From being thrusted into a huge role in his true freshman year, to taking a back seat and a red-shirt season last year, to rehabbing an off-season injury this past summer, Jake Flaggert has almost seen it all entering his third season at UTEP.
The 6'7 sophomore has sculpted and filled out his frame, and has taken his red-shirt season as a positive growth period heading into a big role this coming season.
Flaggert played in 30 games in the 2013-14 season averaging 12.3 minutes and saw his role off the bench increase after the Miners lost three scholarship guards who were dismissed at mid-season point.
No one will forget his nine point, 3-of-4 shooting effort with a pair of clutch three pointers in a road game against North Texas that helped lift UTEP to two straight wins after two straight losses down the stretch of the season.
That sharp shooting outing made Miner fans believe that Flaggert could become a reliable shooter, and his five rebound game earlier in the season against Tulane provided glimpses of the full circle talent he could develop into.
Flaggert talked to us about the challenges of red-shirting, and his 2015-16 outlook.
How hard was it to sit out a whole season?
It was hard watching my guys put in work in the gym, and then out on the court. It was tough, but coach Floyd gave me the opportunity to red-shirt and he showed me the benefits. So I think its going to be beneficial, and I'm excited to get back out here.
What did you work on most in your year off?
I worked on my dribbling, also my strength, and my shot in getting it off quicker, my footwork and just becoming a better player.
Do you think your outside shot will be key to this year's team?
Yeah, I do. My goal is to knock down open shots when the ball is passed to me when I'm open. If I'm hitting them, its going to help the team out. And I'm going to make sure I put in enough work after practice to make sure I will be able to hit those.
How is this team coming together with so much transition from the last time you were playing?
Everyone is growing as a team, not just on the court but off the court too. People are becoming good friends, and we're just growing and getting better. Everyone is learning the system that coach Floyd has so its going good.
What do you feel this team has to focus on in these early practices?
We got a bunch of new faces, and new guys. The biggest challenge is learning coach Floyd's method of coaching, its tough compared to high school methods. It's taking it to the next level for sure. So once we learn that we will be good, but we have all of October to learn it and these guys are hardworking guys so it should be good.
Do you feel like from a leadership standpoint you can help usher these new faces and freshman into Floyd's system and practice methods?
Yeah, I played my freshman year so I got experience. I know how these practices go, so I let the guys know what to do and what not to do. I didn't play last year, but off the court when I was red-shirting I felt like I was learning too. I look up to myself as a leader for these guys so I can help the young guys.
From all the things you went through from watching games, to film, to practices in your red-shirt year what do aspect did you learn that will help you succeed this season?
I'm just going to work every day. Whatever the coaches want me to do I'm going to try my best to accomplish it. Whatever it is, I'm going to give it my 100%.