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Jonathan Amos is smiling again.
The University of Toledo senior forward rode out a rough patch to start the season under new coach Gene Cross and is back to his energetic ways for the Rockets. Amos, a 6-foot-4 Dallas native with a trademark grin, is leading UT in several statistical areas as the team travels to play Wright State tonight.
In Sunday's game at Oakland, Amos set a career-high with six assists and tied one with 10 rebounds. He also scored 11 points. But less than two weeks ago he was mostly bound to the bench as he and the coaching staff clashed.
Early in the season it appeared as if Cross was keeping Amos on a short leash. Against Xavier on Nov. 17, Amos was removed from the game several times after making mistakes. A week later, after turning the ball over eight times against Florida International, Amos played just five minutes in a loss to Cleveland State the next day.
That game seemed to be the turning point for both sides.
Since then, their relationship seems to have strengthened.
"He's a kid who wants to do things right," Cross said. "There was a situation that came up, we nipped it in the bud, and it's over.
"Jon has done a good job of getting over himself, so to speak. That's been his issue."
Cross is giving Amos more minutes, and he's taking advantage of them. Amos is shooting almost 53 percent from the floor and leading the 2-6 Rockets with 2.9 assists per game. He's second on the team with 10.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Against Massachusetts, Amos was 6-of-7 shooting and had three steals.
"Jon has been doing everything that I need him to do and want him to do. We've just got to keep his turnovers down," Cross said. "As long as he does that, he'll stay in good favor. He's been good defensively. He hasn't been gambling as much and keeping his guy in front of him."
Last season Amos led the Mid-American Conference and ranked eighth in the country with 2.6 steals per game. He said he understands what's needed for a successful partnership with Cross.
"He's a coach; he's not going to be our best friend, on and off the court," Amos said. "He's a very intense coach, very defensive-minded. I'm good with him because I play a lot of defense."
Against Oakland, Amos took literally a challenge that Cross gave him and produced his third career double-double.
"I was trying to do what coach asked me to do before the game. He said he needed me to grab seven rebounds," Amos said. "I just did what he wanted me to do."
The Rockets will need more than Amos playing well to turn their record around. Amos said the team has experienced growing pains but hopes the group will soon have something to show for them.
"We're just trying to come together before MAC play and hopefully win some basketball games," he said.
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