By Joey Bennett
Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State’s R.J. Mahurin has played basketball for the majority of the calendar year for the majority of his life, so sitting out last winter as a redshirt was predictably not an easy thing to do.
He dealt with it, though, and has continued to work on his game to get ready to make his collegiate debut this winter for the Sycamores.
Now a much more solid 6-foot-9, 215-pounder, Mahurin took full advantage of his break from game competition and is glad it worked out that way.
“Not getting to play last winter was really tough on me at first,” Mahurin said. “However, as the year went along, I began to notice the advantages of being a redshirt.
“I loved being able to just work on my game all year with [other redshirts] Jake [Odum], Lucas [Eitel], and Logan [Eitel] as well as the team during practices. In the league we play in, you have to be strong to be competitive, and I was focused on getting in the weight room and putting some size on. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to redshirt.”
One of the highlights for Mahurin was a trip with Athletes in Action to play a three-game series in Poland earlier this summer.
Some of the players on the team were from Missouri Valley Conference schools Missouri State and Wichita State, as well as top programs such as Illinois, Colorado, Baylor and Utah State.
“Going overseas was one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “I met a wonderful group of people that I will remain friends with for a very long time. It was also cool to get to meet some of my future opponents in the Valley.”
Mahurin feels he played well overseas, and was glad to be able to take the court again in a game situation.
“I just went out and tried to contribute any way I could,” he said. “We won every game, and 12 points was the closest game we had. I hated to see the trip come to an end. It was fun.”
ISU Coach Greg Lansing is happy with Mahurin’s work in the past year and is expecting good things from him in the upcoming season.
“Our weight people tell us he has put on 25 pounds, and you can just look at him and tell his body has gotten better,” Lansing said. “He could have helped us last year with his skill level, but he has gotten stronger and worked on the things he had to work on.”
Lansing considers Mahurin as one of the team’s best scorers with his back to the basket, like he played in high school at Rockville, but doesn’t see that being his biggest role.
“He’s so skilled facing the basket, you’re going to see him on the perimeter a lot,” Lansing said. “He is now much more mature and ready for the pounding of the Missouri Valley Conference.
“There’s some misconception that he can’t score around the basket for us since he played at a smaller high school,” Lansing added. “But he can. He’s a very hard working kid, a talented kid, and he’s a good player for us. We are really happy with where he is.”
• • •
• Akers on display — The city of Las Vegas has adopted a well-known slogan that “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
Northview grad Austin Akers hopes that slogan doesn’t always hold true, and that word of his performance at the Top 100 JUCO Showcase last month spreads to Division I college coaches everywhere.
Coming off a stellar freshman year in which he averaged 14 points and 3.7 assists per game and was first-team all-Great Rivers Athletic Conference and first-team all-Region 24, Akers was invited to the camp as one of the top 100 junior college players nationwide.
The Olney Central college sophomore enjoyed his time in Vegas, and hopes it turns into a big-time scholarship for his final two years of college.
“I played pretty well, but you split time evenly so it's hard to get a rhythm going,” Akers said. “Overall it was a great experience with coaches from every D-I college conference there.”
OCC finished 16-15 last year, 5-11 in the GRAC (seventh place), and returns several top performers along with the addition of some familiar Wabash Valley opponents.
“This upcoming season should be a great one,” Akers said. “We have a lot of key players coming back and the addition of some more local talent [North’s Thomas Anderson and South’s John Michael Jarvis]. I have to thank [Terre Haute North assistant coach] Michael Mender for prepping me all summer for this upcoming season.”
OCC Coach Mike Burris was pleased with Akers’ play last year, and is glad to have him back for one more season.
“He had a very good freshman season for us,” Burris said. “He handled the ball well and made the right decisions with it. We think he could be one of the best points in our league this year.
“We expect him to be a floor general and be able to provide some scoring for us, and we also need to him to take on a vocal leadership role,” Burris added. “We need him to compete hard and instill a refuse to lose attitude within our team. He has gotten stronger and more explosive since the end of last season.”
Joey Bennett is a former Tribune-Star sports reporter and copy editor who now teaches at Northview High School in Brazil. He can be reached at email@example.com.