Charles heating up at right time for men’s basketball team

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Charles heating up at right time for men’s basketball team

Junior guard Kashawn Charles tightly pressures the ball handler in Eastern’s 84-59 win against Tennessee Tech on Jan. 18 at Lantz Arena.

Junior guard Kashawn Charles tightly pressures the ball handler in Eastern’s 84-59 win against Tennessee Tech on Jan. 18 at Lantz Arena.

Karina

Junior guard Kashawn Charles tightly pressures the ball handler in Eastern’s 84-59 win against Tennessee Tech on Jan. 18 at Lantz Arena.

Karina

Karina

Junior guard Kashawn Charles tightly pressures the ball handler in Eastern’s 84-59 win against Tennessee Tech on Jan. 18 at Lantz Arena.

Dillan Schorfheide, Sports Editor

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Practice ended like it normally does, as the men’s basketball team ran its transition drill.

Eastern head coach Jay Spoonhour purposefully misses a shot, and one half of the team, wearing one color of pinnies, has to get the defensive rebound and try to score in transition.

However, if things go accordingly, the other half will successfully set up their half-court defense to stop the oncoming attack.

It was during this drill, Jan. 14 in Lantz Arena, where Kashawn Charles showed exactly the skillset he brings to Eastern’s roster; one the Panthers will need as the season goes along.

Charles’ team just got a defensive rebound, and catching the other five Panthers off guard in transition, Charles set up in the corner, waiting for a pass.

That pass came from teammate Mack Smith, and Charles caught it, took one dribble to establish himself and then buried the corner three-pointer, all in one swift, fluid motion.

After his make, Spoonhour called the team to huddle up to signify practice was over.

As he walked toward the huddle, Charles looked at assistant coach Justin Brown and said, “You see that?” referring to his catch-dribble-shoot motion. “No one else has that,” Charles added.

Charles said that ability, to take that dribble and still shoot so quickly and accurately, is something he takes pride in.

“Yeah because I worked on that pretty much my whole life,” he said. “That one dribble then set (your feet) it’s just so fast and just so natural, so when I said nobody has that, I was really like, ‘Nobody has that.’ 

It is something about Charles’ skillset that may go unnoticed, since it does happen so quickly: His shooting motion, more specifically, his release.

That corner three was not the only time where he flashed his quick shooting motion because he does it all the time: During warm up shooting lines before a game, taking a shot right off his dribble, or even shooting a wide open shot, he just has quick hands.

While being able to shoot so quickly may be hard for most, Charles does it extremely well.

This season, Charles is shooting 51.3 percent from three-point range, a few ticks more than last season, when he finished the campaign shooting 45.5 percent. 

At one point last season, Charles led the OVC in three-point field goal percentage before not showing up on the leaderboard due to not taking the qualifying amount of three-point shots to stay on it (as of Tuesday, this season’s leaderboard was not updated).

And it is not just three-pointers, folks; Charles can stop on a dime and take a mid-range jumpshot, or beat his defender and get to the lane for a layin.

Charles’ ability to create shots for himself is underrated, and it is something Spoonhour wants to see more of.

After after Eastern’s 70-69 victory over Jacksonville State Jan. 16, Spoonhour said that Charles needs to be able to find his own shots because other teams will see how good of a shooter he is.

“There’s some of them for anybody else, it might be a bad shot, but I’m telling you he needs to just be ready to fire whenever he gets in there,” Spoonhour said.

Going beyond the numbers, Charles is playing really well at a very important time for Eastern.

The Panthers started conference play 0-4 and since went 2-0, with two more home games against beatable conference opponents this week on the horizon.

Deang Deang, who was a catalyst on both sides of the court for Eastern, has been out since December with an Achilles injury, and although it will be a team effort by Eastern to fill his shoes, Charles is a good candidate to lead that effort.

In the last two games (both home conference games for Eastern), Charles averaged 15.5 points per game, with a career-high 23 points coming against Tennessee Tech Jan. 18 in Eastern’s 84-59 win.

But it is not just his three-point shooting that makes Charles so valuable for Eastern.

Defensively, Charles always has active hands and defends the ball handler tight.

Against Jacksonville State Jan. 16, Charles had three steals and nearly caused another in the Panthers’ 70-69 victory. 

While Charles will not always have three steals in a game, he is always active on defense, which is always helpful.

“To play basketball, you have to be able to play at both ends, so I’m just trying to play defense as hard as I can,” he said. “If some people would notice me for my defense as well as my offense, that would be cool honestly.”

If Charles can translate the way he has played recently toward the rest of the season, Eastern will have a reliable presence off the bench (oh yeah, did I mention he does all this off the bench?).

“Coach (Spoonhour) has been telling me to shoot the ball, look for touches, and be more aggressive,” Charles said after Eastern’s victory over Tennessee Tech Jan. 18. “That was my mindset coming into games lately and today. I just wanted to be more aggressive and look for my shot more.”

Above all else, Charles has a swagger and a confidence about him that is fun to watch and listen to.

I mean, no one else has a quick catch-and-shoot like Charles does, do they?

Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]