Wednesday, March 17, 1999

Miami pivot finally finds niche

Estick key to RedHawk chances vs. UK

The Cincinnati Enquirer

John Estick scored 18 against Utah
(Steven Herppich photo)
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        OXFORD — John Estick, who had disappeared from Miami University's offense for extended stretches this year, has reappeared at a most opportune time for the RedHawks.

        Estick equalled a season high by scoring 18 points against Utah in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He'll be counted on to provide inside scoring punch again Friday when the RedHawks take on defending national champion Kentucky in the Sweet 16 at St. Louis.

        Estick, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound senior from Brewster, N.Y., passes as a big man at Miami. He's typical Miami: He lacks height, but he's strong (250 pounds) and quick. He uses an array of jump hooks and touch shots to get his points, most of which are scored from within two or three feet of the basket.

        He's averaged 12 points the last six games and shot 63.4 percent from the floor.

        His textbook execution of the pick-and-roll against Utah was the key to Miami victory.

  • Year: Senior
  • Position: Forward
  • Hometown: Brewster, N.Y.
  • Nickname: JUCO (he's a transfer from Trinidad State Junior College)
  • Career high: 23 points vs. Eastern Michigan, Jan.8, '98
  • 1998-99 stats: 8.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg; shoots 75 percent from free throw line.
  • Postseason attribute: Has shot 63.4 percent from the field over last six games and averaged 12 ppg
  • Coles' take: “I like John and I think he likes playing for me. He's one of the most popular guys on the team with the other players.”
        “John's gotten pretty good at that,” Miami coach Charlie Coles said. “He's realized it's a way for him to score. When kids see that, they'll work on it. John likes to score.”

        That fondness for scoring was one of the reasons it took Estick a long time to find his niche at Miami.

        One thing is clear about this year's team: Wally Szczerbiak and Damon Frierson are the co-stars; everyone else has a supporting role.

        “I wasn't used to that,” Estick said. “I had been the star on every other team I played on.”

        In Estick's case that was a lot of teams: Miami was his fifth school in four years.

Estick dives for a loose ball with Washington''s Todd MacCullough
(AP photo)
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        Estick has great athletic roots. His father, Richard, won the bronze medal in the 400 meters for Jamaica in the 1956 Olympics. John was more interested in team sports.

        “I don't like running for no reason,” he said.

        Estick also had a problem with authority. “I had a smart mouth. I'd talk back.”

        After being all-state at Brewster (N.Y.) High as a junior, he was kicked off the team two games into his senior year.

        His father was living in Tulsa since he and Estick's mother had divorced. Estick moved there and finished his career at Tulsa Memorial. He made all-state.

        He then spent a year at Iona. He averaged 8.0 points and led the team in rebounding (7.8) as a freshman. But he wasn't happy and didn't get along with the coach.

        “I didn't really like the program,” he said. “I didn't think I'd ever get to play for a winner there. I wanted to go to a little bigger program.”

        So he left. He ended up at Trinidad State, a junior college in Nebraska. He led Trinidad in scoring (20.0) and rebounding (10.0).

Estick celebrates victory over Utah
(Steven Herppich photo)
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        Coles brought him in because he has a soft spot for junior-college players needed a tough guy inside. “I always like to have one "juco' guy on the team,” Coles said. “Because I was one myself.”

        Early last year, that didn't look like it was such a great idea. Coles twice suspended Estick for minor rule violations.

        “This is a conservative place,” Estick said. “I wasn't used to that. Coach said the things I did reflected on the program. I respect that.”

        Estick says he never considered leaving. Coles is glad.

        “I like John and I think he likes playing for me,” Coles said. “He's one of the most popular guys on the team with the other players.”

        He averaged 8.1 points and 7.9 rebounds a game last year.

        This year, he has averaged 8.5 points and 6.3 rebounds. His big improvement has come at the free throw line. He went from shooting 54 percent last year to 75 percent this year.

        Still, Estick has struggled at times finding a place in the offense. He went one 11-game stretch without hitting double figures. But he's been a consistent threat since mid-February.

        “My teammates have confidence in me,” he said. “At the beginning of the year, I'd get the ball and I'd be all nervous. Now, when I get the ball I have confidence.”

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