WKU Men’s Basketball: Senior Bearden looking to shine in postseason for Hilltoppers

FRISCO, Texas – Often times when a basketball time finds postseason success, it boils down to one factor – an “X-factor.”

Normally, that’s a player who can take over a game and carry his teammates when they need him most.

For the Western Kentucky Men’s Basketball team, that player is just kid from Milwaukee, Wis. – lone redshirt-senior Lamonte Bearden.

“Like everybody notices, I like to go out and have fun,” said Bearden. “If the team’s having fun, then I’m having fun.”

Charisma, “swag”, confidence, whatever you want to call it, Bearden certainly has it.

“Monte’s one of those guys, man, that just wants to hoop,” added WKU Head Coach Rick Stansbury. “He just wants to play the game. When the game comes on, turn the lights on, just let me play, coach.”

The Buffalo transfer has become known by fans for his fake high-fives after shooting free throws, the fancy dribbling moves, and the not-so-occasional trash talking, but those things aren’t what defines Bearden.

His court vision and passing as a point guard do.

“He walks up and lives up to his expectations as a point guard,” said freshman center Charles Bassey, who’s been on the receiving end of many Bearden assists. “The way he plays, the way he passes the ball, he’s just different.”

Jared Savage, another player who Bearden likes passing the rock to, shares Bassey’s sentiment.

“He’s locked in right now,” Savage said. “As a player you get into little grooves where you just feel good all around, and that’s what he’s in right now.”

Bearden was suspended for the first 10 games of the season due to academic reasons, but even after he returned to the court, it took him awhile to find his place back in the rotation.

During that time, Bearden says he reflected on how he needed to change and what he had to do to be a better teammate and point guard.

He eventually returned to the starting lineup when the Hilltoppers visited Louisiana Tech, and ever since that game, Bearden has posted a 3.7 assist-to-turnover ratio, the best margin by any player in Conference USA.

“He’s a good passer, but more importantly, he’s a willing passer,” said Stansbury. “He will always pass the ball.”

Bearden’s return significantly cut down on the amount of turnovers the Tops had each game.

“I just needed to take care of the ball, that was it,” Bearden added. “For me to come out and take care of the ball wasn’t a hard job to do.”

It’s been an up-and-down career for Bearden, but now, Monte’s moment to shine has finally arrived.

“For him it’s ending the way I would hope he’d want it to end and the way we visualized him being for us,” Stansbury said.

How Bearden, and Stansbury, hope it ends, is by hoisting the Conference USA Tournament trophy and punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.