St. X vs. Trinity – Positional Breakdowns: Forwards
The forward position is where a big disparity begins to set in between the Rocks and the Tigers. The forwards for both teams are very skilled, but in different ways. While Trinity has a clear physical advantage, St. X will be sneaky in how they use this position tonight. It will be interesting to see how this matchup plays out on the court.
St. Xavier Depth Chart
– #32 Will Olsen | 6’2″ | 191 lbs. | Junior | SF
– #35 C.J. Shanklin | 6’3″ | 175 lbs. | Senior | SF/PF
– #22 Billy Basham | 6’1″ | 185 lbs. | Junior | SF/PF
– #15 Nick Kitchen | 6’2″ | 180 lbs. | Senior | SF
St. Xavier Overview
The Tigers feature some wiley, heady players that man the forward spots. Olsen and Shanklin start, and they provide a nice inside-outside blend. Olsen is a perimeter player who loves to nestle himself in along the baseline and wings in positions that make opposing defenses uncomfortable. His three-point shooting has been streaky this year, but he will take and make any unguarded outside shot.
Shanklin is an especially interesting piece in St. X’s puzzle. He is a natural point guard with NBA size, but due to the Tigers’ extreme lack of size, Shanklin has shifted to playing almost exclusively at small forward and power forward. Shanklin has never been a sharpshooter, but his outside has improved considerably this season, and it has gotten to the point where he should be respected out there. This step was huge for his game, because his strength is much like Trinity’s similarly-sized guard Michael Stafford: penetrating. Shanklin loves getting into the teeth of a defense and then making a decision on whether to pass or shoot. He puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses with his wide array of flashy dribble moves. Initially, Shanklin’s ball handling was being taken advantage of because of the position he plays. But as he has grown more comfortable with his role, he has started to get out on the break more frequently. A huge advantage for St. X is Shanklin being the team’s leading rebounder (6.4 rpg), because he has become a natural at rebounding and going the length of the court on his own for buckets. Any easy baskets Shanklin can get by pushing after his own rebound will be huge in this game.
Billy Basham and Nick Kitchen come off the bench to bring smart, high-energy play that is capable of flipping the complexion of the game.
Shanklin says that defense and rebounding are his chief duties tonight; with the bodies he is going up against, it is no surprise he is focusing his energy inside. If Olson can get going from deep, Shanklin’s toughness inside may be the deciding factor in the game.
Olson said it best: “We are going to have to battle,” he explained. “We are going to have to go after it on the backboards and have to have all five guys boxing out on every possession.”
Trinity Depth Chart
– #23 Christian Thieneman | SF/PF | Senior
– #4 Jax Levitch | SF/PF | Senior
– #14 David Burton | SF | Sophomore
The Rocks aren’t particularly deep at this position, but they have a couple of special players here. Christian Thieneman is committed to Marshall University, and Jax Levitch has several D1 offers. There is a reason these guys will be heading to big-time colleges next season: they make plays.
Thieneman will be a handful because of his versatility. He can bang inside with the bigs and rebound, and he is equally as lethal outside, where he sports an impressive three-point stroke. He is ultra-important in Trinity’s offensive scheme because he can fill multiple holes left from foul trouble or injuries at any time.
When I asked him if Raymond Spalding getting in foul trouble would change their approach, he responded predictably.
“Yes it could,” Thieneman said. “I could play inside a little bit or play a five-out motion.”
Levitch, summarized in one word: sniper. You simply cannot give this guy any look at the basket from three-point range. He sunk big trey balls in the state tournament last season, and he told me he is more than comfortable taking and making shots on a big stage. Something to watch out for will be Levitch’s defense. It’s an aspect of his game he said he needs to work on, and if he doesn’t come out focused, he could be an attack point for St. X.
While all the eyes are always on Spalding, Thieneman could be the difference in this game. All you have to hear is him describing his role.
“[My role is] just to be the toughest kid on the team and lead the team to victories.”
When a player of his caliber says something like that, he should be feared.