At the end of last season, Marqus Blakely looked like a budding star.
If you missed it, his dunk –– it’s on YouTube, it’s still incredible –– in the America East championship game might have been the biggest possible exclamation point to the idea of his stardom.
His stats were not incredible but he provided an undeniable spark as the most exciting player on the floor and showed flashes of brilliance that weren’t always predicated on his ups.
With Blakely, whatever was left unclear and unanswered at the end of last season should be cleared up and quite satisfactorily at that.
I can’t put it any more accurately or bluntly than this: Marqus Blakely is a beast, a game-breaker and maybe the best player in America East.
It’s a role he’s been growing into all year –– the new mohawk-look only accentuates the situation.
Blakely manages to be nearly everywhere he needs to be, nearly every time. If he was less flashy, he might be the team’s “glue” guy. However, he has shown that not being flashy isn’t something he does well.
I know his teammate, junior Mike Trimboli, is also arguably the best player in the conference and has a more complete game, but right now my money is on Blakely.
While one or the other has been UVM’s leading scorer in every game this season, Saturday’s game sealed the deal for me.
Against an undermanned and smallish but still-feisty UMBC club, Blakely played like the biggest man on the court. He was a force.
The stat sheet had him for 26 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, but I lost track –– it was an impressive display.
On one defensive stand in the second half, Blakely rejected three consecutive shots, the last being chalked up as a foul on teammate Evan Fjeld. Blakely only received credit for four swats but I’m confident he altered many more than that.
On the offensive end, Blakely doesn’t go out and snipe you to death — he was out of place with the ball at the end of the game, attempting a last-ditch 3-pointer — but his repertoire has grown significantly since last year.
Not only does he take it to the basket, he does so now with moves and a level of finesse he didn’t show extensively last year.
And then there is the aerial display. Blakely outworked UMBC and has consistently out¬worked opponents for put-backs, dunks, blocks and rebounds. He is listed at 6’5” but leads his team’s frontcourt as if he were more like 6’10”.
It’s a treat to watch.
Although the Cats’ five-game winning streak was snapped Saturday by UMBC, there were a lot of positives to take away, Blakely most notably among them.
So long as he doesn’t pull a Trapani and bolt for a bigger program (my fingers are crossed), the next two and a half years will be something special.
It appears Blakely is just beginning to show what he can do. It’s something else.