June 16, 2014
|These photos are the single best thing about VMI basketball.|D.J. Covington
, Virginia Military Institute, Senior, 6'9 235lbs2013/14 stats:
29.7 mpg, 20.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.0 bpg, 0.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 3.1 fpg, 2.1 TOpg, 59.3% FG, 69.7% FT
These are the most ridiculous statistics on the list. And they are not really rivalled. Go beyond this basic stats into slightly more advanced ones, and they get no less ridiculous - eighth in the nation with a ridiculous 31.1 PER (Aaric Murray is second on this centres list at 29.3), third in the nation in efficiency rating at 24.3 (behind only Doug McDermott
and Alan Williams of UC-Santa Barbara), and eleventh in points per 40 minutes, Covington appears to be one of the most productive players alive.
But of course, this is a VMI player. And VMI players always have ridiculous statistics, because VMI play ridiculous basketball. Whereas some high tempo systems are not nearly as poor of defensive units as their high points-against totals make them appear on face value, VMI's really is. They shoot really quickly, let you shoot really quickly, and do not do much to impede you. So while it has long since been known that blocked shot totals do not automatically equate to quality defense, this has rarely been more true of anyone than it is of Covington. The very same system that makes him look good on paper is the one that makes him look bad on film.
To play in VMI's extremely high paced chucker of a system relies upon good conditioning, which, a history of back complaints notwithstanding, Covington has. Short of ideal centre height, he nevertheless has a good wingspan and decent athleticism, a fluency of motion combined with a decent standing leap, all of which project fairly well for the four position he probably should play rather than the centre position that he does, for which his lack of frame and strength will be a problem. Covington keeps up with VMI's pace and runs the court well for a de facto
big man - it is only the fouls that prevented him from playing more minutes.
Covington also has offensive skill. A finesse player rather than a power player, he runs to the post an calls for the ball on almost every position, where he can shoot over defenders, or turn into a not-especially-controlled-but-somewhat effective right handed hook shot. He compliments this with a mid-range jumpshot, solid free throw stroke on limited attempts, and a decent enough two-dribble handle (especially when going baseline) utilising spin moves that invariably finish in a banked right handed leaner. Somewhat easy to strip and not the greatest reader of the defense, Covington nevertheless makes enough shots and is so efficient in doing so that he is the primary half court option for his team at this level. Indeed, Covington has very solid touch around the rim, as long as it is with his right hand. And as long as he dribbled with his right handed in the first place. (He is extremely
right hand dominant.)
Still, it figures that the guy averaging three blocks per game would be better defensively. But this is not the case. His defensive stats are where the real deception lies. Put simply, he is not a good defensive player. Standing straight up, sagging off, ineffective on switches, camping in the paint and being unwilling to come out to the perimeter at all, giving up when beaten, poor reads, poor rotations.......it's all there. The blocked shots and the crashing of the gamess are the only parts of Covington's game of which we can speak well, and the only parts he plays for. Covington does not move his feet, body up, take charges, or just impede - he instead only plays defense via the block, and, as is the VMI way, he will let you take a shot he can possibly block rather than preventing the shot in the first place. It is unpleasant, but such is the VMI way.
You could argue that all of those faults are merely a reflection of the team's style, and that Covington is only doing what he was told to do to stay out of foul trouble and to speed up the game. Perhaps that's true. Given some incentive to play defense, maybe he could. Yet it reflects badly upon himself, and is all we have to go on. At this point, Covington's stats are a novelty, and he still has it all to prove.