Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Once The Heralded Scoring Guard, Tallahasee's Escobar To Adjust At Ole Miss

On his ascension into the nation's upper crust of scoring guards, several buckets binges fueled Tallahassee product J.T. Escobar.

A knack for getting to the free throw line also propelled the 6-foot-2, 180-pound guard, who eclipsed the 2,000-point milestone at FAMU High.

Now a freshman at Ole Miss, Escobar is no longer the beast amongst boys he was  during a four-year varsity career and one-year prep stay.

Escobar erupted for 51 points (15-for-15 FT) in spearheading FAMU High past Leon, 80-75.

 On a constant scoring spree throughout the Capital City Holiday Classic, Escobar torched foes to the tune of 36 PPG.

He dropped 23 second half points during a dizzying 67-66 win over East Gadsen, steering the pressure cooker while  simultaneously shutting the door with three free throws in the final two seconds.

Proving his outbursts were no laughing matter, showing he could scorch the nets against the high-caliber competition as well as the duds, Escobar authored a 62-point explosion during a scrimmage against Oak Hill.

Escobar sustained the smoking-hot hand for two 20-minute halves at Oak Hill, burying 21-for-25 during one sequence.

The basket looked wider than the Biscayne Bay for Escobar, who averaged 30.2 PPG during an 815-point senior year at FAMU.

"My coaches put a lot of trust in me throughout high school," Escobar said.

 "Not only to score the ball, but they saw in me the ability to run the point even though I'd never done it before. So, they kind of handed me the keys to the offense."

The road to a limitations-lacking scoring motor didn't come without relentlessness.

Extra hours in the gym helped rectify woeful 3-point shooting as a freshman (when he shot a meager 18 percent from downtown), eventually converting it into a strength (45 percent as a senior).

In a world where a growing number of distractions create concern, Escobar is very much a throwback.

He lives by an A.C. Green level of Christian values, grounded by high morals. These attributes rendered him a low-risk recruit.

The temptations, for Escobar, have been virtually non-existent.

While kids of Escobar's athletic stature may be up playing games of beer pong and hosting jungle juice parties, Escobar has never once touched alcohol.

"Not one sip," Escobar said.

"I've never been a partier. It's just not for me. Even before I became a Christian, basketball is what I've always done. Partying, drinking, it just didn't seem enjoyable to me. I just didn't see the point of it. The reason I don't do it now, though, is because I want to honor God in all phases of my life."

He'll also honor Ole Miss' need for a depth at the point guard position. Escobar readied himself for the role during his post-grad season at Elev8, where he hunted for his shot less and dished more.

"You've got to adjust to each team you play on," Escobar explained. "I've always been a scorer throughout my basketball career, but I've never been a selfish player. It's not like I'm a scorer because everytime I touch the ball I'm going to shoot it. I'm a scorer because that was the role I had to play."

At Elev8 Prep (FL), Escobar focused more on orchestrating the offense. He deferred more than ever on a squad that featured 6-foot-5 man-child wing Kobie Eubanks (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.).

Beyond Eubanks, Escobar had a cadre of Division-1 teammates in Jamall Gregory (South Carolina), Leroy Butts (Rhode Island), Caleb Tanner (Radford), and Yankuba Sima (St. John's).

While acclimatizing to Ole Miss, Escobar will once again be a role player. The kid who was frequently reeling off individual 9-0 runs and rattling off 11 points in four minutes understands less scoring weight is on his shoulders.

"It's always a change," said Escobar, who will look to operate offense should he find meaningful minutes his freshman season.

"It's hard at times. It's where you have to look beyond yourself. It's not about the number of shots you get. If you are a true competitor, if you are really about the team, at the end of the day if you get the win that's all that matters."