Tag: Cleanthony Early

Fred Van Vleet (AP Photo)

Wichita State’s offensive struggles highlighted by come-from-behind win vs. Alabama

Fred Van Vleet (AP Photo)

No. 11 Wichita State won a thriller over Alabama last, using a 13-1, press-fueled run to knock off the Crimson Tide, 53-52, on a Darius Carter dunk with 11 seconds left in front of a raucous and intimidating Koch Center.

I guess the students got Gregg Marshall’s message.

Over the last five minutes of that game, Wichita State forced four turnovers and held Alabama to just one point while grabbing three huge offensive rebounds during that stretch. It’s the kind of win that we expect Wichita State to get in their own gym, one that was very much predicted by a writer that sees this team play more than most. There are things that you can question about the Shockers, but toughness certainly isn’t one of them.

And while Alabama looked like a team that could end up being a top four-finisher in the SEC this season, they also did a pretty fantastic job of highlighting just what Marshall and his team miss with Cleanthony Early in the professional ranks.

Early was undoubtedly the most talented player on the Shocker roster last season. Standing 6-foot-8, Early played the four for Wichita State, as he had just enough strength and athleticism that he wasn’t going to get manhandled at that spot. Offensively, however, Early was more of a natural three, a guy that not only had three-point range but the perimeter skill and explosiveness to beat people off the dribble. Anyone that saw the Kentucky-Wichita State thriller in the Round of 32 of last year’s NCAA tournament can attest to that.

Defenses had to be aware of where he was at all times. They had to game-plan for him and figure out a way that they could slow down an NBA small forward with a college four-man.

It created an easily exploitable mismatch, one that Marshall no longer has the luxury of using. In Early’s stead is veteran Evan Wessel, a decent shooter that’s “just-a-guy”, and freshman Rashard Kelly, who is a promising prospect but not yet ready to give the Shockers half of what Early gave them.

And as good as Tekele Cotton is defensively, as important as he is to what Wichita State does, he’s no more of an offensive threat than he was last year. He’ll knock down some open threes — he was 0-for-4 against Alabama — and he’ll throw down some impressive dunks, but there’s not a coach in the country that will lose sleep trying to figure out how to stop Cotton.

The result is that the Shockers are going to go through stretches this season where scoring will not come easy to them.

I love Fred Van Vleet. He’s as good of a college point guard as you are going to find, but he’s a good-not-great shooter — he’s down to 25.8 percent from three and 39.6 perfect from the field this year — that isn’t a plus-athlete. He’s a guy you ideally want initiating offense and running a team, attacking closeouts and defensive rotations created by Early and Ron Baker, not a guy being asked to carry a heavy-load offensively.

But that’s what he’s going to have to be this season.

Now, to his credit, Baker is having a terrific season, and Darius Carter has proven to be a real threat in the low post. Their improvement is part of the reason that the Shockers will likely remain in and around the top 20, at the least, throughout the season. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that Wichita State can lock down defensively as well as anyone.

They certainly aren’t “bad”.

But instead of being a real Final Four contender and one of the nation’s elite, like they were last season, this Shocker team is just another group trying to find a way to win a league title and play their way out of the NCAA tournament’s opening weekend.

2014 NBA Draft Preview: Eight Underrated NBA Draft Prospects

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The NBA Draft is on June 26th, meaning that there are less than two weeks until the next crop of potential NBA all-stars find out where they will be headed to begin their professional basketball careers. Over the course of the next few days, we will be using the expertise that we’ve gained from watching far too much college basketball to give you our insights on some of these prospects.

Today, we give you the most underrated prospects:

RELATED: Overrated Prospects | 2014 NBA Draft Preview

1. Aaron Gordon, Arizona

  • Projections: Draft Express (No. 10), Chad Ford (No. 6)
  • Scott Phillips: “Known for defending multiple positions and being a win-at-all-costs player with a developing skill-set, Gordon is young for his class and only turns 19 in mid-September and has his best basketball ahead of him.
  • Raphielle Johnson: “The former Arizona forward has his struggles shooting the ball, but he can help a franchise with his size, freakish athleticism and ability to defend multiple positions. While his offensive game needs work, he’s still an asset in the open floor.”
  • Rob Dauster: “I disagree. He can’t shoot, he’s limited offensively, he doesn’t really have a position at the next level, and he’s projected between 6th and 10th in a loaded draft. I love Aaron Gordon. I don’t think he’s underrated.”

2. Noah Vonleh, Indiana

  • Projections: DX (5th), CF (4th)
  • RD: “Vonleh has the size, length and strength to play in the paint at the next level while having the range to step out and hit threes. I’m not sure he should be picked over any of the Big Three, but if the Magic get ‘stuck’ with Vonleh at No. 4, they’re going to be very, very happy.”
  • SP: “Vonleh’s measurable numbers were outstanding at the Combine and the forward is skilled enough to be a stretch four in the NBA while also being big enough to contribute near the basket. Scary to think he only turns 19 in late August.”

3. K.J. McDaniels, Clemson

  • Projections: DX (26th), CF (23rd)
  • Terrence Payne: “The ACC Defensive Player of the Year has a great frame (6’11”wingspan) and athleticism. He’ll be able to defend several different positions on the perimeter.”
  • RJ: “His athleticism allows him to defend multiple positions, and he improved offensively during his time at Clemson. Not really a fan of player comparisons, but I wonder if there’s some Kawhi Leonard-like potential here.”

4. Cleanthony Early, Wichita State

  • Projections: DX (33rd), CF (22nd)
  • SP: “In the epic Round of 32 loss to Kentucky in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Early looked like the best player on the floor in a game full of future pros. Obviously, he’s older and more experienced than those young Kentucky prospects, but he’s steadily improved his two seasons under Gregg Marshall. Early’s also deceptively good as a catch-and-shoot wing (50 percent from left corner, 42 percent from right wing last season) and finishes through contact at the rim.”
  • RJ: “We all saw Early perform very well for two years at Wichita State. Tough player, athletic and a solid skill set.”
Shabazz Napier

5. Shabazz Napier, UConn

  • Projections: DX (24th), CF (26th)
  • TP: So he’s undersized, and not very athletic for an NBA-level point guard. Despite those shortcomings, score and run a team. He’d be a great addition to any locker room.”
  • RJ: “Late first round has been the projection I’ve seen most often, and that’s low given his ability to score, distribute and lead. Some perennial playoff team will get a steal as a result.”
  • RD: “Napier can run a team, he’s willing to distribute the ball, he can score in pick-and-roll situations, he’s got three-point range and he can defend. He might be a career backup, but I think he’ll have a 10-year NBA career.”

6. T.J. Warren, N.C. State

  • Projections: DX (17th), CF (18th)
  • RD: “He gets buckets, and he’ll be able to do that at the next level.”
  • RJ: “Love his ability to score in a variety of ways, and he’ll have cleaner opportunities at the pro level given the spacing and his likely winding up on a team that already has bonafide scoring options given where he’s projected to go.”

7. Kyle Anderson, UCLA

  • Projections: DX (25th), CF (30th)
  • RD: “I don’t know who he guards at the next level. I don’t know what position he plays. In fact, I’m not even sure what kind of system he would fit well within. All I know is that he’s as unique of a talent as I’ve seen at the college level, and while his athleticism leaves much to be desired, Slo-Mo does so many things well that I have a hard time seeing teams not get value out of him at the end of the first round.”

8. Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette

  • Projections: DX (20th), CF (12th)
  • TP: “The late bloomer has emerged as a serious prospect with a stint last summer with USA basketball, and a march to the NCAA tournament this past season. Payton can create for himself and others. He’ll also be 20 for another eight months.”

Jay Bilas selfies his way through the Wooden All-American Awards (PHOTOS)

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Jay Bilas certainly had his selfie game working in overtime last night as the former Duke forward and popular ESPN broadcaster took photos with many of the important pieces of last night’s Wooden All-American Awards banquet in Los Angeles.

There was the selfie with Doug McDermott and Cleanthony Early: (anyone else still feel robbed we couldn’t see those two match-up this season?)

And another selfie with many of the Wooden All-American Award honorees including Early, McDermott, Louisville’s Russ Smith, Arizona’s Nick Johnson and Michigan State’s Adreian Payne:

Then there was the Duke selfie:

Another selfie with Jay Williams and UCLA’s Ann Meyers Drysdale

And — for good measure — a non-selfie with a cardboard cutout of himself.

Seems like Bilas had a heck of a day working his camera phone at the Wooden Awards. Can he top this effort at the 2014 NBA Draft?