USA TODAY Sports
Opinions vary on the effectiveness and ability of K-State's veteran shooting guard, but his toughness and basketball IQ make him a valuable asset.
Will Spradling has been around the program long enough, as a junior, that you'd think I would have a pretty good handle on what he could do by now. Then he goes and makes a one-handed tip-in one game, follows it with some difficult jump shots off the dribble the next, and I'm not even sure what to think anymore.
Let's start with some things I think we can all agree on about a guy from Kansas who I've heard is a coach's son. At least I think some announcers have said that once or twice. It's hard to say.
He is an awful — though improved — on-ball defender. He is very good at reading angles and taking charges on defense. If you leave him open from three, he is very capable of making you pay the price. He is a guy I want at the free throw line at any point in the game. He is not a guy I want defending anyone in the paint. Ever.
That seems to about cover it, since I'm choosing to eschew all jokes about his voice and his, er....youthful appearance in this post. It's not that I can't appreciate them, I just feel like those are better left for the comments. Don't let me down.
What we're left with, then, are a lot of questions whose answers can sometimes seem to vary from game-to-game. Notably: Is he a reliable option at point guard? Should he be starting? Does he have an effective enough offensive game to be kept on the floor when his shots aren't falling? How much does he hurt us defensively?
One of the nice things about Spradling is, for the most part, he knows his limitations. It's rare that you're going to see him attempting to create off the dribble and score in the paint or attempt a ridiculous up-and-under reverse layup, even if he would have made it with just a little bit less english on the basketball.
It's kind of phenomenal that a guy with his below-average athletic abilities, decent dribbling skills and probably slightly above-average vision has a 2.8 assist-turnover ratio, which would rank first in the Big 12 (ahead of some guy named Angel Rodriguez) if only he averaged 0.2 more assists per game. Will may not always look preternaturally comfortable against pressure like great guards do, but he has an uncanny ability to find a way to take care of the ball.
Also, if you watch the K-State offense most nights, no one works harder to get open off the ball than Will Spradling. Of course, due to his lack of speed and quickness, it doesn't always help, but he seems to be always moving and ready to make you pay if you fall asleep even for a moment.
No one will be surprised by the fact that 64% of Will's shots this season have been threes, but I think it is interesting that he's making nearly 43% of 2-point attempts, compared to just 36% of his threes. This is just more evidence of a smart player who won't often force his shot and can find some openings in the defense or make some creative plays to get his shot off against bigger, more athletic players.
It still should terrify all of us when a team isolates Will on one side of the court against an athletic guard capable of penetrating and making jump shots off the dribble or finishing off the rim. But the help defense is getting much better, and Spradling always seems to be aware of where his teammates are, which is a huge plus.
In an ideal world, I still believe Will would be coming off the bench as maybe the league's best sixth man, and he'd definitely get starter minutes on nights when his shots are falling. But in reality, our other options at shooting guard are the maddeningly inconsistent and occasionally out-of-control Martavious Irving or Omari Lawrence, who I still don't think should be playing if the outcome hasn't been decided.
I'll take Will every time, thanks. Well, maybe except for vs. Kansas, considering he's 2-for-19 in his career from 3 against the Jayhawks. The same goes for a backup to Angel, which includes someone to spell him if he goes into one of those moods where he tries to do way too much.
Of course, Will had arguably his best game of the year against Iowa State, and a repeat of that efficient 15-point, 4-assist performance would be extremely useful on Saturday. I can't help but think the Cyclones are due for a Big 12 road win (I'm still not counting TCU) considering how close they've gotten in their first 3 tries, but I sure hope it doesn't come against us.
Iowa State is a nightmare matchup for Jordan Henriquez and to a lesser extent Thomas Gipson, with their versatile big guys who are more than happy to play on the perimeter and take the outside shot. Still, you'd hope ISU won't be able to shoot 50% from 3 at Bramlage and that the 'Cats will have learned a few things about help defense against Fred Hoiberg's highly effective NBA-style offense.
The offense has looked a little more stagnant with fewer shots falling the last few games, and it sure would be great to see Shane Southwell break out of his slump on Saturday. But I find the idea of this KSU team looking ahead to KU and past an ISU team it already lost to rather laughable, so expect the defensive energy to be there.
We know now that Will Clyburn is very good at basketball, and that Niang guy is just really annoying because he can do so many things most 6-7, 245-pound guys cannot. KSU seems to have found the formula for stopping Melvin Ejim, but ISU has plenty of guys that could make this a miserable day for us if they get hot.