Saturday night was painful for me. After a great four-year run for my beloved Kokomo Wildkats they are struggling mightily this season. They entered Saturday's game with Carmel at only 4-7, while Carmel came in with a 79-9 record and two state titles since Ryan Cline started playing as a freshman. I knew it was going to be ugly, and it was the Greyhounds won 64-42 after breaking away from a 12-12 tie in the first 12 minutes of the game.
Cline, the Purdue recruit and 2015 Indiana Mr. Basketball candidate, was excellent, however. This was my second time seeing Cline this year and at least sixth overall. I have seen him play Kokomo every year for the last three years (including the 2013 regional), plus I was at the 2013 State Championship game where he helped the Greyhounds win a second consecutive title. In all of those games he proved to be the consummate teammate.
I think that is what we will like about Cline. Against Kokomo, a team that Carmel was far better than, he had 22 points on 10 of 14 shooting and he was 8 of 8 inside the arc. That was the game high, but unlike many high scoring performances, this was not forced in anyway. He was ridiculously efficient and only shot high percentage shots. He scored off the dive. He scored on rebounds. He hit a couple of threes. All 22 points were scored within the flow of the offense, and he added seven rebounds as a nice footnote to his efforts.
I think he will fit in at Purdue very well because of this. We don't need him to be an E'Twaun "Red Button" type. We need him to be an efficient scorer that picks his spots, knocks down shots, and generally is an opportunity scorer. That is when Purdue is at its best. It has a solid post player, a shooter or two, and a bunch of opportunity scorers that can pick their spots to attack.
It should be noted that tonight Cline was honored as an official nominee for the McDonald's All-America game in March. He is one of about a dozen players in Indiana nominated and he probably won't make it, but it is still an honor to be nominated.
With Kendall Stephens and Dakota Mathias as shooters, Cline will slide into a very nice role next year. He is ready to be a Boiler. All he needs to do is collect a third state title and a Mr. Basketball Award.