Over the next two weeks, we’re going count down who we think are poised to be among the best in the Ohio Valley Conference in the year ahead.
Eastern Kentucky forward Eric Stutz stat line would lead you to believe he’s far from elite. As a junior, Stutz averaged just over eight points per game, roughly in-line with his scoring as a freshman and a sophomore. His 4.6 rebounds a game was also even with previous years, and below that of many 6’8 players in the conference. He’s not a deep threat, he’s not a stud shot blocker. So how did he make it on this list?
Stutz’s statistics may not be overwhelming, but over the past few years in Richmond he’s been surrounded by talent like Mike DiNunno, Glenn Cosey, and Marcus Lewis. This year, those names are gone. EKU returns just one of the five top scorers from a year ago. If ever there were an opportunity for Stutz to breakout, this, his final year, is that chance.
The per-game averages don’t tell the entire story on Stutz. The Colonel forward led the OVC in field-goal percentage a year ago, hitting 65% of his shots from the field, making him the most efficient shooter in the Ohio Valley Conference. (Note: Using the advanced metric ‘points per weighted shot’) According to Hoop Math, Stutz converted 87.5% of his putback attempts at the rim, an extremely high rate.
He’s also a capable facilitator, dishing out just under two assists a game, and is one of the few forwards in the league that can boast an over one assist-to-turnover ratio.
Stutz may lack the “wow” factor, except in his colorful choice of off-the-court headbands, but he’s consistent and efficient. He doesn’t take more shots than’s needed, but has a nice touch, and is a solid free-throw shooter to boot, hitting 77% from the line over his three-year career.
If ever there were an opportunity for Stutz to breakout, this, his final year, is that chance.
This year, they may need him to take more shots than he ever has, if the team is going to find the same level of success.
On the downside, Stutz is far from the most physical forward in the league. He struggled with foul trouble at times, including fouling out in an impressive 14 minutes in the Colonels loss at SIUE last season. He was also rarely forced to play a full game — averaging just 25 minutes a contest, barely in the top 40 in the conference.
The truth is, we never know what to expect when a player’s role changes. Some shine in the spotlight, others wither, and most simply remain the same. But Stutz doesn’t enter his senior year as another ‘one of the guys.’ He has the change to be the guy in Richmond, to help lead the Colonels back to the NCAA Tournament.