November 20, 2017 7:53:54 PM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
STARKVILLE -- Hard work pays off.
Something that sounds so simple can be so vexing. Repetition can lead to boredom and doubt whether the time and investment is producing results.
That doubt can become concern when a player puts in the time every day in practice and sees little "reward" in games to showcase the skills she has worked on.
Zion Campbell has a message for the first-year members of the Mississippi State women's basketball team: Keep pushing. Campbell showed Thursday night her work in the offseason and in the preseason is paying off, as she had career highs of 13 points and 11 rebounds in No. 7 MSU's 106-50 victory against Georgia State at Humphrey Coliseum.
"She wouldn't have a double-double tonight (if she hadn't worked that hard on her shooting)," MSU coach Vic Schaefer said. "This is why we redshirted her. (Associated head coach) Johnnie (Harris) has spent countless hours in the gym with Zion."
The maturation of Campbell, a 6-foot-3 redshirt sophomore center, could prove to be even more crucial for MSU (2-0), which plays host to Southern Mississippi (3-0) at 2 p.m. today at Humphrey Coliseum. Campbell could play a bigger role because of the uncertainty surrounding sophomore forward Ameshya Williams. Williams missed the game against Georgia State due to "personal reasons," according to Schaefer. He said Williams wasn't with the team and he wasn't sure when she will return.
Williams' absence creates an opening for Campbell, who scored 10 in 43 minutes (16 games) last season in MSU's program-record 34-win season and run to the national title game. With senior center Chinwe Okorie and sophomore center Teaira McCowan, Campbell didn't have many opportunities to show what she learned from her redshirt season.
This season, though, Okorie's departure has created an opening. Campbell feels the confidence she developed working with Harris will help her take advantage of her chances.
"There has been a lot of hard work and tough practices and coaches getting on me every day," Campbell said. "It showed, the improvement from my freshman year to now."
Campbell's length will help her make up for her relative lack of size compared to McCowan, who is 6-7.
One of Campbell's nicest moves came on a drop step on the left block with 1 minute, 52 seconds remaining in the second quarter when she sealed her opponent and laid the ball in.
"I think developing it and working every day doing it and hearing coach say, 'Drop step' or 'Drop step, power move, basket' every day (helps a lot)," Campbell said. "We do individual and post-guard stuff a lot. In drills, (coach Schaefer) always wants us to do a hard drop step to the basket."
Campbell didn't get many chances to showcase moves like that last season. She had two points in four key minutes in a 64-61 loss to South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina. She also logged a season-high six minutes in a victory against Vanderbilt.
Campbell said she felt she needed last season to "get her footing" after her redshirt season so she has the confidence to know she can contribute when needed.
"I was a lot more comfortable (against Georgia State)," Campbell said. "I had more confidence in myself. I think that is the key for me to have a night like this more often."
Senior guard Blair Schaefer credits Campbell for the growth in her game. She feels there is plenty of more room for her to mature.
"She has worked so hard," Schaefer said. "People don't see everything she does in practice. She has to go against Teaira every day. That is not an easy task. ... I think this is just another stepping stone for her career, and there are going to be more to come, too."
Campbell hopes she can be an example for freshmen Myah Taylor, Bre'Amber Scott, and Nyah Tate and junior college transfer Jonika Garvin. She said Thursday it is important for the new players to slow down and relax. Campbell said that shouldn't be too hard because all of the Bulldogs have been playing basketball for years.
"We all know how to play basketball and rebound and box out, but we just get in our head sometimes," Campbell said. "I think we all can be able to say that from a standpoint when we were struggling with getting our footing and playing. We can tell them it is OK. You're going to get there."
Blair Schaefer agrees and said the juniors and seniors on the team also can play a role in supporting and encouraging the younger Bulldogs.
"I think they see sometimes how it is not as easy as it looks from the sideline, and when they get in situations on the floor, people are faster than they might think they are," Schaefer said. "I think they are taking it really well as to understanding the small opportunities will lead to bigger opportunities down the line.
"They're getting it. They ask a lot of questions because they want to learn and to be where the seniors are, which I think is really awesome."
Schaefer feels the newcomers understand how hard all of the players have to work because there is a "purpose to everything that we do."
If the first-year Bulldogs need a reminder, they just need to look at Campbell.
n MSU coach Vic Schaefer confirmed Friday that freshman guard Myah Taylor will redshirt this season.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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