Zimmerman adapts to role of backup
By Parrish Alford
For Mississippi State to thrive in the conquer and advance mindset of tournament basketball, it needs Derrick Zimmerman to continue to finish what he isn't starting.
The sophomore from Monroe, La., has been one reason for State's late-season success. His productivity has increased along with the Bulldogs, who have won five of their last seven. They'll try to advance to the third round of the NIT Monday night at Pittsburgh.
Zimmerman was an offensive non-factor in the first five games, in a starting role as the 2 guard. He totaled just 12 points from a position which typically generates more scoring.
But as MSU coach Rick Stansbury changed his lineup, Zimmerman has changed his mindset to find success in coming off the bench to share the point guard spot.
The move didn't come easily at first for the former Louisiana player of the year.
"I've always been a guy that everybody was trying to get shots for. Now it's role reversal," he said. "I think I've adapted well, but it's been frustrating at times. I've had to work through it."
After two years of college Zimmerman hasn't approached the gaudy numbers he amassed for his father Dale at Wossman High School, where he averaged 30.2 points as a senior and scored a school-record 2,490 points for his career.
Getting to the basket had not been a problem, but achieving the desired result had been - until the second half of this season.
"He's getting to the hole and finishing plays better than at any time in his career," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said.
Zimmerman was 5-for-10 from the floor for a season-high 11 points in the Bulldogs' 75-68 win over Southern Mississippi in the first round.
He matched a season-high with eight rebounds and had a blocked shot and two steals.
He also matched a season-high with four turnovers, but how he reacted to the botched plays showed poise, Stansbury said.
"He turned the ball over three times in a row the other night. We put him back in, and he didn't turn the ball over again. In the past he would not have done that," Stansbury said.
The athletic Zimmerman continues to be one of State's top defensive players, leading the team in blocked shots (19) and ranking second in steals (33).
But it's the recent good times near the goal which have helped increase his confidence. After hitting just nine of 30 field goals over the first 10 games, Zimmerman is shooting 49 percent from the floor in the last 19 games and 55 percent in the last four.
"The ball is in my hands like all the time now," he said. "I've got to be careful to take care of it, lead the team and create plays."