shoot, you have to shoot," Ward said. "If you're supposed to make them, you have to make them."

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