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MySanAntonio.com Texas freshman Gerald Liddell finally catching his breath

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NEW YORK CITY – The game came so easy to Gerald Liddell during his starring days at Steele.

He averaged 16.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game as a senior on a 32-win team. He put up 19.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game during his junior year.

He was smooth and graceful and a game-changing factor on both ends.

The 6-foot-8 swingman’s transition to college has been anything but easy – but it’s getting better.

Liddell, ranked the No. 2 player in Texas when he signed last year, appeared in only seven games prior to the NIT, totaling four points and six rebounds across 27 minutes. In three NIT games, he has put up five points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

Not gaudy statistics, but Liddell has often guarded the opposing team’s top wing scorer during his time on the floor. And coach Shaka Smart has entrusted Liddell with such a task because of all the work he has put in on conditioning and retraining his body to cope with the more taxing nature of college hoops.

“He came in really, really behind in terms of his physical readiness to play as hard as he needed to play at this level,” Smart said Monday. “More so conditioning than anything. He got really tired a lot. And he’s worked at that and he’s improved. So now he can go out there and function and play without being bent over on his knees all the time.

“So now the good things that he has about him as a player are able to come out. I’ve been really impressed with how he’s been defensively. I think he’s showing signs of a guy that’s going to be a terrific big wing defender that’s going to be able to guard multiple positions.”

Liddell could again be a factor Tuesday night when No. 2 seed Texas (19-16) plays No. 1 seed TCU (23-13) in the NIT semifinals at Madison...

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