We're nearing the end of our player profile series and now that we've featured the supporting cast, it's time to highlight the true impact performers that defined the '14-'15 season and will carry Iowa State into '15-'16 as a pre-season top 10 team.
Jameel McKay came to Ames, billed as a game-changer and rim protector and boy did he ever live up to the hype. After sitting out first semester action
because the NCAA is stupid, McKay joined the Cyclone rotation on December 20th against Drake in the Big 4 Classic in Des Moines and immediately made an impact.
Season At A Glance
In just 25 games, McKay proved to be truly one of the more unique big men in Iowa State history. College basketball is full of great athletes, but a select few stand above the rest. Even fewer are the ones who pair that world-class athleticism with a relentless drive to outwork the opposition on both ends of the floor. Jameel McKay is a member of that group.
McKay's impact allowed Iowa State to go from a team that excelled at scoring in the transition game to perhaps the most dangerous unit in the country when it came to manufacturing quick points. On one end the floor, he controlled the defensive paint, as evidenced by his outstanding 8.7% block rate (55th nationally), but McKay's blocks essentially served as outlet passes as the Cyclones looked to run off every re-direction. What truly sets McKay apart from other big men in college basketball though, was his ability to block a shot, bust his ass down the floor and be the guy to finish at the rim on the fast break. Watching it all play out was like tuning into a National Geographic documentary, except the featured specimen wasn't an animal, it was a damn human being and it was magnificent to behold.
After failing to score in double figures in 7 of his first 12 games, once McKay was inserted into the starting line up against Texas Tech on February 7th, he really blossomed, averaging 12.6 points per game in 13 games as a starter and scoring in double figures in 11 of those contests. McKay's offensive rating (ORtg = an estimate of points produced per 100 possessions) of 115.5 was second on the team, trailing only the 126.2 clip of Monte Morris.
McKay's 45 blocks in Big 12 play were second only to Myles Turner of Texas, who recorded 52 blocks in conference action. Not bad company considering Turner will be a lottery pick in June and is several inches taller.
McKay also ranked 17th in the league in scoring, 3rd in rebounding, and just narrowly missed out on the top field goal percentage mark as he didn't have enough made field goals per game to qualify.
Dude balled out. 'Nuff said.
Summer School Curriculum
Up until this point, this series and this section especially has talked about what each returning Cyclone needs to do to get better as a player and how he can contribute going forward. McKay is arguably the first player we've featured, however, that has a chance to put in work this summer that can position himself for a professional career in basketball after his time in Ames is done.
McKay made tremendous strides at the free throw line over the course of the year and even had a 5-game stretch in February that saw him shoot 38-49 (77.5%) from the stripe. Given how often he gets to the line (led Iowa State with 132 attempts on the year), McKay has to continue to put in the work this summer to be more consistent at the line going forward.
The other obvious area of development for McKay has to come in the weight room. His slight frame is far from NBA-ready and any gains he can make physically will allow him to be that much more effective in the post as a senior.
It had to be incredibly difficult for McKay to enter the Iowa State rotation, missing the first nine games as the rest of the roster developed chemistry. Yet that didn't prove to be the case. McKay's impact was not only immediate, but mostly seamless. As a senior, he'll be a member of the starting five from day one and won't have to worry about where he fits into the grand scheme of things.
But how does McKay top a season where he was named the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year while also being named to the All-Big 12 third team?
Statistically, I don't think averaging a double-double is out of the question, especially if McKay can pack on some good weight and get stronger. In the shot-blocking department, I don't know that McKay can even come close to matching Kelvin Cato's all-time block records of 4.2 per game and 118 for a season, but I don't think it's unreasonable to project him re-directing at least three shots a game.