HOUSTON - - Houston Rockets rookie forward Tari Eason has always had to prove to people that he belonged on the basketball court.
He had to prove it to his high school coach, former NBA player Brandon Roy, who never called Eason's name during the 2018 state championship game. The following year, Eason was instrumental in leading Garfield to back-to-back titles.
When he transferred to LSU from Cincinnati, most believed that the player who made the All-ACC Freshman team would immediately start once he got to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
He did not.
That did not deter Eason, as he knew that he would have to, once again, prove to the coaches that he was an asset on the court. He did that by becoming the first player in SEC history to win Sixth Man of the Year and be named All-SEC First Team.
So, as you can see, Eason is no stranger to showing coaches and fans what he brings to the court consistently, which is hard work and dedication.
"When you put in the work, and you stay true to what got you here (NBA), it doesn't matter what anybody thinks of me or what the outside world thinks," said Eason about his work ethic. "I know who I am, and I know what I bring, and I am just going to continue to do that."
Eason brings a skillset that has helped the Rockets win back-to-back games for the first time in nearly two months.
Houston defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night by a score of 112-116 behind Eason's third consecutive double-double. He finished the game with a career-high 20 points and 13 rebounds; 12 came on the offensive end.
"I've never seen someone get 12 offensive rebounds and 13 total," Rockets head coach Stephen Silas said after the game about his rookie's performance.
The Rockets finished the game with 24 offensive rebounds and 65 total rebounds for the night.
"For us to have 65 rebounds in an NBA game and 24 on the offensive end, it shows you where we were at tonight," said Silas.
Eason, 21, was selected in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft and is seen as one of the building blocks for the Rockets' future. The tenacity he brings to the court is just what Houston needs to help balance out a team with so much young talent.
That ferocity was on display early as he scored ten points and grabbed four rebounds in just five minutes of action, and as he has shown on numerous occasions, his engine never turns off.
With 9:35 left in the fourth quarter, the Rockets were hanging on to a 90-89 lead over the Thunder, and it looked as if the momentum was about to swing Oklahoma City's way. Well, that was until Eason imposed his will onto his opponent.
After K.J. Martin missed a layup, Thunder guard Tre Mann grabbed the rebound, but Eason stole the ball from him before he could gain his composure.
That set up a wild sequence of basketball that resulted in him getting four offensive rebounds, scoring a basket, and getting fouled.
All in one play.
"Anytime I step on the court, I want to bring a lot of effort, a lot of hustle," Eason told reporters during his postgame press conference. "That's just what I do. When you bring energy, especially off the bench, I think it's infectious. It bleeds into the team in all facets."
Eason had come a long way from what he called "Embracing the suck" last month when he struggled to find comfort on the court.
"I feel like as time goes on, I have gotten more acclimated," Eason responded after being asked about his role in the lineup. "As time goes on I am going to get more and more acclimated. It is just a matter of time, but I definitely feel like I am more comfortable out there for sure."
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Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire