Asik's improvement can be attributed to confidence

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Asik's improvement can be attributed to confidence

Omer Asiks improvement with the Houston Rockets can be attributed to one thing: confidence.

Of course, more playing time always helps. The third-year Turkish big man is averaging a career-high 30 minutes per game coming into his return to Chicago against his former club, which easily tops the 12.1 and 14.7 minutes he averaged his first two seasons as the front line anchor of the Bulls Bench Mob.

Along with more minutes, Asik is averaging 10 points, 11 rebounds and one block per contest.

Omer has been fantastic, Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. I think any time you ask someone to stretch their minutes from spot minutes 14, 12, 16, 18, to 30 minutes (per game) youre never sure what youre going to get, but hes been fantastic. Omer has been great. Hes been rebounding the ball at a high level, been a real diligent worker, has been working on his game and been real solid defensively in the paint. Hes been fantastic.

Hes handling the ball a little bit more, hes rolling, hes making passes and hes just doing a lot of different stuff, he continued. But hes a young guy. I think anytime that your role really expands, its a real good opportunity for him to grow and he has been. I think his offense has been growing, his free throw percentage is way up and I think a lot of that is just confidence. I just see a more confident player.

McHale hasnt had the chance to fully work with Asik on adding to his low-post moves, saying, Weve done some stuff, but not as much. Well do more as we go along. He had a lot of adjustments to make, the last thing in the world he needed was to think about 10 other things. So we tried to narrow it down for him. Hes done a lot of work and hes going to keep progressing.

While the Bulls still boost one of the leagues best defenses, allowing opponents just 91 points per game, its clear theres a void defensively without Asik backing up Joakim Noah, but Tom Thibodeau sees the loss, but appreciates the gains more.

I think Jo playing more minutes has helped him develop, Thibodeau said of Noah, whos having a career season. We liked having both of them, it didnt work out for us. Were happy for Omer. Hes a great guy, did a great job for us here.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Austin O'Connor

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Austin O'Connor

Four years, four state championships. 

That's what St. Rita senior wrestler Austin O'Connor accomplished over the past four years, becoming the 15th wrestler in IHSA history to do so. The Mustangs' grappler went undefeated this season and finished his IHSA career with a record of 181-4. 

O'Connor is planning on continuing his time on the mat at the University of North Carolina next season. Learn more about O'Connor in the video above. 

In the Gym at EFT: Vertical jump training

In the Gym at EFT: Vertical jump training

In the latest installment of In the Gym at EFT, performance specialist Kerry Neal teaches some valuable techniques to improve an athlete's vertical jump. 

Former Western Michigan Linebacker Grant DePalma gives an assist by demonstrating the drills. An athlete's vertical is an important tool and can be the difference during evaluation.

Learn some valuable tips above and be on the lookout for the next edition of In the Gym at EFT.