Ammons blossoms for Jaguars

Published 11:07 pm Friday, March 2, 2012

Earlier this season, Mychal Ammons, was weighed down by being his own worst critic. He wasn’t playing up to his high standards and blamed himself for his struggles.

Ammons went to talk to his coach at South Alabama, Ronnie Arrow, in his office about his issues.

During Mychal Ammons’ stellar high school career, he was often the tallest man on the court for Vicksburg High. Logic dictated he would be put in the paint and he was, leading Vicksburg to the Class 6A championship game last season.

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But in Division I-A college basketball, it’s a different world. And the 6-foot-5 swingman felt he wasn’t doing a good enough job making the transition to the perimeter.

“Mychal’s worst enemy is himself,” Arrow said. “He comes down on himself very hard. He told me that he the transition was a lot harder than he imagined.”

Arrow let him know that his hard work and energy wasn’t unappreciated and that eventually, his efforts would pay off handsomely.

Now they’re bearing fruit at the best time.

With the season nearly done and the Jaguars headed for the Sun Belt Conference tournament, Ammons has emerged as a reliable threat. In the Jaguars’ recent 3-1 stretch, Ammons has scored in double-figures in each game, averaging 20 points per game and 7.1 rebounds. He’s also cut down on his turnovers.

“This didn’t happen overnight,” Arrow said. “His work ethic is incredible. He’s put a lot of hours into developing his quickness and working on his ball-handling. You know every time at practice that he’s going to work his tail off.

“Making that transition to that competition and learning new skills is very tough. As a post player, you’re used to guards getting you the ball and now, you’re having to bring the ball down the court and make decisions. He’s done a good job at limiting his turnovers and making better decisions with the ball.”

A full-time starter at shooting guard since Jan. 12, Ammons has had career nights like a 25-point and nine rebound effort in a win over Arkansas State on Feb. 9. In the next to the last game of the season, a 79-76 win over Florida Atlantic, Ammons had a career-high 26 points and nine boards. There have been lows as well during a four-game stretch in January, when he shot 7-for-23. This season, he’s averaging 9.9 points and six rebounds per game.

With the Jaguars losing their third scorer, Xavier Roberson, to a broken bone in his foot, Ammons’ emergence has played a big role in the Jaguars’ move up the Sun Belt Conference standings. The Jaguars are 16-10 and 8-7 in conference play, third place in the Eastern Division.

“I’ve been adjusting to the speed of the game and paying attention to detail,” Ammons said. “I just want to have the right mindset and do whatever the team needs to help us win.”

Ammons’ game is perfect for what the Jaguars need. In high school, he was a beast on the blocks and could draw opposing big men away from the hoop with his strong outside game. At South, he’s become a scorer of a different kind. The key has been Ammons’ ability to focus on the strong points of his game.

He’s a strong shooter from 12 to 15 feet, Arrow said, and his ability to take his man into the paint and finish or draw a foul gives the Jaguars a new offensive threat. In a win over Western Kentucky on Feb. 18, Ammons went to the charity stripe 10 times and hit nine. This season, Ammons is shooting 74.4 percent from the free throw line.

“I told him that two stats were key for him: offensive rebounds and free throws,” Arrow said. “Those two stats are all about energy. If he’s crashing the offensive boards and getting to the free throw line, he’s playing with great energy. Anytime you can add a third scorer and rebounder, that’s a major plus.”

But the best thing that Arrow loves about Ammons is his character.

“What I try to do in recruiting is to recruit players who are good players and also who are great citizens and people,” Arrow said. “He’s (Ammons) is a model for that. He’s a great kid who does whatever you ask. He’s a great person on and off the court.”


Sun Belt Conference


at Hot Springs, Ark.

(W) South Alabama vs. Ark. St., 2:45 p.m.

(M) South Alabama vs. Troy, 6 p.m.

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