Frank Gaines chose to play college basketball a long way from his Fort Lauderdale home. But little did he know, or the IPFW men’s basketball coaching staff either, for that matter, just how long the journey would prove to be.
The Mastodon senior has evolved from a skinny, inside-oriented player with limited skills, to one of the best scoring forwards in the Midwest, if not the country.
“He’s a special cat, now,” IPFW coach Tony Jasick said. “Frank’s got a chance to be a really, really good player for a long time.”
The 6-foot-3 wing earned first team All-Summit League honors entering this season, which is a first for a Mastodon. He led IPFW in scoring a year ago (21.2 points per game), as well as rebounding (5.9 per game) and steals (41). He is the critical piece of Jasick’s plan to have his program bounce back from an 11-victory season last year.
Gaines has not only developed himself on the court, but in the weight room as well.
He’s added nearly 25 pounds of muscle and he has greatly improved his guard skills, after playing inside – basically just on athleticism alone – in high school.
Through a tireless work ethic, Gaines has placed himself in position to earn a nice paycheck playing the sport a year from now.
“The (pro) guys that I talk to,” Jasick explained, “the question is no longer can he score? He’s proven that he can do that. When you put up the numbers that he put up last year on a team that wasn’t really good; so he had the entire defensive focus on him; that speaks for itself.”
Gaines’ improvement has been steady and impressive, but Jasick said that it can’t cease if he wants to have as solid of a professional career as his potential suggests.
“Now (the scouts) are wanting to see if he makes guys better,” Jasick said. “Can he be the focal point on a winner? And how will he elevate himself defensively?”
Gaines has enjoyed such an impressive career with the IPFW program that it is affecting the Mastodon recruiting efforts, which now has brought in six Florida players on this year’s roster.
“No doubt, he’ll have a chance to play for more money than you or I make,” Jasick said. “And as he improves in those areas, so will the level of play (that he reaches).”
Gaines opened his senior season on a positive note, as he led the Mastodons in their exhibition victory over Alma on Monday with 12 points, four steals and also grabbed four rebounds.
IPFW will open its regular season today at 8 p.m. at Auburn.