Gantt's devotion paying off
Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 11:52 p.m.
In the shoot-around before Florida Atlantic's game last week at Stetson, Gainesville native Greg Gantt said there were no signs a big scoring night was coming.
“I wasn't making any shots,” Gantt said. “But when the game started, I was able to hit the first couple and the coaches kept drawing up plays for me. I guess you could say I was in kind of a zone.”
Gantt wound up with a career-high 34 points, lifting Florida Atlantic to an 88-78 win over Stetson in Deland. For the 6-foot-2 guard and former Gainesville High standout, it continued a senior season with a sharpened focus.
Back to 100 percent after two offseason knee procedures, Gantt lost weight over the summer to improve his quickness and defensive ability. The fast food runs were replaced with a diet of more fruits and vegetables.
“I had never taken my diet seriously before that,” Gantt said.
Gantt had led FAU in scoring in his previous three seasons, but his scoring average dipped from 15.9 points per game as a freshman to 14 ppg as a sophomore and a junior. In his junior year, Gantt missed three games with minor knee injuries.
Through nine games this season, Gantt is averaging 20.8 points per game, shooting 44.8 percent from the floor and 44.6 percent from 3-point range. In the Stetson win, Gantt was 13 of 23 from the field and 5 of 8 from 3-point range.
Over the summer, Gantt worked out in Gainesville with former FAU teammate Dennis Mavin, who transferred to FIU. Mavin was one of six FAU players who left the program following a disappointing 11-19 season. But Gantt stuck around and has helped the Owls get off to a 5-4 start this season.
“We're dangerous,” Gantt said. “We have much better chemistry, we're much better on defense. Our point guard is sharing the basketball.”
Gantt knows a thing or two about winning teams. As a junior in 2008, Gantt led Gainesville High to the state final four. In his senior year, he led Gainesville High to a state title.
Florida assistant coach Matt McCall said Gantt was the “first player he recruited” when he started his career as an assistant at Florida Atlantic.
“He's the ultimate winner,” McCall said. “Watching him at Gainesville from his freshman year to where they were struggling to leading them to a final four and then a state title. (FAU) Coach (Mike) Jarvis said the first thing he wanted us to do is recruit character and not characters. And Greg is a high-character kid.”
McCall still keeps in touch with Gantt and provided some words of encouragement over the summer.
“The main message was for him to be himself,” McCall said. “Because Greg is such a great kid, he's someone who wants all of his teammates to like him. It is very similar to Bradley Beal last season, he didn't want to step on anyone's toes last season and then he came into his own at the end of his freshman season. Greg is someone who needed to come out and be a more vocal leader.”
That assertiveness has been on display early this season. McCall said he's not surprised Gantt has scored in bunches at the Division I level.
“He's always had that ability,” McCall said. “In AAU games, I could remember texting back to coach Jarvis and saying that Greg had five or six made 3s(-pointers) in the first half. He can shoot from long range and finish in transition.”