This is not a picture of Jaquan Lyle because copyright infringement is a sticky subject and I would have felt awkward trying to take a picture of a 16 year old kid with my camera phone. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Super sophomore Jaquan Lyle does all the little things right. If you walked into the building to watch a game of his, you wouldn’t know he was a top 15 player in his class. After watching an entire game, you would be able to tell he’s pretty good but you would have never guessed McDonald’s All-American caliber good. I believe whole-heartedly that this is the reason he is not only good but great. He runs the game, he dribbles, he drives, he passes, he plays help side defense, he is involved. That is the best adjective to describe Lyle, involved.
I was able to catch the championship game of the Toyota Teamwork Classic last night between two recent and bitter rivals in Princeton and Evansville Bosse. As a history to this feud, both schools are in the same sectional and for the last few years the winner of that sectional championship game would likely advance past regionals to semi-state no problem. They play each other in the regular season, in the Teamwork Classic championship and in the post-season tournament every year for the last 4-5 years. Both fan bases are easily riled and last year police had to separate fans in the stands from killing each other. It is bitter, it is emotional and it is physical. Bosse outclassed Princeton in every way last night.
First thing I would like to point out is the meme surrounding Lyle that he lacks a mental toughness and maturity that would bite him in college. I have heard from everyone in the region that this is indeed the truth. National recruiting agencies have commented on it and rival fans trumpet that as his eventual downfall. I didn’t see it. In the first quarter of last night’s game there were 13 combined fouls called and Bosse’s head coach landed a technical. That was all in the first eight minutes. Every last fan was enraged, every player was out of control and each coaches were constantly in the officials’ ears. But there stood Jaquan Lyle. As the roof was falling down around him I don’t think I saw so much as a scowl on the kids face. Everyone else was losing it and he stayed completely composed and in the game. He was called for a tic-tac off the ball foul and he barely flinched. He put his head down and moved on. I was impressed. Either this was an anomaly of a game for him emotionally, he’s found that mental maturity or people are just flat wrong. I’m guessing it is option B.
As a sophomore he ran things for that Bosse squad. Bosse has the talented senior leadership in Jalen Pendleton to run that team but everything went through Lyle. I think that says a lot about the kid. He was the coaches extension on the floor at 15. He also showed some great versatility in his game. For most of the night Lyle was the tallest kid on the court and played a bit of a point forward as a result. Early in the game he got a lot of work in the high post and distributing from the wing. In the second half he was pure PG as he brought the ball up the court regularly. The most impressive part is that he seemed comfortable anywhere. He was obviously more comfortable with the ball in his hands but he played composed with his back to the basket as well.
Lyle was fantastic at playing within the game. This is why if you didn’t know he was a top prospect going into the game you wouldn’t know it coming out. But if one really watches him the whole game you see him doing a ton of the little things right and making his teammates infinitely better in the process. He moves well when the defense is focused on a teammate. He is very aware in help side defense and his passing is second to none. Man, is his passing second to none. He’d have double digit assists if his teammates weren’t as surprised to be getting the ball as their defenders were that it was coming their way. He uses his body so well to set up passing for himself it is uncanny. I counted twice last night where I thought he was pulling up for a three pointer and made a zipped pass into the post without leaving the ground. He controls his body so well that it is hard to get a read on what he’s about to try and do.
Defensively he looked really good but Bosse was also playing a zone. It is hard to look bad as an individual in a zone defense. This is where I have critique for Bosse’s coach. They clearly to a man had Princeton overmatched. Why play a zone? Step up, show some effort and lock them down in a man. As a basketball connoisseur it was offensive that a superior team settled for an "easy way out" zone defense. Because of the zone I can’t really comment on Lyle’s defense all that much. He closes out well and recovers even better but rarely was he forced to handle a guy one on one either in the post or on the perimeter. He did have a few steals and a block that was hard not to react to. It was a thing of beauty.
The biggest knock from last night is his shooting isn’t all that fantastic. He hit 2-3 from three before garbage time and I believe he only missed 1 shot from within the arc, but his warm-ups weren’t anything to write home about. He doesn’t repeat the same motion every time and it causes some inconsistencies in his shooting, but he has a good base to build on. His form isn’t egregiously bad and a summer in the gym could probably fix most of his issues.
Overall, if his attitude is as good as it was last night, every night. Indiana wants this kid. The 2014 class would easily be best in the nation that year and coupled with the talent that would already be on the roster, the Hoosiers would be one of the favorites at a national championship run. He could play PG, SG or SF in a pinch and not lose much in ability in those positions. I can’t comment truly on his defensive skills but he could be the worst defender in the world and his ability on offense would make him a benefit to any team. Jaquan Lyle would be the perfect recruit for a program looking to maximize its "team" potential.