By BETSY BLANEY
, Associated Press
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -- Texas Tech freshman Dusty Hannahs learned long ago that when he's wasn't practicing somebody else probably was.
That notion has driven the 19-year-old since his youth growing up in Arkansas. In the family's Little Rock backyard, his father would chase rebounds so Hannah could repeatedly put up more shots.
In seventh grade, he finagled a key to the school gym and spent hours practicing his shot. High school? Different key, same routine.
"Once that happened it was over," said Hannahs, who has started the past nine games and is averaging 6.5 points a game. "I wanted to live there."
Now, long after Red Raiders fans leave the arena or practice is over, Hannahs lingers. Sometimes under dimmed lights with only the janitorial staff as company.
That time has paid off. After 18 or fewer minutes in Texas Tech's first eight games Hannahs earned a starting role. He has become the go-to guy from beyond the arc, hitting 26 of 66 to lead the team. He's also perfect from the free throw line (9-9) and notched a season-high 21 points in his second start, a win over North Carolina A&T. He hit seven of his 12 shots, going 4 of 8 on 3s.
"And he'll get better as time goes on when he learns how to hunt his shot," interim coach Chris Walker said.
The 6-4, 210-pounder's presence has helped the Red Raiders, who despite struggling have already won more conference games than all of last season under coach Billy Gillispie. He resigned in September for medical reasons after getting just one Big 12 victory and matching a school record for the most losses in a single season (23) in his lone year in Lubbock.
The Red Raiders (9-8, 2-4 Big 12) halted a four-game skid Wednesday night when they beat Iowa State 56-51. On Saturday, they travel to Texas and have a shot at beating the struggling Longhorns, who are winless in Big 12 play.
Walker said Hannahs' work ethic in shooting is "light years" ahead of his teammates. But there are areas where he needs improvement, like rebounding and defense.
"If you're not making 3s, what other value do you bring to the team?" Walker said. "He's not going to be a defensive stopper. That's not his role on the team. I just have to continuously challenge him to be a more well-rounded player."
Hannahs understands his shortcomings and is working to become better on defense. His confidence is growing each week.
"I just always was getting by, but I needed to learn principles," Hannahs said. "I've come such a long way with the help of the coaches. They're just so good at helping me, letting me know what I'm doing wrong and right."
Redshirt junior Jaye Crockett, the team's leading scorer (13.1 points per game) and its sixth man, has been impressed by Hannahs and the energy he always brings. When the freshman is on the floor and opponents must respect his shooting prowess, it opens up lanes inside for teammates, Crockett said.
Then there's the extra time Crockett sees Hannahs put in.
"Dusty's in the gym all the time," he said. "He's one of the reasons why I started getting in the gym a lot just trying to work on my game because I've seen a freshman come and his work ethic and all, I was like, `Maybe I need to change something.'"
Hannahs believes the Red Raiders are finding their stride.
"We're just going to keep working," he said. "We all know what we have and once we come together, which is what we feel we are, we're the only people who can stop us."