By Gage Nutter (@GageNutter) and Shawn McFarland (@McFarland_Shawn)
With the Final Four in Salem, Va. just two days away, The Springfield Student decided to take a look at the Pride’s starting five, and find their NBA-comparisons. Here’s what sports editor Gage Nutter and editor-in-chief Shawn McFarland came up with.
Senior guard Andy McNulty
Comparison: Kemba Walker
When the Charlotte Hornets need a bucket in crunch time, the ball is handed off to Kemba Walker. Like Charlotte, Springfield College trusts its point guard in crunch time.
Senior Andy McNulty stacks up statistically with the former UConn star. McNulty is shooting 44.3% from the field this season and 37% from deep. Walker is at 43% and 38%, respectively.
Both guards score with efficiency and use a combination of explosiveness and athleticism to get to the rim with ease.
Walker’s original claim to fame was nailing a step back buzzer beater against Pitt in the 2011 Big East Tournament. McNulty saved his shot for a bigger stage, when he drained a deep three at the buzzer against Hamilton to send the Pride to overtime – and eventually victory – against Hamilton in the Sweet 16.
‘Cardiac McNulty’ may not have the same ring as ‘Cardiac Kemba,’ but it fits nonetheless.
Junior guard Cam Earle
Comparison: Klay Thompson
From the outside looking in, Earle isn’t the biggest personality on the Springfield men’s basketball team, and that’s fine.
Still, he somehow finds a way to, at the same time, remain lowkey, be an assassin from behind the 3-point line, and lockdown on defense. Just like the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson.
Earle is shooting 42% from behind the arc this season, while Thompson is averaging 42% on his career.
Earle is a fantastic, and underrated, two-way player. Thompson is one of the best two-way players in the NBA.
Earle is stoic on the court. Thompson is known as one of the quieter superstar across the NBA.
The similarities are uncanny.
Earle might be reserved emotionally when he is on the court, but his impact on the Pride’s success is in no way minimal.
Sophomore guard Jake Ross
Comparison: Lebron James
Okay, alright, I know.
This comparison is not to say that Ross is better than Lebron James.
If Lebron James and Jake Ross played each other one on one, I would probably give Lebron a slight edge.
However, the way Ross and James play basketball is way too similar to pass up this comparison.
Almost every time Ross plays a game, he’s the best player on the court.
He brings up the ball on offense, has impeccable court-vision, rebounds with the best of them, and scores like there is no tomorrow.
Both players lead their respective teams in points per-game, assists per-game, and steals per-game.
On top of all his offensive talents, Ross is still a lockdown defender, just like James (Ross was named NEWMAC Co-defensive player of the year this season).
Whenever a team is preparing to play the Cavaliers, James is the player that must be shut down. When a team is preparing to play the Pride, everyone on the opposing side knows who is getting the ball and making things happen, Jake Ross.
This is where the comparison is the strongest. Every team that plays Cleveland or Springfield knows that James and Ross must be their No. 1 responsibility.
The only problem is, even when teams prepare all week to play the two, they both still find ways to dominate.
Sophomore forward Heath Post
Comparison: Kevin Garnett
If you watched Garnett on the Celtics from 2007 to 2013, you know exactly why he and Post have so much in common.
In Garnett’s tenure in Boston, he was always a guy that could be relied on to pick up a gritty offensive rebound, finish down low through contact, and make a baseline jumper if called upon. He always set the tone with his tenacious play.
Not only does Post and Garnett’s play mirror each other, their personalities are one and the same. Celtics fans always loved Garnett for the swagger he brought to the court. He was always the most vocal player on the hardwood and kept the team energized, much like Post does for the Pride today. He is normally one of the first players to run on the court for warm ups and is always vocal during layup lines.
Garnett and the Celtics won an NBA Championship in 2008. It will be interesting to see if Post and Garnett’s similarities stretch to the ultimate team goal as well.
Senior forward Brandon Eckles
Comparison: Al Horford
The Boston Celtics aren’t reliant on Al Horford being the team’s leading scorer night in and night out. In fact, he rarely is. But without Horford, it’s impossible to envision the Celtics fighting for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The same can be said for the Pride’s success, and senior forward Brandon Eckles.
Eckles can do a bit of everything on the court. The 6-foot-7 forward has an impact on the glass (4.7 rebounds per game) and scoring (6.2 points per game). Like Horford, Eckles has developed an outside shot, and isn’t afraid to let it fly from deep (he went 3-for-6 from deep against Hamilton in the Pride’s Sweet 16 victory).
He moves well without the ball, sets screens and has a team-first mentality. Against Swarthmore in the Elite 8, Eckles drew a charge late in the game which effectively ended the Garnet’s attempt at a comeback.
Additionally, Eckles has taken on a strong leadership role as a senior, and has taken underclassmen under his wing, just as Horford has with the likes of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.