Transfers boost Griffins Sholly, Barton have helped Westminster to fast start
December 23, 2005
Salt Lake Tribune
By John Coon
Special to The Tribune
Coming to Westminster was an easy choice for junior guard Brandon Sholly. The Snow College transfer liked the school's strong academic reputation. Being in closer proximity to his family in Ogden didn't hurt either.
"My family liked that [I came here]," Sholly said. "They're able to come and watch a lot more games now, with me being closer to home."
Lance Barton's arrival on campus was a bit more complicated. Fresh out of Everett Community College in Washington, the junior forward originally had not considered coming to Westminster. After paying a visit to Salt Lake before departing on an LDS mission, Barton was impressed with the state of the program and ultimately chose to play for the Griffins on a gut feeling.
"It just felt right out of all the choices," Barton said.
Playing for the Griffins has turned out to be the right choice for both players. Sholly and Barton have played crucial roles in Westminster's early season success.
Sholly is becoming a genuine scoring threat after overcoming early season shooting struggles. The former Bonneville star scored 19.7 points per game in the Griffins' last three games prior to going to the NAIA Disney Challenge - capped off by a 29-point outing in a 99-93 loss to Northwest Nazarene.
His production echoes what Jared Ruiz did a year ago in his first season as a junior college transfer, and coach Tommy Connor thinks Sholly could have a similar breakout in Frontier Conference play.
"From nonleague to conference play, [Jared's] percentages went up unbelievably and I'm hoping Brandon can have that same impact," Connor said. "Brandon is getting plenty of shots. It's about taking the right ones at the right time and being more consistent."
During his sophomore year at Snow, Sholly averaged 12.5 points per game and shot 40 percent from the three-point line. But most of his shots were of the catch-and-shoot variety. When he came to Westminster, Sholly had to adjust to creating his own shots.
"Coach Judkins had more of a set-motion [offense]. You knew where you were going to get your shots. Here, it's more guys creating and dishing and you moving around a little bit. Shots come with it. Different spots at different times from what I'm used to," Sholly said.
He feels no pressure to fill an ever-increasing scoring role. Sholly knows he was recruited to be a primary option on offense and feels up to the task.
"I'm probably going to have to work on creating my shot a little bit better. Finishing better at the basket," Sholly said. "Other than that, I feel like I can step into that role."
Barton has taken on a different role, emerging as a defensive banger to complement Nick Booth in the post. At 6-foot-8, he is a natural post presence. Already, in his first nine games, Barton emerged as the team's second-leading rebounder with 7.2 per game. Barton made his presence felt in the first game of the season, when he pulled down 13 boards in an 82-53 win over Fresno Pacific.
Of course, being defensive-minded is nothing new to him. As a sophomore at Everett, Barton was named his conference's defensive player of the year.
"That's kind of why I'm here," Barton said. "Defense is one of the things I've always been taught. That was one thing we really emphasized at the junior college."
His biggest adjustment with the Griffins, he said, has been mastering fundamentals that don't show up in the box score, like blocking out and aiding in help-side defense.
Connor likes what each player has brought to the team. Barton, he said, has been a perfect fit in his rotation because his physical play has compensated for Brad Roundy's absence. Sholly has proven to be a leader on and off the court and, Connor said, has proven as valuable on defense as he is on offense.
"Our JC transfers we bring in, they're brought in to be impact players. They have to be impact players," Connor said. "Both Brandon and Lance have been impact players for us. I'm very pleased with what they've done."