No Longer A Freshman
Feb. 6, 2003
By Chris Purser
OXFORD, Miss. -- Every once in a while, a player comes along that not only displays a natural talent for the game, but also has the ability to absorb knowledge of the game quickly. That is what Rebel freshman Trey Pearson has done since arriving at Ole Miss this past fall.
Pearson is the only true freshman starting for the Rebels. The 6-foot-4, 170-pound guard came into the head coach Rod Barnes' program hoping to make the most of his first year. But, even he did not expect what has happened.
"I have been surprised, coming in and starting right off," said Pearson. "We had really good players coming back this season. I knew that if I worked hard, I could start. But I didn't think it would happen this early in the season."
What Pearson has done is start every game this year for the Rebels. In fact, the South Fulton, Tenn., native has averaged over 27 minutes per game, third on the team behind only senior David Sanders and junior Aaron Harper. The freshman phenom is averaging 4.6 points and 3.4 rebounds, while dishing out 61 assists.
But, as many Ole Miss fans know, defense is what gets playing time, and that is where Pearson has truly excelled. In Barnes' system where defense reigns, Pearson has responded by maintaining the composure of a seasoned veteran. On the offensive side, he has made few mistakes with only 27 turnovers in 19 games. The response from his teammates has been positive, always encouraging him to get better.
"My teammates always tell me 'You are alright. Just do this instead of that and you will be fine,'" Pearson said. "Guys like David (Sanders) will come over when I make a mistake, and tell me not to worry and correct it next time. It is like a family."
The biggest difference for Pearson has been in the level of play between college and high school. Although not scoring as much as he did in high school, Pearson, who was Tennessee's Class A Mr. Basketball in 2002, sees himself as a role player for the Rebels. It is a role that many highly-touted recruits have trouble adjusting to, especially those who are familiar with the spotlight.
"I'm just trying to help everybody get better," said Pearson, who had his high school jersey retired Jan. 3 in ceremonies at South Fulton High. "I came to Ole Miss because I liked the system. It's defense based. Also, it's a real small environment, which I like."
The small environment gives Pearson the family appeal that he wanted when he began looking at his college choices. While other teams may break up into little cliques, Pearson has bonded with all of his teammates. The family environment, stressed by Barnes, is just one of the qualities that attracted Pearson to Ole Miss.
"Everybody gets along," Pearson said. "And that makes it a family. The more you bond, the more chemistry there is on the court."
While Pearson has enjoyed the family atmosphere that has come with the early practices and young season, he is also looking forward to Southeastern Conference play. The Rebels are at the midway point of conference action.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge," Pearson said. "Everybody talks about tough and physical the SEC is. Playing teams like the ones in this league, it can only make you better."
And Pearson hopes that getting better will help Ole Miss make the NCAA Tournament and possibly advance deep into "March Madness." He believes that just making the tournament is not the only goal for this team.
"We expect to make the tournament," Pearson said. "Coach (Barnes) tells us everyday to step up our intensity in practice so we can reach our goals."
He has stepped up indeed, grasping a new system and helping lead his team in such a short amount of time. Pearson has truly become the Rebels' "veteran" freshman.
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