No more Mr. Nice Guy.
The University of Northern Colorado men’s basketball team has been preaching that to redshirt junior forward Emmanuel Addo ever since he arrived on campus as a freshman four years ago.
The UNC coaches and players haven’t been just trying to poke this Bear. They have been trying to prod him, goad him, do anything they could to get him to play with more fire and passion on the court.
If they can do that, the Bears have no doubt that Addo at 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, could be one of the most dominant big men in the Big Sky Conference.
It is something that Addo has struggled with ever since he first started playing basketball when he was a freshman in high school. Despite an abundance of potential, he has struggled with consistency throughout his career as he struggles to play with a fire and passion night in and night out.
“Ever since I’ve been playing basketball, I have tried to work on it,” Addo said. “Every coach and every teammate I have had has been telling me the same thing that you need to get a little more dog in you. I am just too laid back for my own good, honestly.”
Addo wants to play with an anger and passion on the court but said that it is difficult for him to take the nice guy that he is off the court and find a nasty streak on the court.
“I don’t know how to switch it up,” Addo said. “It is something I am working at. I am trying.”
His coaches and teammates have tried to bring that passion out of Addo but haven’t quite figured out yet what it takes to get him to go from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde on the court.
Even UNC coach B.J. Hill hasn’t quite found the answer yet.
“The short answer to an important question is no,” Hill said. “It is something that we have talked about on a bunch of different levels, he and I and with the team individually. We just haven’t found it yet. He is very, very capable. He is a tremendous kid. He is almost too nice. We are still searching for that switch and hopefully when he finds it, he is going to achieve the potential that everybody talks about.”
He has shown flashes of that potential over the three seasons he has been on the court since redshirting as a freshman. His redshirt freshman season when the Bears advanced to the NCAA tournament, he scored in double figures nine times, including in three consecutive games in the 2010 Las Vegas invitational.
Last season, he scored a career-high 28 points against Idaho State but had only one double-double on the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds against NAIA Johnson & Wales.
Though he was slowed by a pair of hamstring injuries during the off-season, Addo is averaging only 6.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game so far this season and has scored in double figures only twice, one of those times being in the Bears last game when he scored 10 points in a 51-50 loss at Southern Utah.
Even his teammates realize that they have got to find a way to get that nasty streak out of Addo in order to get him to play at a high level.
“People have kind of tried to poke and prod at him and see what gets him going — see what gets him angry,” Osborne said. “I think if we are able to kind of find that, he’d play real well for us.”
If the Bears do that, Hill believes that Addo can finally reach his potential and become one of the top big men in the Big Sky.
“There is no doubt he is one of the most talented guys at his size in our league,” Hill said. “But this league and every league is determined by guys with fire and work ethic. We need Emmanuel to play a little bit more like the guys that are not nearly as talented as him but seem to leave the game with a better stat line at the end of the night.”
While Hill admits that it is his job to figure out how to push the right button with Addo, he also said that Addo needs to take a long look at himself and figure out what motivates him because nobody can do it for him.
Addo is well aware that he needs to figure it out in order to reach his potential, something he knows he hasn’t done yet.
“Potentially, I feel like I could accomplish a lot more than I have up to this point in my career,” Addo said. “Honestly, I feel like I have underachieved a little bit, and the coaches would probably tell you the same thing. There is definitely a lot of improvements I can make. I don’t want to sound cocky, but I think the sky is the limit as far as the stuff that I can accomplish. So I am just going to continue to work towards that goal.”