Feb. 13, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Demarco Cox is a big guy who does a lot of things in big ways, and yet he may have to play bigger than usual when Florida State visits on Saturday.
Georgia Tech’s graduate student center is trying to work his way out of a shooting slump, and the Seminoles will not make that any easier when they roll a trio of 7-footers through their lineup in McCamish Pavilion.
At 6-feet-8, 276 pounds, Cox is noted as much for his width as his height. And while he’s scored in double figures 11 times for the Jackets after pulling that off just five times in three-plus seasons at Ole Miss before transferring to Tech, he hasn’t been scoring enough lately.
While he’s averaged 7.8 points over the past four games and that’s not far from his season average of 8.5, Cox has taken too many shots to justify that number.
Where he was averaging 51.4 percent from the floor through the Jackets’ first 20 games, he made just 13-of-33 over the past four games, and he’s coming off a two-point, 1-of-5 outing in Monday’s loss at Virginia Tech.
Head coach Brian Gregory has made a point of having the Yellow Jackets work the ball through the post, a benefit Cox did not enjoy at Ole Miss, and the big fella needs to do more with his opportunities.
“It’s repetition, just trying to get shots in practice to get back in the same groove you were in before,” he said. “I kind of get frustrated when I’m not scoring. I know I can score.”
Cox has a bigger role for the Jackets than he had for the Rebels, where he averaged 3.0 points and 2.8 rebounds over his career. His 15-point, 13-rebound game against Tech in the 2013 Barclay’s Classic was an outlier, yet he has shown at times this season that there’s some bustle behind the muscle.
In back-to-back games early in the ACC schedule, he scored 14 and 17 points against Wake Forest and Notre Dame on a combined 12-of-17 shooting. He was 7-of-9 from the free throw line.
Gregory and his staff, chiefly bigs coach Mamodou N’Diaye, have helped Cox grow his game. He was asked to play differently at Ole Miss.
“I’ve kind of added a simple, turnaround jump shot, and going to my left,” he explained. “I have a right hand jump-hook, and I’m better at being able to use my size, my body and putting my shoulder into people.”
More recently, Cox has struggled with his shot – which is just about always from short range. He and the Jackets (11-13, 2-10 ACC) figure to be tested by FSU centers Kiel Turpin (7-0), Boris Bojanovsky (7-3) and Michael Ojo (7-1).
They are not gifted offensively, as Turpin’s 5.4-point scoring average leads the trio, and they’re not putting up big rebounding numbers. They’ve combined to block 61 shots, though, for the Seminoles (13-12, 5-7).
Unlike perimeter players, who mix jump shots with drives, Cox takes the vast majority of his shots in games with contact or at least a defender closing fast as he’s shooting.
It’s tougher to practice that than jump shooting, although the Jackets practice shooting with contact in a variety of ways.
“To be honest, it’s not something you can practice,” he said. “You just have to be able to feel comfortable catching the ball in traffic. At Ole Miss, it was more like, `We want you to screen for the guards.’
“I’m around the basket more here than I was there. There, I was mostly around the mid-range or even out to the 3[-point line]. Then, when the shot goes up, just crash the glass.”
He leads the Jackets with 25 blocked shots, and he’s being asked to play differently at that end of the court as well. More often, Cox will stay with his man rather than rotate to defend another.
“I would say I helped more there than I do here,” he said. “I help here, but I don’t help as much.”
Cox’s basketball days may be drawing to a close. While the building construction major (with an emphasis on facility management) is open to the prospect of playing professionally overseas, he also is considering trying football as a professional option.
He played the sport his senior year in high school in Yazoo City, Miss., and was in that single season drew attention from a few of the nation’s recruiting services and some college programs. He sees himself as an offensive tackle prospect.
First, he has to work on beating blocks.
“I’m getting some touches in the post,” Cox said. “Coach is looking for me to score the ball, be a post threat compared to being at Ole Miss, where I wasn’t getting the ball in the post.”