Greg Gamble is not afraid of hard work.

When he was cut from the Niagara Falls High School junior varsity basketball team, he busted his tail to prove that he belonged. He was starting for the varsity by his sophomore year.

Now as a freshman at the University at Buffalo, Gamble is faced with a similar opportunity on a Bulls team that graduated most of its starting lineup. He’s still becoming acclimated to the college game through scrimmages and exhibitions, but he hasn’t looked out of place.

“The speed of the game is the biggest difference so far,” Gamble said. “And when I try to get rebounds, the other players are a lot stronger. But it’s not so different, because we played at such a high level in high school.”

Gamble has caught the eye of Bulls coach Reggie Witherspoon, who believes that Gamble has the potential to be a solid Division I player — even if he’s not quite ready yet.

“I think he plays really hard,” Witherspoon said. “The pace of the game is what he’s trying to get used to. Sometimes he’s a half-step behind, but that’ll come. His energy and his effort are tremendous. The fact that he values hard work means he has a tremendous upside.”

Gamble was a three-year starter as a guard/forward for the Wolverines, who went 75-5 during his tenure at Niagara Falls.

He helped the Wolverines to the Far Western Regional in 2003, the state finals in 2004 and a state championship in 2005.

“A lot of times, kids who are talented enough to get to this level overlook the fact that they still have to give great effort,” Witherspoon said. “Greg’s not like that, which gives him a great chance to be successful.”

Witherspoon wanted to take a good look at Gamble, so he started him in Friday’s 90-59 exhibition win over Gannon University at Alumni Arena.

“I wasn’t nervous, but I was excited to be playing in front of the home crowd,” Gamble said. “I was anxious to get the game going.”

With a large contingent of family and friends from Niagara Falls on hand, Gamble didn’t disappoint.

He scored the first points of the game on a transition lay-up and finished with eight points in 13 minutes of play.

Fellow former Wolverine Demondi Johnson, now a senior point guard at Gannon, got a first-hand look at Gamble’s game.

“Greg Gamble has worked hard and earned everything he has,” Johnson said. “He’s got a bright future, and it was good to get a chance to play against him. I’m real proud of him.”

Witherspoon is still weighing his options as far as this year’s starting lineup. Whether Gamble starts or not, the coach expects him to be able to contribute sooner rather than later.

“That’s up to coach Witherspoon, if I start,” Gamble said. “All I can say is, if he puts me in there, I’m going to try my best.”

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