Dzi­agwa ready to take shot at lead­ing

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SPORTS - Nathan Ruiz nruiz@ ok­la­homan.com STAFF WRITER

STILL­WA­TER — Thomas Dzi­agwa won’t claim to be skilled in math.

“I’m good at ad­di­tion,” he clar­i­fied.

He had to do a lot of it this sum­mer. A ju­nior guard on the Ok­la­homa State bas­ket­ball team, Dzi­agwa made more than 25,000 shots in June and July af­ter a chal­lenge from coach Mike Boyn­ton. The worth of those bas­kets will first come to light Sun­day, when the Cow­boys host Oua­chita Bap­tist in a pre­sea­son ex­hi­bi­tion.

Af­ter keep­ing tabs on his phone through­out each day’s work­out, Dzi­agwa cal­cu­lated how many makes he had on a sheet in his locker. Be­fore the Cow­boys left for their Euro­pean tour in early Au­gust, Dzi­agwa made 25,968 shots.

“It was just kind of an ev­ery­day thing,” Dzi­agwa said. “The chal­lenge was just a con­stant re­minder ev­ery sin­gle day to, when I was fa­tigued or af­ter con­di­tion­ing, just to stay in the gym and just keep on work­ing.”

Putting up so many shots took its toll. Ear­lier this week, Dzi­agwa wore a com­pres­sion sleeve on his right arm and said he had to ice plenty. He thanked the team’s stu­dent man­agers for com­ing to re­bound when­ever he needed them. He fig­ures his most makes in a week was above 3,000, with a sin­gle-day high of about 1,000.

“Those are makes only,” Boyn­ton said. “This isn’t a guy com­ing in here and just jack­ing up shots.

“I tell our guys we want to be men­tally tough, and

to be men­tally tough, and I tell them that the mea­sure of their tough­ness is very hard be­cause they have to find a way to be as tough as I am. But that was a dis­play of phys­i­cal tough­ness that I don’t think I have.”

Dzi­agwa is one of the Cow­boys’ three schol­ar­ship re­turn­ers and cap­tains, but he played 500 fewer min­utes than ei­ther Cam McGriff or Lindy Wa­ters last sea­son. Boyn­ton is­sued the chal­lenge want­ing to see how Dzi­agwa re­sponded to re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“Of the guys who have re­turned, he’s got the small­est ré­sumé in terms of pro­duc­tion,” Boyn­ton said. “Now is an op­por­tu­nity for him, as a vet­eran on a young team, to be a guy who can show by the way he works what it takes to be good.”

Dzi­agwa’s pace three weeks into the ef­fort as­sured Boyn­ton of his even­tual suc­cess. Boyn­ton was out of town when Dzi­agwa hit his mark, but Dzi­agwa texted him that night.

“I could tell he had a pretty de­ter­mined mind­set about it,” Boyn­ton said.

Dzi­agwa is tak­ing that same ap­proach into the sea­son. The most ver­bal of the Cow­boys’ cap­tains, Dzi­agwa has ral­lied his team­mates be­fore and dur­ing prac­tices.

The in­creased lead­er­ship re­spon­si­bil­i­ties come with an in­creased role on the court, as he fig­ures to be a starter for the first time.

“If you look at my first two years, I’ve been in al­most ev­ery sit­u­a­tion, and then this sit­u­a­tion’s a lit­tle dif­fer­ent from all the other ones,” Dzi­agwa said. “I guess when I talk, guys lis­ten just ’cause I’ve been in their shoes.

“What­ever the team needs, I’m will­ing to do. This year, team’s ask­ing for me more, so I just have to pro­duce more.”

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