The direction was simple - provide energy.

Ever since Jerome Garrison heard those words from the Grand Canyon coaches he has asserted himself in the rotation and given the Antelopes a new dimension off the bench.

"They told me to come in and give the team some energy," the Mountain Pointe graduate said. "I started out slow, trying to find my way, but then I just tried to do the little things to get some momentum going for the team."

It was all Garrison, a 6-foot-3 guard, needed to start playing free and easy.

"It took a couple of games to realize what they meant," he said. "I started to realize that they were my mistakes on the court. I wasn't doing what they wanted. I watched a lot of film and tired to let the game come to me instead of forcing it."

Shortly thereafter, he scored a team-best 15 points in a loss to St. Mary's and then poured in 21 against Arizona Christian on Dec. 30.

He made seven of nine shots from the floor against Arizona Christian, and added four rebounds, four assists, and a pair of steals.

"I think Jerome is learning how to play with his mind and his body," GCU coach Russ Pennell said after the game. "He is an incredibly talented athlete. We have been trying to get him to play with a good basketball IQ. He is now putting those two things together. When you are a young player you have to constantly make adjustments as the teams begin to scout you more. He is a great spark off the bench for us."

The biggest adjustment for Garrison, even though he started working with the team over the summer, was realizing that every play counts. It did in high school as well, but now everyone at the college level is a special player. Any lapse in concentration and it will lead to an easy basket for the opposition.

"I'm watching a lot more film than I did in high school," he said. "On a lot of plays most people don't even see what led to a basket. It is something that happened away from the ball. If you take your eye off (the player you are guarding) he'll be gone. Things you didn't even see leads to points."

Pennell said it is common for freshmen to come in and be surprised by what goes into playing a complete game.

"It's part of the process," Pennell said. "It takes some time to understand the magnitude of every play at the college level. As soon as you give up on a play, it is over, and we can't have that. Jerome has a better understanding that when he is on the floor there is no let up."

He has seen his minutes increase in recent games, and along with it has come better production. Overall, he averaged 7.7 points, 1.9 assists, and 1.8 rebounds in 19.4 minutes in the first 10 games.

Garrison shot 45.7 percent (21 of 46) from the field and a team-best 46.2 percent (6 of 13) from 3-point land. He also had seven steals and four blocks.

It's a good start to what he hopes to be a successful career at Grand Canyon, which won seven of its first 10 games.

"This has been a great fit," he said. "Everyone on this team would give the shirt off their backs for anyone on the team. The coaches are great and the new arena has been rocking."

Garrison lives in an off-campus apartment, got at least a B in every class in his first semester, and has the coach he wanted to play for teaching him every day.

"He is the greatest motivator for a coach that I have ever had," he said of Pennell. "He is always telling you that you can do better, and he knows so much about basketball. I want to be a coach later in my life, and he is a great example because of the way he treats us and his assistants with respect.

"I know this is where I am supposed to be."

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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