Otis Livingston II was named the Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Week last week and averages 11 points per game. (Photo: George Mason Athletics)
Stephen Pianovich (@SPianovich)
If there’s anything Otis Livingston II has learned in his first few months as a George Mason freshman and college athlete, it's that he believes in himself.
And the recruiting process made that difficult at times for the former WeR1 standout.
At this time last year, Livingston was without a Division-I scholarship offer, a period he called “stressful.” But the point guard waited, kept playing well and eventually there was a mutual interest between himself and George Mason.
Fast forward through a few months of acclimation to coaches, teammates and the campus, and Livingston has been one of the best freshman in the Atlantic 10 so far this season. The reigning conference Freshman of the Week is second for the Patriots averaging 11 points per game, and he’ll be leading the George Mason attack Wednesday night when St. Joseph’s pays a visit to EagleBank Arena in northern Virginia.
“My mindset was to be the hardest worker, be vocal even though I’m a freshman. I wanted to come in focused and ready to work,” Livingston said of how he treated preseason workouts. “…I’ve learned that I have a lot of confidence in myself, and that’s a key for me. I didn’t have a lot of scholarships coming out of high school, but I kept focus."
For a young George Mason team that is under the direction of a first-year coach in Dave Paulsen, Livingston has had quite the impact 16 games into his collegiate career. The Linden, N.J. native has started in all of the Patriots’ contests, and he averages 11 points, 2.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game while shooting 41.4 percent from the field.
“I think it’s going pretty well,” Livingston said when asked to assess the first half of his freshman campaign. “I’ve learned a lot from coach Paulsen and all the other coaches. I’ve improved on my jump shot and I am being a leader on the court.”
While he’s second on the team in scoring – junior guard Marquise Moore has 178 points to Livingston’s 176 – the 5-foot-11, 162-pound floor general leads the team in minutes played with 32.9. He’s been a pleasant surprise for a 6-10 George Mason team, but few could have predicted this kind of early success even just a few months ago.
Livingston did get some more interest by the end of his high school season – Fairleigh Dickinson and Robert Morris extended offers – but he was planning on going to a prep school for a year to figure things out. However, in the 11th hour, George Mason reached out, and the relationship has worked well for both sides so far.
While Livingston grew up closer to New York, he does have Philly ties thanks to WeR1. And it was playing for that Under Armour-backed AAU team in the summer of 2014 that really helped D-I teams at least see Livingston on the floor. But as teammates like the highly-touted Derrick Jones (UNLV), Malik Ellison (St. John's) and Ernest Aflakpui (Temple) got a multitude of D-I suitors, the same was not happening for Livingston.
“It put me on the radar because there was a lot of talent on that team, so coaches got to see me,” he recalled. “Unfortunately they didn’t pull the trigger, so that was stressful.”
But the waiting was worth it for Livingston, who is in a good situation with the Patriots. Though the team is rebuilding this season and is likely on its way to a sub-.500 finish, George Mason has seven freshman and a handful of underclassmen playing meaningful minutes.
“We’re all playing, so we’re all learning at the same time with each other and building with each other,” Livingston said. “It’s exciting, and I can’t wait until it all comes together. The record isn’t great (this year), but we’re working and we know it will get there eventually.”