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Michael Orris and KSU's point guard surplus


Now that I've had some time to get acquainted with Michael Orris, it's time to get a little excited by what could be a very strong backcourt next season. He's no blue-chip and his highlight tape doesn't feature good music or show us anything spectacular, but he should be a solid addition to an already loaded backcourt.

I'm going to trust Bruce Weber and his staff made the right call as far as Josh Gray goes, though I can't say I'm completely comfortable with the James Watson situation. I'd prefer to see Watson get a chance to show he's past the health issue - and if KSU let him play since the last time he lost consciousness or showed any symptoms I don't know if that flies as an excuse now - but maybe my frustrations are less with Bruce Weber and more with the businesslike approach involved with running a college basketball team.

Either way, it is what it is, and Michael Orris is going to be wearing purple next season. That means we'll have four guys on the roster with experience at point guard, though I'll be the first to admit that I'd rather not see Will Spradling or especially Martavious Irving bring the ball up the court if at all possible.

Then again, there was a time when I thought Will was the point guard of the future (I don't think I was alone) and I think if he regains his shooting form it could go a long way in restoring his calm with the basketball. It certainly can't hurt to have that many guys who know how to be the floor general.

I'm sure I'm a little biased as a former point guard - my career ended much too soon and reached its pinnacle when I was an ‘A' team starter in seventh grade - but just ask Missouri, who had three point guards in its starting lineup last season. That worked pretty well when the Tigers weren't playing a school with a 'k' in its name.*

*Fun fact: Mizzou was 25-0 against teams without a 'k', compared to just 5-5 against teams with a 'k.' I hope Frank Haith considers that when putting together his schedule.

I don't want anyone to think I'm advocating a four-guard lineup like the Tigers had, because KSU's big guys are too good for that. I'm not even saying that K-State should allow all of those four guys to bring the ball up in transition, because I don't know about you, but I either scream at the television or stop breathing most times when Spradling or Irving is running a fast break.

Ideally, Orris will be a little better in that area, and if we're really lucky at some point in the future K-State's offense can be run a bit like it was in the Clemente/Pullen days. Sure, Clemente was the primary ballhandler, but if Pullen happened to be in a better position to start the offense, he was quite capable of doing it.

As for Orris's skills, the lazy comparison is just to call him Will Spradling 2.0, which we really don't need. I see (or maybe am hoping for) more of a Clent Stewart-type player, a guy who can't create his own shot especially well but can hit the spot-up jumper and occasionally get to the basket and score or find his teammates.

I love his comments about being a "pass-first, old-school point guard", and the fact that his AAU coach backed up the assertion is extremely encouraging. I'm sure it's going to lead me to have impossibly high expectations for his passing prowess, but that kind of player is all too rare in today's me-first, highlight-reel culture.

Defensively, he can't possibly be worse than Spradling was when he arrived in Manhattan, and there are some indications that he's significantly better. That's something that will surely improve with time in any case, and Orris does appear to at least have some decent quickness.

The biggest worry for me is how he handles the increased difficulty of getting to the rim at the Division I level, where defenses aren't often going to simply part or stand idly by as they often did in the above highlight reel. Orris doesn't seem like he has Angel's blow-by ability or finishing skills, so he'll have to adapt his game and make sure his great assists don't become turnovers.

He should mesh well with guys like Rodney McGruder and the Will Spradling who can shoot (if he ever comes back) but it's not clear to me how a lineup with Rodriguez and Orris would look. It may be best for everyone if the freshman could safely spend most of the season in a reserve role as he gets to know his teammates' tendencies and finds his place as Wildcat.

In the meantime, the Kansas State backcourt should be a lot of fun to watch with an electric young point guard, a pair of streaky shooting guards, and a guy who has to be at least in the discussion for Big 12 Player of the Year. Add the almost unclassifiable Shane Southwell (who might be more of a forward) and the possibility of finally running a discernable offense, and this should be a dynamic group of guards that is incredibly fun to watch, with or without big contributions from young Mr. Orris.