College Basketball Nation: Kyle Bullinger

Welcome to the Damian Lillard show

December, 5, 2011
After Weber State's Damian Lillard scored 36 points to tie a career high against Saint Mary's last week, Gaels coach Randy Bennett could only laugh as he joked his team did a good job by holding the star guard to under 40 points.

Lillard became the nation's scoring leader after that performance, and in his next outing, San Jose State couldn't stop him from pouring in 41 points in a double-overtime win for Weber State.

Jimmer Fredette won college basketball's scoring title last season, and now in the driver's seat to win it is another player in the state of Utah. This one doesn't get nearly as much recognition.

Lillard after winning the Big Sky MVP as a sophomore was sidelined for much of the season as a junior with a season-ending foot injury that forced a medical redshirt.

Lillard spent the time not only recovering from the injury, but getting better, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Yet if running and jumping were out, lifting weights and watching videotapes were in. Lillard spent four or five days a week in the weight room and considerable time in the film room, studying all 71 games he had played for the Wildcats. The results are noticeable.

Besides Lillard’s becoming much stronger, "His basketball IQ has increased dramatically," said senior forward Kyle Bullinger.
So now that Lillard is averaging 28.2 points per game, Weber State is off to a 5-1 start, and the second coming of Harold Arceneaux has arrived in Ogden, Lillard knows not to let any of this get to his head.

"When your teammates are in your ear, it's great that they have trust and confidence in me," Lillard told the Salt Lake Tribune. "I don't want the 41 points to overshadow the small things."

"He scored tonight, but he's more than that," Bennett, who recruited Lillard coming out of high school in Oakland, told reporters after the Saint Mary's game. "He can pass, too. He can make plays for others. He can find open guys. He knows the looks, the rolls, the throwbacks. He's a good player, a really good player.

Damian Lillard ready for a fresh start

November, 9, 2011
Weber State guard Damian Lillard returned to action earlier this week from a foot injury that ended his 2010-2011 campaign. Yes, it was only an exhibition game, but for one of the nation's top mid-major stars, it was a great sign as he racked up 16 points, four assists and four steals on Monday. It was the first sign his offseason had paid off.

Lillard entered last season the Big Sky's reigning MVP, but only lasted nine games before needing foot surgery that would force a medical redshirt. After getting cleared May 1, he worked out at 100 percent a month later. Now he might be better than before.

"He’s maybe become more explosive," Weber State coach Randy Rahe said. "Damian’s mentioned time and time again when it’s taken away from you, you learn to appreciate more and put more into it."

Lillard changed his body, putting on five pounds of muscle, strengthening his core, and using plyometric training to increase his explosiveness, according to Rahe.

And in Lillard's absence, Weber State saw players emerge even though the Wildcats missed out on the conference title last season, with Scott Bamforth and Kyle Bullinger taking on larger roles.

"Now that [Lillard] is back, they’ve realized he makes their job easier because he get a lot of attention," Rahe said.

So it came as little surprise when Weber State was picked to win the Big Sky. Lillard, who averaged 19.9 points as a sophomore, is back. Now all the Wildcats have to do is get over the hump and get to the NCAA tournament after coming close in Lillard's first two seasons.

"It doesn't mean anything, I guess," Lillard told The Standard-Examiner of his team being picked to finish first. "Once it happens so much, you feel like you've got to live up to it. That's the only way we can call ourselves the best team in the Big Sky, by living up to it. Rankings don't mean anything. I don't think they were picked first the year Coach Rahe won the [league] tournament and went to the NCAA tournament. Being first just puts a target on our back and we've got to work even harder to make sure we go out there and prove it."