Class of 2018 forward Kevin Easley Jr. entered high school with a lot of hype. A 6-foot-6 player with solid athleticism, a strong frame, and good skill for a player his size and age, Easley attracted college interest and high-major offers before the end of his freshman season.
Now a junior, Easley has battled some inconsistency over the last 18 months, and has gone from someone everybody was making a priority on the recruiting trail, to somebody everybody is continuing to monitor and look for improvement.
After a year of stagnant development, the early returns as a junior have been positive for Easley. He still stands around 6-foot-6, and isn’t an elite athlete, but the main thing he is doing that he hasn’t shown in the past is he is playing with a high motor and good passion.
On Saturday in a big game against elite 2019 prospect Keion Brooks, Easley battled foul trouble but showed some very impressive improvements.
Aside for playing harder more consistently, Easley also looked more skilled. As he has gotten older, Easley has realized he isn’t able to overpower players as much, and with that he seems to have refined a skill set that while it was never bad, still had room to grow.
He is still a kid who can make shots from deep, though he still can work to improve that aspect of his game. More than anything though, Easley showed an improved ability to get to spots on the court using his dribble.
The ability to create space and get to desired places on the floor with the bounce is something Easley lacked as freshman and sophomore. He usually either went down low to the block to try and score or launched three point shots.
While mid-range jump shots are efficiently the worst shots in basketball and typically get over hyped by the media who longs for the 1970’s for reasons unknown to mankind, there is a lot to be said for being able to beat your man off the bounce and get to a spot in the mid-range where the defense has to rotate.
This is important because the rotation of the defense opens up offensive rebounding opportunities and usually gets them out of position where an offensive player can make an easier pass for a layup or higher percentage shot. Also there is the actual mid-range jumper itself when if taken in rhythm with time and space, is actually a fairly efficient shot, and Easley was able to get several of those over the weekend.
Overall it is clear that Easley has made steps forward with his game. His ball handling and shot creation are better and he is playing harder more consistently. Still there are questions about what position he ultimately defends, and if his combination of size and athleticism will play at the highest level of college basketball.
That said he is moving in the right direction and schools such as Indiana, Purdue, VCU, Cincinnati, and others continue to have him on their radar.