After not playing high school basketball as a sophomore, Valparaiso's Quentin Palmer found out that coming back last year wasn't quite as easy as riding a bike.
"It was pretty rough," Palmer said. "I had to learn everything. They put me at a big man position and the big guys in the DAC, they were pushing me around. It was a struggle for me."
Though he appeared in all 21 games, Palmer's numbers were modest.
"He learned a lot about how hard he had to work," Vikings coach Joe Otis said.
So work he did.
Palmer spent plenty of time in the weight room, building his strength. When he wasn't in the weight room, he was playing AAU with the Indiana Dawgz, developing his perimeter skills. When he wasn't playing with the Dawgz, he was playing at the high school, refining his post moves.
"I knew we were only going to have a couple big guys so I knew I'd have to step up guarding the post," Palmer said. "I started to move people instead of getting moved all the time. I did stuff (in AAU) I'd never done before, scoring more, driving, outside shooting.
"My post game got much better."
Through eight games, Palmer has already exceeded last season's point total, averaging 11.4 per game, second on the team to John Mosser. He posted a career-high 18 in the season opener and topped it with 20 two games later against South Bend Clay.
"Last year, he got pushed around. This year, nobody's pushing him around," Otis said. "He's been a force for us inside. Like all of our big guys, he can step out and shoot the 3. We're proud of the progress 'Q' has made.
"For us to be this good, he had to. There are four outstanding teams in Northwest Indiana and we're one of them."
For Palmer, his physical progress was only part of the equation. Long plagued by a lack of self confidence, he started to believe in his game.
"I knew it would be much different this year," he said. "I've gotten much more assertive, calling for the ball, being more aggressive. It's just a mindset. I thought I was done with basketball for a while (as a sophomore). I wasn't really into it anymore.
"My teammates thought I was good enough. They'd ask me, 'Why don't you play?' Once I got back into it, especially this off-season, I really wanted to play. "
Two years removed from intramural hoops, Palmer is now drawing interest in his abilities from NAIA and Division III colleges.
"We don't have any Big Ten coaches coming to our practices, but we've got a bunch of kids who work hard and play defense," Otis said.
"It's a credit to them, where we've gotten, and they're getting better. On and off the court, they make us proud. They let their play speak for itself."