Bear essentials: Junior forward has come a long way for Mavericks
Michael Bear has been listed at 6-foot-7, 205 pounds ever since his freshman year.
Now a junior, the starting post player for the Mesa State College men’s basketball team honestly has put on some weight over the past four years. Yes, he still looks like a tall, skinny kid, but he’s gotten bigger and stronger every year.
“He’s miles stronger,” head coach Jim Heaps said. “He loses (weight) during the season. It’s gotta be a conscious thought process to keep weight on him.”
Bear has gained 25 pounds since graduating from Delta High School. It’s just that he literally runs off most of what he gains in the offseason once basketball season begins.
“I was up to 228,” he said. “Now I’m down to 215. Your body becomes more used to the endurance aspect of running. In the summer you lift and play a little bit, but you’re not always running like you are during the season. It’s hard to keep it on. It flies right through me.”
The Mavericks (4-2, 0-2 RMAC) are back home this weekend, facing Western New Mexico (1-5, 1-1) at 8 p.m. on Friday and New Mexico Highlands (5-0, 2-0) at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Brownson Arena.
Highlands opened the RMAC season with a convincing 91-78 win over Metro State, then beat Regis 70-52. Western New Mexico beat Regis 70-55, then lost to Metro 62-56. The Mavericks lost back-to-back games in Nebraska, 78-61 to Chadron State and 73-65 to Nebraska-Kearney.
“It was a rude awakening to the RMAC on the road,” Bear said.
Lifting weights has helped Bear increase his strength, so even if he is slimmer than many of the post players he faces, he can still bang around in the paint. Plus he’s quicker than most of the big men he faces and he’s got good range for a post player. He’s got a nice touch from the baseline or elbow, and can shoot the 3. That versatility comes into play when defenders have to come out and defend him on the perimeter — Bear is able to put the ball on the floor and drive past his defender.
“His skill set is so far improved from where he was,” Heaps said. “He’s always had the face-up skills, he could always shoot it, could always dribble it, skills that you don’t always see on a 6-7, 6-8 kid. His strength, his back-to-the-basket moves, his ability to finish. He’s much more polished.”
He’s not there yet, though. Bear is quiet on and off the court, not overly demonstrative. You might see a fist-pump when he scores inside and is fouled, but Heaps wants him to take that to the next level. Both player and coach believe that will come as he gets more and more game experience.
“I’d like to see him get to that point. It’s hard for him,” Heaps said. “He’s not that personality. He’s a real quiet, laid-back kid. He’s not real emotional, he’s just not. That’s his process now.”
After redshirting his first year, Bear played eight minutes a game as a redshirt freshman in 2008-09, coming off the bench to spell Kurt Bangle. He scored 3.3 points a game.
Last season, he came off the bench, splitting time in the post with Lance Fite. With his increased minutes (20 per game) came increased production (9.7 points per game).
He and Fite are both in the starting lineup now, playing nearly 25 minutes a game, averaging a team-high 11.2 points and 4.8 rebounds a game.
“You see the potential,” Heaps said. “The kid could be dominating games. He’s still feeling his way through being the man. He’s never been that kind of player. He’s always been a secondary guy, if I get 4, 5 or 15 points a game, great I don’t have to get 15 every night for us to win.
“It’s a different mindset. There are a lot of players with a lot of skill out there who never get to that point, going in day after day and hit shots and make plays. There’s a lot of pressure with that.”
Bear is confident he can become the player Heaps expects.
“I’ll get there,” he said. “Sooner, hopefully.”