FORT WAYNE – The statistical fact is Mario Hines spent more time last season on the IPFW bench than on the floor; 22 minutes sitting per game and 18 playing.
For a 6-foot-8 senior center who, a year earlier, led his Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College team to a 25-6 record and No. 9 NJCAA Division I ranking, the sideline view was completely foreign.
In JUCO, I was starting, so I didnt have to go out there and perform as much cause I knew I would be in the game, Hines said. Sitting on the bench, you see more things. I saw more things than what I did in JUCO.
But with four-year starting center Trey McCorkle graduated, Hines has the inside track to play inside for the Mastodons this season.
I knew none of the pressure would be on me last year; it would all be on Trey cause he was the starter and he was the man producing on the floor, Hines said. Now I have to fill that void and go a little harder and push a little harder myself every day just to get better.
Although he scored in double figures seven times last season, with a career-high 20 against Oakland, Hines worth to IPFW this season wont be measured in points alone.
Mario is significantly different at the defensive end than Trey, IPFWs second-year coach Tony Jasick said. Marios ability to, especially the way were going to play, hes going to be a major factor for us defensively; give our guys primary help, come over and blocking shots, affecting shots, and thats where hes really talented.
Hines offense last year was as up and down as he was.
He had the 20-point game against Oakland when he was 8 of 9 from the floor. But the next time against the Grizzlies, he missed all four shots and scored two points. He scored 12 against Iowa, and one against Purdue. One game against Southern Utah, he had 10 points; another time, he had two.
But with 6-4 senior guard Frank Gaines and his 21.2 scoring average returning, the Mastodons have their primary scorer. With Hines length and athleticism in the middle, defense may be the Mastodons strength.
Offensively, our team is nowhere near where it needs to be, Jasick said. Were way behind offensively. Defensively, were way ahead of where weve been in the past. We needed to change our entire culture defensively, and weve done that.
But because of his ability to run the floor, Hines will fit into the offensive scheme this year with a faster group around him.
Every now and then hell post on the block and score from an offensive set, but his moments, Jasick said, will come in transition.
Ive been working on that in practice, Hines said. My coach told me that I was one of the quickest players on the team. He said I could get it and go, and make a good play for my team. That would be good. Not too many fours and fives can take me due to my quickness. Thats the thing we should look for this season.