Missouri sophomore forward Jakeenan Gant is trying to transform his body.
It’s not evident on the scale.
He was listed at a playing weight of 207 pounds last season and said he’s up to 208 pounds this summer, but Gant has added 20 pounds to his bench press.
That may not sound like much, but it’s impressive given Gant’s lanky 6-foot-8 frame.
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“He’s getting strong, but he’s not getting heavier,” MU coach Kim Anderson said. “He’s eating a lot now. We’ve had all the guys meet with the nutritionist, and they kind of have an idea of what they need to be eating and stuff.”
Gant, a native of Springfield, Ga., was part of a freshman class that struggled to adjust to the physicality of the SEC last season.
“Being in the post, guarding the fours and fives, everyone is physical and stronger, I had to hit the weights harder,” Gant said.
He also had issues at times defensively and didn’t show much of an offensive game away from the rim.
Gant only shot 30.3 percent on jumpers outside the paint and went one of 14 from three-point range, but the 2014 Mr. Georgia Basketball excelled at the rim, shooting 82.9 percent inside 2 feet, according to Hoop-Math.com.
Those tantalizing flashes of Gant’s above-the-rim athleticism, most often displayed through a series of highlight-reel dunks, left Tigers fans eager for more.
As a result, consistency and strength have been Gant’s offseason focus.
“From a playing standpoint, you can tell he’s gotten better,” Anderson said. “When he went home in May, he worked out a lot, two or three times a day. You can tell. His shot’s a little more consistent, he’s pretty bouncy, but strength is something he’s still got to work on. He’s still got to get stronger.”
Gant, who was suspended the first nine games of the season and made six starts among 23 appearances as a freshman, also hopes to refine his mental approach.
“I’m trying to gain weight, get stronger, shoot more — but not just shoot, attack more — and get used to having the ball more off the dribble,” Gant said.
That added strength should help him resist the urge to shy away from contact and encourage him to be more aggressive getting to the rim, where he’s the most effective.
Teammates already have noticed some changes.
“Jakeenan Gant has expanded his game to another level,” junior point guard Wes Clark said. “He can shoot the three now pretty good.”
If Gant can round out his offensive game and improve his defense beyond 14 blocked shots, the Tigers become a more dangerous team at both ends of the floor.
“We’re going to surprise a lot of people this year,” Gant said. “I feel way confident about our game and our team.”