That's my new name for DeAndre Liggins -- Shiva. Rarely have I seen a player leave such a path of destruction, the utter wreckage of star scorers, than what Liggins has left this year. Only Kemba Walker, who might be the reincarnation of Brahma, has been able to defeat Liggins this year in a battle of wills.
Shiva. The Destroyer. Arguably the most powerful god in the Hindu pantheon, often depicted with four arms. Liggins must often look to opponents like he has four arms, or maybe even more. He is always right in the face of his man, his long limbs and rangy frame able to impede almost any offensive move. And yet he seems almost serene during the game, a reflection of his focus, his energy, and his unstoppable desire to destroy your offense and leave it in burning wreckage on the ground.
Liggins value is hard to quantify with statistics, although JLeverenz did yeoman's work in trying to do so earlier this week. His greatest value to the team most often manifests itself when he is the least visible offensively. It is when Liggins is heavily involved offensively that opponents find a way to do the most damage in the form of fast breaks and runouts. But when Liggins is just a part of the offense, opponents fast breaks are rare.
Defense isn't the only value that Liggins has to this team -- he is also one of its best passers and may be the very best at driving the ball to the rim and finishing or getting fouled. Liggins averages 3.1 assists per game, second only to Brandon Knight's 3.7 and turns the ball over far less at 1.5 turnovers per game. In conference play, Liggins passing is even more stellar -- 14 assists to only 4 turnovers so far.
But perhaps Liggins' greatest value as a passer is how fast he gets the ball up the floor on a defensive rebound if he touches it. You can almost always expect a very quick, long and accurate pass if Liggins gets the rebound or touches the ball immediately after. He has always been very good at getting into early offense.
Liggins is only used between 16 and 20% on offense, so he ends relatively few offensive possessions. Offense isn't his focus, though, the opponent's best offensive player is. Liggins lives to stop that man, whoever it is, and but for one or two games, he has been completely dominant on the defensive end. He all but erased Peyton Siva from existence in the Louisville Cardinals game, then demonstrated his prowess by ending Preston Knowles' hot streak toward the end of the game.
As recently as last game, he completely dominated the South Carolina Gamecocks best player, Bruce Ellington, holding him to an embarrassing 27% from the field. There is really no need to be embarrassed, though -- Liggins does that to everybody.
I'll never forget that trip I made to Las Vegas two years ago when Liggins was a freshman and Gillispie was coach. I was there at the Kansas State game when Liggins refused to go into the game in the second half. It was the most inauspicious career start possible, and after much vilification around the Blue Nation up to the second half of last season, Liggins began to gradually turn opinion of him around. But as recently as this year, people were commenting negatively on Liggins on this very site. Not anymore.
But since that time, things have changed. Slowly, Liggins proved that not only could he be trusted to play hard when put into the game, he could be trusted to stop his man regardless of the impact of his effort on the offensive part of his game. That's the hardest thing to teach young players, and when Liggins found his groove, he became a valuable role player last year.
This year, Liggins is that indispensable glue guy, that guy who makes a difference every time he sets foot on the court. Liggins would have been right at home among the Suffocats, and coming from me, that's high praise indeed as the Suffocats were my favorite UK team ever.
So while all the ESPN and CBS promos and player of the year nominations go to Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones, Liggins quietly makes this team as good as it is and asks nothing for it other than time to do what he does. He doesn't fuss about things, he doesn't call attention to himself or otherwise distract the team. He just plays with passion heart, and seemingly with four arms.
A more humble, less demanding, and more valuable team player than the Liggins of the last two years has rarely existed on a Kentucky team. I just want to give him his due. Shiva the Destroyer. That's DeAndre Liggins.