The Wichita State Shockers have a magical run in the NCAA Tournament that finally ended in the Final Four. Don’t tell Gregg Marshall they were Cinderella, however, as he thinks this team was as legit as any other in the country. A main reason for Marshall’s thinking was the play and talent of Cleanthony Early. If the Shockers want to be back and Early wants to improve his draft stock, he will need to vastly improve his game.
Early is a junior, but nobody is expecting him to declare early entry into the NBA Draft. So under the assumption that he comes back, the Shockers are going to have one of the more dynamic players in the country. Wichita State overall, although, are going to lose a slew of players to graduation and are going to need Early to become a better overall play.
Currently known for his athletic feats, Early is going to have to become a better jump-shooter. At the collegiate level, Early is either a big three or a smaller four. Most of his points are coming at the rim as of now. Being able to spread a defense out while playing the four will add another dynamic to the Shockers’ offense. It will also help Early show NBA scouts that he is a more than capable three.
Another thing he is going to need to improve is his ball-handling abilities. It is not horrid for the college level, but teams are going to look to pressure him next season and he won’t be “surprising” anyone with his talents. In turn, it will add even more depth to his game before graduation and making him a more intriguing prospect.
Just by looking at his numbers, one would think that Early is already prepared for the NBA. He is not. He is efficient in the ways he scores at the college level, but he won’t be able to attack the basket at-will in the NBA — as the pros are stronger and can jumper higher than the competition he is facing now. Early’s potential is not nearly as high as comparable players to his skill-set. That is not to say he won’t make the league, but at best he is likely a bottom-end roleplayer on someone’s bench.
For the Shockers, however, Early coming back and improving can help them make their way back into the big dance. It could also make them as dangerous next year as they were this. To be a true NBA prospect, Early has a lot of things to work on and he may not have the elite athleticism which would help his current game translate to the pros.