NOTES: Dixon, Peters impress; Walk-on Gabbard plays with Brown on bench

WKU guard Brandon Peters drives down the court during Sunday’s first home exhibition game of the season. WKU’s next home game will host Xavier at home on Thursday Nov. 4.

Zach Greenwell

At one point last season, senior forward Cliff Dixon entered Head Coach Ken McDonald’s doghouse for poor effort.

What a difference an offseason makes.

Dixon had six points and six rebounds in just 11 minutes against Campbellsville Sunday, adding two assists and two steals.

“I’m really proud of him. He’s come a long way,” McDonald said. “He’s made a little bit of a name and reputation with our staff because he’s been consistent and he’s played hard.”

McDonald and his coaching staff have started handing out “Purple Hearts” for hustle plays in practice, and he said last week that Dixon was leading the team in the awards so far.

“He’s trying and listening better than ever,” McDonald said. “He’s working on his game more and he’s just in-touch more. A lot of people talk about the jump junior-college players make from their first year to second year. It’s just like freshman to sophomore.

“I hope he’s making that jump, and he’s off to a good start.”

Freshman guard Brandon Peters also impressed McDonald, enough so to earn a starting spot in Sunday’s win over Campbellsville.

“He’s willing to get in a stance and challenge the ball,” McDonald said. “He doesn’t get driven a lot. He’s active with his hands, and he likes defense.”

Peters scored six points in 18 minutes. McDonald said he also liked that Peters was asking what he could do better when coming off the court.

“He’s doing a lot of things at a high level,” he said. “That’s why he’s on the starting team right now.”

Brown nearly absent

Until three minutes remained in the game, junior point guard Ken Brown was mysteriously absent from WKU’s participation sheet.

Brown was the last player on WKU’s roster to enter the game. He was even passed over by freshman walk-on Mike Gabbard, who played 13 minutes.

After the game, McDonald said that Brown was simply not ready to go.

“Ken Brown has a lot of energy, but he just doesn’t quite know how to use it,” McDonald said. “He hasn’t figured out what we expect of him.”

Brown’s talents will be needed as the season progresses, as Gabbard is the only other reserve point guard for starter Jamal Crook.

But until Brown gets up to speed, McDonald said his minutes won’t increase.

“The expectations are a lot higher, especially being a point guard,” he said. “I think he tries, but you’ve got to try mentally and understand how to run a team. That’s the stuff he’s got to get better at.”

‘Mike Sally’ makes debut

Some people at Sunday’s game may have noticed the white tape on the Gabbard’s No. 55 jersey.

McDonald confirmed the media’s suspicions after the game — that Gabbard was indeed wearing one of former guard Anthony Sally’s actual jerseys with the name patch still on it.

McDonald said WKU’s equipment staff hadn’t been able to whip up a patch quickly enough for Gabbard, who was added to the team’s roster Saturday.

Gabbard made the most of his debut, pulling down one rebound in 13 minutes.

It was a quiet debut for Gabbard, but McDonald said it’s sometimes a good sign for point guards when “you forget about them.”

“He did well,” McDonald said. “He listens, he plays hard – he did some good stuff. I completely expected him to be really nervous, but he handled it really well. Defensively, he gets after you.”

McDonald said there’s a chance that additional walk-ons could be added in the coming days.