Taking a look at a list of the only players to rank in the top 20 in points per game the last two seasons in Division I, you would see familiar names such as All-Americans Doug McDermott and Nate Wolters. One of the names on that list of only five might be unfamiliar to some though: Frank Gaines.
Gaines is graduating from IPFW after an incredible career in the Summit League. He leaves as the all-time scoring leader in school history. He averaged 20.4 points per game over the last two seasons, which is what Paul Pierce averaged in his final season at Kansas. Good company for the All-Summit League member to be a part of.
Overlooked despite helping the Boyd H. Anderson Cobras to a Florida Class 6A title game, Gaines caught the attention of the Mastodons. They were one of the few schools to pay attention to Gaines, something that lit a fire under him when he received that chance to step on the court at the D-I level.
“It motivated me every game,” Gaines said passionately. “They didn’t think I was good enough to play at that level. It was motivation to let them know what they were missing.”
Gaines also admitted that we he was probably overlooked because he didn’t play much AAU basketball growing up. When he did play, it wasn’t for a sponsored team. Gaines flipped the script on those who ignored him, averaging over 19 points per game over the last two seasons against tournament teams or teams from a major conference.
While IPFW experienced some good moments with Gaines leading the way, they had their struggles as well. They didn’t post a winning record during either of the past two seasons nor advance past the semifinals of the conference tournament during Gaines' four years.
“A lot of ups and downs,” said Gaines reflecting on his college career. “I definitely enjoyed playing there. I wouldn’t change anything.”
After finishing 10th in the nation in points per game as a junior, Gaines numbers took a slight dip because a lot of his team from the previous season was lost. Due to various reasons, the Mastodons lost their top four players in assists from the 2011-12 season. That includes the only player on their team to average over two per game, Jonny Marlin, who left to try and walk-on at Indiana.
Gaines elevated his team to new peaks at the end of the year, winning their last six games going into the Summit League Tournament. While there, they knocked off Oakland for a third time that season and held a 34-32 lead at halftime over South Dakota State. In the end though, the Jackrabbits would win the game—and the tournament—and leave the Mastodons empty despite Gaines' 25 points. He was the only player on his team to top double-digits.
“We were just wore out I guess,” Gaines said on the second half and the conclusion of their winning streak.
Now preparing for the NBA Draft and a career professionally, Gaines is in Atlanta, Georgia working with Bo Bell and says he has been working out with him every day. Bell is a renowned basketball trainer who has worked with the likes of Lou Williams and Mickael Pietrus among others.
Gaines possesses great quickness on the court that allows him “to get to the basket so easily,” as he put it. For the next level though, he will have to move into more of a true point guard role after being allowed to play off the ball most of the time at IPFW.
“Improving my ball-handling skills,” Gaines said on what he is working on the most. “Playing with the ball more in my hands and coming off ball screens.”
Playing the point is something Gaines has done before and he doesn’t think the transition will be difficult.
“I don’t think it’s that hard,” Gaines stated. “I played (point) all summer at the Indianapolis Pro-AM. I feel like it’s just like riding a bike.”
While Gaines looks to make that adjustment and improve his ability to play point, he will still never lose his true identity of a hustling combo guard. He has already received interest from a handful of teams to fill that type of role. The undersized scorer who hustles after loose balls and crashes the boards is reminiscent of old-school players. Fittingly, Gaines wears similar attire to the players of the past as he wears shorts that end above the knees.
“I’m not a fan of big shorts,” said Gaines on his decision to wear the shorts that he does. “I like to run a lot and I feel like big shorts hold me back and limit my quickness. I need to make sure I have enough room.”
Another reason for Gaines' old-school demeanor is his father—also named Frank—who has taught him the game and how to play the way that he does: with heart and hustle. Gaines' biggest support system has been his family and what pushes him to try and achieve greatness in basketball.
“Biggest motivation is my family. They’ve done so much for me throughout my college career.”
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Josh (@JGleas) for more content!