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Kentucky Basketball: The Real Marquis Teague Will Now Reveal Himself

Some think Teague is struggling, but the numbers say otherwise.
Some think Teague is struggling, but the numbers say otherwise.

Marquis Teague was one of the top ten players in America in high school. That's no small feat to achieve, and being heralded as "Calipari's next great point guard" has become routine over the last few years, and has mostly been something of a self-fulfilling prophecy -- you are acclaimed, you are recruited, you get drafted top ten, ipso facto.

This year, something happened on the way to Marquis Teague's coronation as the successor to Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall and Brandon Knight. That something is known as the clash between reality and expectations, and how the two often diverge. Marquis Teague did not march in, take the reigns, and awe us all with his play-making or shot-making ability. Instead, he has done something unexpected, and far more normal; reminded us all that having ups and downs as a freshman is the rule, not the exception.

Since John Calipari has been here, it seems like the point guards haven't had a learning curve -- they just pop straight to greatness and consideration for top player in the nation honors as if the sprung from their mother's womb with a 3-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The fact that a Calipari point guard isn't wowing the college basketball world seems earth-shattering to some, but what it more likely represents is a return to normalcy.

As a case in point, there was once a point guard at Kentucky who did pretty well for himself. Like Teague, he was also highly touted out of high school, a McDonalds All-American, and considered amongst the best players in the country when he matriculated to Lexington. Also like Teague, he was possessed of outstanding athleticism and skill with the ball in his hands. He currently sits at #4 all-time at Kentucky in assists as a freshman. You all know him as the current point guard of the Boston Celtics and arguable the best in the NBA, Rajon Rondo.

Let's take a look at the ballhandling statistics between Rondo's freshman year, and Teague's. Rondo averaged 3.5 assists/game, Teague 4.5 as of now. A/T ratios are similar at 1.7 for Rondo, 1.5 for Teague. Assist % 25.7 for Rondo, 24.6 for Teague. Turnovers: 2 per game for Rondo, 3 for Teague. Believe it or not, Teague is on pace not only to blow past Rondo for his freshman assist standing, but is in a very good position to supplant Brandon Knight at #2 depending upon how deep the Wildcats go in March. John Wall's freshman assist record is in no jeopardy, but that one will probably stand for decades.

Teague, like Rondo before him, is putting up solid numbers as a freshman that are likely to get better with more experience. The transition from high school to college has been a bit trickier for him than it was for the cerebral, cool-shooting Knight or the stunningly athletic Wall. Like Wall, Teague is not a great jumpshooter, nor does he have the blazing speed that Wall possessed, but he takes better care of the basketball and perhaps makes better decisions with it, although that is certainly debatable.

Teague has struggled a bit with his confidence as the lead guard, and particularly with the necessary role of being an extension of the coach on the floor. Knight embraced that role, as did Wall, but Teague has spit the bit a few times, allegedly refusing to do what Calipari wanted and substituting his judgment for that of the coach. That happened occasionally with Wall as well, but perhaps to a less publicized degree.

The good news is that the last two games by Teague have been solid performances where his decision-making was much better. As a defender, he has always been good, and even though he has occasionally been foul prone, for the most part he is very careful to manage his fouls and reaches less than Doron Lamb or Terrence Jones.

Teague has always been the kind of player who was less likely to stand out than any of Calipari's prior point guards for a variety of reasons, chief among which is that he has no skill that is off the charts, like the combination of size and athleticism for Rose, Evans, and Wall, or the great perimeter shooting of Knight. Instead, he has ability in all areas, but stands out in none.

In other words, he is a mostly-complete point guard. All he lacks is the clarity and confidence that come from experience, and that is growing day by day.