DECATUR — With four minutes left in last Saturday's championship game of the Bill Rucks Mount Pulaski Tournament, Garrett Guske found himself in a seat on the sideline.

That's the exact place he's called home for the better part of a year, but Saturday was for a different reason.

LSA coach Tom Saunches had to call on one of his many free-throw shooters, who teeter on automatic from the line.

Right now, that isn't Guske, a 6-foot, 190-pound senior. At least, not yet.

"I said, ‘Garrett, do you know why you’re over here?’ He said, ‘Because I’m not a very good free-throw shooter. But I will be,'" Saunches said.

LSA went on to beat Mount Pulaski in the tournament championship game. Guske scored nine points for the Lions (5-0).

Each game is a learning experience for him.

Guske sat out last season after transferring to LSA from Decatur Christian. He was relegated to putting in the work at practice as LSA put up a school-record 24 wins.

At Decatur Christian, Guske was the focal point of the Warriors' offense. At LSA, he had to learn the tendencies of his new teammates and what made them tick, while also reeling in his own game.

“I practiced with them all of last year and we bonded in that moment," Guske said. "I played football with them so being with them and realizing what their game is while watching them play last year helped me realize where I can fit in."

The offense at DCS ran through him as a sophomore on a struggling team. That kind of pressure comes with inherent stress — something he doesn't feel with the Lions.

Guske doesn't need to score 20 points for LSA to win. He can camp out in the corner for easy 3-pointers — as he did in Tuesday's win against Meridian — or find scoring opportunities on put back chances.

“I don’t feel stressed out going up for a shot, and if I don’t make it then who knows when the next time the team is going to score?" Guske said of the change from DCS to LSA. "Now I get to trust Mike (Fiala), Grant (Karsten) E (Ezra Schaal), Cam (Walls), you name it — anybody."

Even after trying to carve out a space on his new team, Guske and the other Lions were faced with another roadblock — what would their role be with Saunches, a first-year coach at LSA?

“I was waiting to hear what coach said," Guske said. "If he said I was going to sit the bench, then I was going to sit the bench. If he was going to play me then I was going to play, whatever helps the team win."

The returning core of players from last season have moved back into the same roles they're accustomed to. That left Guske to find a spot at the beginning of the season.

So far, he's carving a niche in the rotation.

“I told him to play defense and rebound — because he’s such a good jumper — and to let the offense come to him," Saunches said. "He let it come to him (Tuesday, scoring 15 points against Meridian) and when he has the open shot, he can hit that.”

Guske knows his strengths: rebounding and getting to the basket. He can also spot up from the outside, along with the rest of his team, for Schaal to find on drives to the hoop.

When one of those spot-up shots doesn't fall, Guske and Schaal attack the glass for a rebound — a strength they both share.

“I would say driving or getting rebounds with Ez, but Ez kind of outshines me sometimes with all the rebounds he gets," Guske said of his strengths.

Things are going off without a hitch for the Lions this season and Guske adds another scoring threat to an already deep bench.

He doesn't care what his role ends up being this season, as long as the Lions are playing deep into the postseason.

“He’s doing a good job of blending in," Saunches said. "As long as he does that, he gives us a physical presence on the boards and defensively."

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Sports Writer

Sports writer for the Herald & Review.

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