One could say Chuck Ester got his groove back.
It went missing at some point last season, but the 6-foot-7 forward for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga seems to have found it with plenty of time remaining on the Mocs' 2015-16 schedule.
He's been a key member of a team full of key players who have helped UTC to a 6-2 record, its best eight-game start since the 2002-03 season. Ester has averaged 7.0 points and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 59 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range.
Last season, turnovers and bad play led to Ester being pulled from games quickly, which led him to become even more frustrated and lack confidence as the schedule wore on. He was no longer a solid ball-handler, no longer able to make shots.
Under first-year coach Matt McCall, the former Florida assistant who took over last spring after former UTC coach Will Wade became the head coach at VCU, Ester has bounced back.
"We just have a lot of freedom. Coach just lets you play," Ester said after the Mocs' 91-63 win over Tennessee Wesleyan on Tuesday. "Last year, I lost my confidence. If I turned the ball over, I was coming out, If I missed a rebound, I was coming out, and I just couldn't play like that.
"This year I know I can make a mistake and we'll still be OK."
One of the team's best rebounders, he has led the team in that category on one occasion, but the junior is always a threat in that department due to his long arms.
"In my head, that ball is mine," Ester said. "I'm going to get that. It's my rebound."
McCall said Monday that Ester has been clutch for the Mocs when they've needed him.
Ester hit a pair of big 3-pointers in the second half against Illinois, finishing 5-for-5 with 12 points in the 81-77 win on Nov. 21 in Springfield, Ill. He also came up with a pair of big offensive rebounds against Jacksonville State in the finals of the Emerald Coast Classic over Thanksgiving break in Florida.
"He's made some strides. Chuck has come a long way from when I just got here," McCall said. "He's gone from being a shy kid to being extremely reliable when the game is on the line. Against Illinois, he and Duke (Ethridge) were the difference in that game, and we need those guys because they bring different dimensions."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.