What Ragin' Cajuns basketball coach Bob Marlin said changed how Brayan Au plays the point
Brayan Au came out firing, scoring a UL career-high high 16 points in a season-opening loss to preseason No. 1 Baylor and 14 in an early win over LSU-Shreveport.
But for six straight games starting with a Dec. 8 victory over LSU-Alexandria, the Ragin’ Cajuns junior point guard didn’t make more than one shot from the field and didn’t score more than three points.
Last weekend, however, things changed.
Au hit four shots in each of the past two games, a home split with defending Sun Belt Conference regular-season champion Little Rock. After scoring nine on 4-for-7 shooting in a 66-64 win Friday and 11 with 4-for-5 shooting including a season-high 3-for-4 from 3-point range in a 78-76 overtime loss Saturday, he is now averaging 5.8 ppg.
Recent chats with UL coach Bob Marlin spurred the spree for Au, who’s back at it when the Cajuns (8-3, 1-3 SBCt) visit Texas-Arlington (6-6, 2-2) Friday (6 p.m., ESPN+, KPEL 96.5 FM) and Saturday (4 p.m., ESPN+, 96.5 FM).
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“He told me the reason he brought me here is to bring a change on the team,” Au said.
The emphasis: being someone who can run the offense while simultaneously remembering what he does best.
“He’s a very good shooter. I mean, he’s a career 40% shooter from 3,” Marlin said. “We see it at practice all the time.”
Au on the ball
Yet Marlin has Au playing much more at the point than shooting guard partly because the Cajuns are loaded with off-guards and partly, he said, because Au “does a good job understanding.”
The balancing act between scoring and facilitating – figuring out when to simply stop and pop rather than drive and dish – can, however, be tricky at times.
That’s something Au, a native of Nuevo Casas Grandes, Mexico, who played at Anthony High near El Paso, Texas, learned after moving to UL from Ranger (Texas) College.
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“At the beginning it was hard for me to come from a juco to a Division I, because … it’s different, the way it’s played,” said Au, who averaged 12.2 points on an NJCAA Division I national runner-up team as a freshman and 15.8 as a second-team All-American when he was a sophomore. “So I had a hard time adjusting – deciding when to take shots and stuff.
“But I can tell you after a long talk with Coach he gave me the confidence to do what I do best, and after that day I just decided … I was not going to go back. I was going to look forward. That was the goal: Look forward every game.”
No more looking back
Au also changed the mentality with which he plays.
Rather than try to be a flashy point guard making fancy but sometimes ineffective passes, Au focused on what comes naturally.
As a sophomore at Ranger – where he played for hard-driving former UTEP, Texas A&M, Kentucky and Texas Tech coach Billy Gillespie, Au had eight games with 20-plus points, including a season-high 28, and four games with 10 or more assists.
Now, much like in junior college, he’s letting the game come to him rather than forcing things.
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“I feel like early in the year I was trying to facilitate for everybody else instead of scoring for myself, which sometimes is more selfish … than making the right play,” Au said.
The payoff is games like the two against Little Rock, where in addition to efficient shooting he also had four assists with no turnovers Friday and three assists Saturday, boosting his season average to 3.3 assists per game.
The reward: more minutes.
Au, who has started all 11 games this season, is averaging 28.0 minutes, frequently leaving starting shooting guard Mylik Wilson or true freshman Michael Thomas to play point when he is not.
But Au logged 32 minutes on Friday and a season-high 37 in OT Saturday, something Marlin suggested is reflective of what he’s doing lately. Three times Saturday Au suggested a play, looked over at his coach and, Marlin said, “it was exactly the play I had in mind.”
“So he’s starting to think like a quarterback, or point guard, more,” Marlin said, “and he just understands what we’re looking for.”
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