To say Luther Page was a failed experiment was a serious understatement.
Alabama State coach Lewis Jackson and his assistant coaches had worked with Page from the first moments the Michigan native set foot on campus, never understanding why he would look so impactful in practice and then disappear when the Hornets took the court.
Now entering his junior season, Page had merely survived long enough to grab a starting position for the 2013-14 season. In other words, every other Hornet post player had graduated or was injured, leaving Page as the only possible starter at power forward.
As the games went by, there was still no sighting of Page. Oh, occasionally he’d flash on the court with a couple of baskets and his horrible free-throw shooting had improved to the point it was an asset, but Page was still an afterthought in the Hornet offense.
Until last weekend, when a horribly struggling Alabama State offense was being embarrassed at home by Alabama A&M. Suddenly, there was Page, hitting basket after basket, rescuing the Hornets with a career-high 22 points. It was the first time he had ever scored double digits in three years of conference play.
A week later, on Saturday, he did it again, scoring 20 points at Alcorn State, rescuing his team once again after the usually reliable tandem of DeMarcus Robinson and Jamel Waters had another off night.
Page has 42 points in his last two games. To put that in perspective, that’s more points than he had in his previous nine Southwestern Athletic Conference games combined. It’s just eight points less than his previous 14 SWAC games, dating back to last season.
To say his sudden appearance was a welcome sight to the coaching staff would be an understatement.
“I hope it’s a coming-out party for him,” Jackson said. “He just needs to play with confidence. He has good footwork around the basket, we’ve been trying to get him to work on his explosiveness. He made some big shots for us (against Alabama A&M) and that’s what the older guys have to do, put the team on their backs and carry them for a while.”
The difference in the new-look Page from the old one is simple, Jackson added.
“Confidence. Nobody else had it going and I guess he took it upon himself to step up.”
Suddenly, the Hornets look a lot better than the team that was picked seventh in the conference in pre-season voting. With Page’s help, the Hornets are a championship contender.