‘I want this’: How Terrance Arceneaux has honed his competitive fire
Terrance Arceneaux spent the 2023 offseason working on all of his game, but there was one thing above all that he focused on: competing.
“This offseason, everything we did was a competition,” Arceneaux said. “No matter if it was a shooting drill, or just making a sprint down and back. No matter what I’m doing, if I’ve got to eat fast. We were just really locking in on that.”
After a freshman year of playing limited minutes on a veteran-dependent 2022-23 team, locking in and staying locked in is what assistant coach Kellen Sampson worked on religiously with Arceneaux over the summer and during training camp.
“Making sure that he was chomping at the bit ready to go and ready and take advantage of his opportunity,” Sampson said. “Being able to go harder, longer. Being able to be as good in the last 30 minutes of a workout as you are in the first 30 minutes.”
The talent and physical tools are undoubtedly there for Arceneaux. The long, wiry, 6-foot-6-inch sophomore wing out of Beaumont, Texas has incredible versatility on both sides of the floor and a natural shooting stroke to boot.
Despite his reserved, mild-mannered demeanor, it’s Arceneaux’s burning desire to be great that gets him in the mindset to focus and stay competitive at all times.
“I want this,” Arceneaux said. “I want this to be my job … I’ve got to compete every play. Because if I want this to be my lifestyle, that’s how I was meant to be.”
Arceneaux showed flashes of his sky-high ceiling in his freshman season, most notably in a 15-point performance at Oregon early in the year, but went through the ups and downs that most freshmen normally go through in high-level college hoops.
The inconsistency expected from a freshman naturally resulted in equally inconsistent playing time behind the likes of NBA first-round pick Marcus Sasser and 37-game starter Tramon Mark. Couple that with playing slightly out of position at times as a guard, Arceneaux never quite found his footing in year one.
“There was definitely frustration because I wanted more for myself,” Arceneaux said. “But I knew that I’m still young, so I was just learning, listening to Coach (Kelvin) Sampson and following after Marcus and those guys.”
In order to curb those self-critical thoughts, Kellen Sampson has drilled into Arceneaux the phrase “So what, now what?” as a way to move on from bad plays and focus on the next.
“One of the things with Terrance is he has a tendency of putting a lot of pressure on himself. Maybe too much pressure on himself than anybody justifiably can have,” Sampson said. “It’s okay to miss, man. It’s okay to have a bad moment. It’s okay to want to have that play back … So what, now what? You had a bad play — so what? Now what do we got? And when you can do that, you release a lot of pressure on yourself.”
So far, Arceneaux’s teammates have also noticed Arceneaux’s progress in both his frame of mind and body. After all, Arceneaux is currently up 15 pounds from his freshman weight.
“He’s coming into his body,” said senior point guard Jamal Shead. “He’s a goofy kid, but once he’s on that court, his mindset changes and his body is starting to adapt to his mindset.”
Through the first two games of his second year, Arceneaux’s increased comfort level and tenacity on the court have been obvious, thanks in part to a small transition back to a role he’s more familiar with as the three and four spots.
“Getting him back to where it’s a little bit more of some comfort,” Sampson said. “And getting him back to where he’s got a few more natural matchups, I think will kind of spark his confidence and spark his ability.”
Though he only tallied five points in the Cougars’ season opener against Louisiana Monroe, Arceneaux showed off his defensive prowess with three steals, while staying aggressive on offense. Despite missing a couple of threes, slashing down the lane for two impressive dunks.
Against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Arceneaux only trailed Player of the Game J’Wan Roberts hustling for eight rebounds while continuing to play solid defense with a block and steal. Two days later, Arceneaux had his complete game of the year so far on his 20th birthday no less. Against Stetson, Arceneaux hit double digits in scoring with 10 points on just five shots and three steals.
After the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi game, Roberts, one of the team’s veteran leaders, chimed in on a question asked about Arceneaux’s improvement and gave a rousing display of support and confidence in the sophomore.
“We want him to shoot, we want him to rebound. We want him to do a lot of things,” Roberts said. “And just him feeding off our energy I think gives some confidence to do whatever he wants to do and be comfortable in his own skin to do what he wants to do.”
There is still a whole lot more time for Arceneaux to make his mark this year, but if this past offseason showed anything, it’s that Arceneaux is ready to do anything it takes to get better.
“You just got to look at the bigger picture that down the line, you’re gonna be better, and it’s all going to come along,” Arceneaux said. “And it might not come one game, but the next game. Everything we’ve worked on might just come together, and that’s where the joy comes from.”