JACKSONVILLE — As a freshman on a team loaded with newcomers, Frankie Bougher has patiently waited for his chance to make an impact.
Jacksonville State coach James Green gave him that chance last week — on the biggest stage the Gamecocks are likely to play on the rest of this season — and the 6-foot-5 forward didn’t flinch.
He responded with his most effective outing of the season, scoring a career-high nine points in nine minutes during a 56-49 loss at South Carolina.
“They said I was playing, so I had to get my mind ready for the game,” Bougher said. “It was an SEC (team), a big game, a TV game; my family was watching and I wanted to do good for them.
“Coach Green gave me the chance and I just wanted to prove myself, because I really want to play and help this team, and I felt like I did that.”
Bougher might have gotten in the game anyway, but his services were particularly needed this night because leading scorer Nick Murphy was back in New York, stranded by the East Coast snowstorm.
One of the Gamecocks’ biggest shortcomings this season has been developing the complementary scoring to go with Murphy, Jeremy Bynum and Steven Hall. While The Big Three have provided 64 percent of JSU’s offense, none of the remaining 11 players is averaging more than 5.0 points a game and they’ve produced only six games in double figures.
Before the South Carolina game, Bougher had only gotten into three of JSU’s first 13 games. He played six minutes in the opener against West Alabama and three against Norfolk State, both without scoring.
He didn’t play again until the Oregon game, when he scored his first college points in 10 minutes against the Ducks. He scored five points on 2-for-5 shooting, with one bucket coming from 3-point range.
All nine of his points against South Carolina came in final four minutes of the game, helping cut a 15-point deficit to the final margin. His points (14) to minutes (28) ratio is best on the team.
“He’s a guy we’ve always believed in,” Green said, “but he’s also a guy we wanted to bring along at a certain kind of pace (because) we wanted him to have success.
“The only problem with our young guys is we need them so bad right now. Over time they’re all going to be good players in this program. Unfortunately we have to put the kind of pressure on them that we are this year because … they’ve got to play. When you have that many new guys and that many are freshmen, you need a couple of them to play like they’re sophomores and juniors.”
Nine points in nine minutes might not constitute a breakout game, but Bougher agreed it was a “big step” in his career.
“It was one of those times my name was called and I had to step up,” he said. “It felt really good, even though we lost, just the feeling I actually got to do something, and I think I proved to the coaches I can compete and play with these guys.”
While Bougher answered the bell against the other Gamecocks, his future minutes depend not so much what he did in the game as what he does leading up to it. There are still things he can do better — even he admits needing to be stronger defensively at the ball — but they’re concepts all freshmen have to grasp.
“That’s this game, what your team and individuals getting better, is really all about,” Green said. “When they get that opportunity, they make the most of it. I think he has.
“Then, you’ve got to get them to make the most of practice every day, because that’s where the real development is going to come. The confidence will come because they’ve had success in games, but the overall development is going to show up because of what the kid does every day in a practice situation.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.