LINCOLN — Two seasons ago, a 1-for-9 shooting night like Nebraska's Ray Gallegos had in a recent loss to Kent State might have sent the junior guard into a multi-game tailspin.
Now, he's figured out how to shake off a bad day quickly.
Proof came in the Huskers' next game, a 79-63 romp at Wake Forest. Gallegos missed four of his first five shots, yet kept firing until he finished with a career-high 20 points by going 7 of 8 the second half.
Patience learned and confidence gained from sitting out a season in the middle of his college career.
The 6-foot-2, 181-pounder from Salt Lake City made the uncommon move of redshirting in 2011-12 after playing 30 games as freshman (with three starts) and 25 as a sophomore.
The physical and mental growth that has followed, Gallegos said, are keys to him averaging 13 points a game now and leading NU (5-1) in 3-point shooting (37.8 percent) entering Monday's home game against USC (3-3).
“In the past, I probably would have been hesitant to choose the shots to shoot after a game like Kent State,” he said. “Now, like the last game, I come out and try to stay aggressive.
“My teammates told me to keep shooting. And the coaches have stayed confident in me. They said they are going to ride me, so that helps.”
The decision to redshirt, Gallegos said, dragged out for more than two years.
“As a freshman I should have done it, and I didn't,” he said. “Same thing when I was sophomore. The coaches talked to me about it and I still ended up not doing it.
“I finally decided I wanted to play basketball beyond the college level. To give myself a chance to do that, I knew I had to get stronger. It was going to take an extra year to do that.”
Knowing there were no games to play last season was a chore.
“That was the hardest part,” Gallegos said. “You practice and work as hard as everybody who plays, but when game day came you couldn't put a jersey on. But I set goals for myself to make progress, work on my consistency and not take any breaks.”
Gallegos got a jolt last March when Nebraska fired the coach who recruited him, Doc Sadler.
But the stress of a coaching change was lessened by the fact that new coach Tim Miles had shown recruiting interest while at Colorado State.
“I was excited when I heard it was him,” Gallegos said. “It was a coach I was familiar with. It wasn't just some random person coming in. He had seen me play before and had shown interest in me.”
Miles said Gallegos' athleticism and shooting ability earned him interest during recruiting.
“So coming in, I knew what his strengths were,” the coach said. “Now, we've just told him, 'Ray, you've worked too hard and you are a good shooter. It's going to go in. Let us get you open and when you are, knock it down.'”
Miles hopes Gallegos got the message.
“Ray's a quiet kid,” he said. “But his performance speaks to the point that he is taking that advice.
“It will get more difficult. Teams will circle him on the scouting report and the competition will get better. But I think he's up to the challenge. I'm excited to work on ways to keep him productive.”
Contact the writer: