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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Wildcat hits sophomore season stride

Sophomore Robert Duncan poses for a picture with the Orion during practice on Thursday, December 12, 2014 at Acker Gymnasium. Photo credit: John Domogma

Just eight games into the season, sophomore guard Robert Duncan is scoring more than 14 points a game and has become one of the Chico State men’s basketball team’s scoring weapons.

Duncan is off to a great start, averaging more than 26 minutes as a starter. But his early season success did not come easy.

As a first-year student last season, Duncan played in just nine games. His biggest game was against Dominican, in which he only scored five points.

“It was really, really hard,” Duncan said. “I knew I had seniors ahead of me and everybody else who have had to pay their dues.”

The transition for Duncan from bench to starter has not been as easy as one would think.

“I’m still trying to get use to it to be honest because sitting out a year does a lot,” Duncan said. “Coming from high school where you are the main part of the team to sitting — I’m still trying to get used to it.”

Duncan’s teammate, senior forward Jordan Barton, said that he was nervous to start the season, but Duncan’s play has had a calming effect on him.

“As a senior I was pretty nervous that we didn’t have a lot of experience this year,” Barton said. “Rob has proven not only that he is a big time scorer and defender but also a leader on the court.”

Barton sees Duncan as a leader in the making, he said.

“When we face hard times I know that Rob is someone I can turn to, to really dig deep and finish the game strong,” Barton said. “I think the rest of the team really is starting to look toward him as well.”

Duncan’s experiences playing basketball started in grade school.

“In the fourth grade I got a sheet from my school for basketball signups and ever since I’ve been into basketball,” Duncan said.

Before coming to Chico State, Duncan went to the United States Air Force Academy Preparatory School in Colorado Springs. Duncan said that he decided to call coach Greg Clink because he had previously tried to recruit him out of high school.

“I didn’t think the Air Force was for me,” Duncan said. “I wanted to give the Air Force an opportunity because everybody was encouraging me to.”

Lucas Gabriel, assistant coach for the team, sees improvement in Duncan’s game.

“Robert always had a lot of ability,” Gabriel said. “He really started to pay attention to all of the little details offensively and defensively.”

It’s not all about the statistics, he said.

“It’s easy to look at the stat sheet and say ‘Oh, he had 18 points and this many rebounds,'” Gabriel said. “Really, when you look at the guy, it’s all of the little things and that is the biggest change I’ve seen in his game.”

The coaching staff knew it was Duncan’s time to rise to the occasion, and they were hoping it would come sooner rather than later, he said.

“The one thing about Robert is that he is one of the hardest workers I have ever coached,” Gabriel said. “He’s calling me on Saturdays and Sundays and he is staying after practice.”

Duncan sees the differences in his game from last season, he said.

“I definitely got stronger in the off season,” Duncan said. “Coming in daily and putting up shots, and making sure the jumper is right so coach doesn’t have a reason to put me on the bench.”

Angelo Boscacci can be reached at [email protected] or @Boscacci6 on Twitter.

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