Eastern’s traits can combine well

Oscar Rzodkiewicz, Assistant Sports Editor

The best player in men’s college basketball will not be selected in the NBA Draft this year.

That’s because I just created him.

As the sports realm remains barren and the world continues to shelter and fight against COVID-19, I have taken it upon myself to create the ultimate college basketball star using solely traits of players from Eastern’s 2019-2020 roster.

The only stipulation is that each player can only provide one attribute, but that won’t stop this Frankensteined floor general from destroying anybody defending him.

To set the core, I need somebody that showcases consistency because I require a no-doubt win in my seven-leg parlay bet during one-on-one games, and for that, junior Mack Smith is the guy.

The junior All-Ohio Valley Conference Second Team guard posted averages of more than 12 points in over 27 minutes per game in each of his first three seasons with the Panthers, and, of course, his 81-game 3-pointer streak, good for second in NCAA Division I history, helps too.

Let’s couple that long-term sustainability with junior Kashawn Charles’ outside scoring threat.

Charles’ 44.7 percent clip from deep led the team by a wide margin, and his volume — about one 3-point attempt every four and a half minutes of game time — gives this create-a-player the nod to be a prime perimeter scorer.

In terms of physicality, senior Braxton Shaw’s 6-foot, 7-inch, 210-pound listed frame can be the foundation, and after adding in junior Marvin Johnson’s length, graduate transfer Dondre Duffus’ speed, and junior Jordan Skipper-Brown’s verticality, the build is set.

Defensively, both the perimeter on-ball defense and interior strength need to be addressed, so on the outside it’s junior Deang Deang.

Deang lost a large portion of the season due to injury, yet he still provided 6.9 percent of the team’s total steals in just 3.5 percent of the team’s minutes played, the best ratio of any player on the team.

Meanwhile, senior Jaqualis Matlock holds down the paint with a team-high of 39 blocks.

With a defense like that, collecting misses is key, and for that, I turn to junior George Dixon who nearly doubled all other Eastern players in total rebounding to go along with ranking third in the OVC and 27th in the nation in offensive rebounds per game en route to an All-OVC Newcomer Team selection.

OK, the raw groundwork from an on-court standpoint is there, but some important intangibles remain.

No matter how great this collage of Eastern ballplayers may seem on paper, indecision during games would be costly, and that’s where senior Shareef Smith enters.

Smith came onto the scene for the Panthers as a full-time starter in the 2018-19 season, and after spending time as both a bench spark and spot selection for the starting five this year, his ball-handling and on-court awareness took a big step forward.

His 1.38 assist-to-turnover ratio was nothing to sneeze at, and, at least from the eye test, Smith seemed more comfortable in both distributing the ball around the perimeter as well as deciding when to penetrate and dish off.

On top of that, assuming head coach Jay Spoonhour isn’t there to call the shots, this player needs to be a strong leader with a sound mindset, and the longest-tenured senior Panthers, Logan Koch and Shawn Wilson, bring just that.

Finally, although a tight game might be unlikely against a player of this caliber, once the shot clock turns off in the waning moments, I need to have full confidence that this Build-a-Bear player will deliver in crunch time.

There is no better choice for that role than junior Josiah Wallace.

Wallace, the All-OVC First Team guard, played the role of the bellcow in the Eastern offense, providing 15.6 points per game on 46.1 percent shooting, and for last-second theatrics, I direct you to February 20, 2020.

On this date, Murray State accrued a 27-point lead in the second-half before Wallace poured in 20 points and a 3-point dagger with just 0.4 seconds remaining on the clock to mount and secure the win, making the Panthers the seventh team in Division I history to pull off a comeback of that magnitude, and they did it with the least amount of time remaining on the clock.

Eastern stuns Murray State 63-60

With that, after bundling up all of these skills and traits into one big Panther package, the job is done.

Clone this player 12 times, and Eastern will be cutting down the nets in no time.

Oscar Rzodkiewicz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].