Eastern Kentucky has a lot of scoring to replace this season: 18.7 points from Glenn Cosey, nearly 10 points from Marcus Lewis, Orlando Williams and Tarius Johnson each. Of their five top scorers last year, only one returns: Corey Walden. According to most, the Colonels fortunes are likely to change this year losing so much talent. If they’re to prove the media wrong — they’ll need a big year out of the senior guard.
Defensively — he’s without a doubt among the best in the league. Walden was named OVC defensive player of the year as a junior, leading the league with 2.2 steals a game. Impressively, he had six steals in two separate games last year, including when the Colonels knocked off Murray State in the OVC semifinals.
Offensively, Walden’s production could come down in part to EKU’s three-point shooting. Head coach Jeff Neubauer‘s teams have always been known for stocking up on guards — in fact, just two of his players on this year’s roster are listed as forwards by the school. But no team since the 2009-10 school year shot as well behind the arc as last year’s program — hitting 39% from deep, which ranked them in the top-25 in the nation.
In a way — Walden runs somewhat counter to that philosophy. More of a slasher, Walden hit just 32.5% of his shots from three, ranking sixth on the team. But having guys like Cosey and Williams, who were both 40%+ shooters from deep, often gave Walden space to drive to the hoop. The big question this yet — does EKU have the players to stretch the defense on the perimeter. The best returning shooter from deep, Timmy Knipp hit 38%, but only had 50 attempts.
Impressively, he had six steals in two separate games last year, including when the Colonels knocked off Murray State in the OVC semifinals.
The good news, especially for advanced stat guys, is that Walden had a higher true shooting percentage than Cosey and Lewis, which takes into account his 83% free-throw shooting a year ago. In short — he was an equally efficient scorer in his own right. Given he’s expected to take more shots this year, there’s little reason not to believe his offensive output will increase
More proof: In Australia this summer, Walden led the team in scoring (18.3 ppg), rebounding (6.0 rpg), assists (4.8 apg) and steals. (4.0 spg)
So, why not put Walden higher? There are two issues that are concerning: can Walden play at the top of his game on both ends for 30+ minutes a night? And is there enough talent around him?
EKU fans will almost certainly think that Walden should rank higher on this list, and at the end of the year, he could prove them right. But Walden doesn’t appear to have the talent around him this year that he had last, and he’s not likely going to be “one of the guards” like last year. This year, this is his team. And they’ll likely go as far as he can take them.