We’re three games in, but it feels appropriate to do a quick breakdown of Baylor’s latest one-and-done phenom, freshman guard Keyonte George.
George, standing at 6’4” with what looks like a plus wingspan, is a prototypical combo guard. Known as a scorer coming out of high school, George has really shown himself to be a complete player and competitor since joining the Baylor Bears. He showed grit on both ends of the court during the summer GLOBL Jam event, but he’s really flashed tremendous playmaking ability and defensive anticipation in the Bears three early season games.
He’s clearly a team player who wants to impact the game whether his shot is falling or not.
We’re going to take a look at his performance against Norfolk State. In 30 minutes, George scored 23 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, and drained 6 of his 11 threes. It just makes sense to take a deep dive on the performance to highlight just how special George is and can be. (I also don’t have a recording available yet of the Northern Colorado game, or I would share a few defensive highlights from that game as well). Norfolk State, too, is a disciplined, senior, well-coached team. That George carved up what projects to be an NCAA Tournament team for a second straight year does have some meaning.
George’s offensive game all builds off of his shooting ability. While his 36% 3PT is certainly worthy of respect, it’s the speed of his shot that creates almost as much panic.
Watch here how quickly George catches, turns, and fires this three that rattles in. It’s breathtakingly quick:
This time in transition, George finds his balance with a single step before pulling-up, drawing the and-one for a four-point play:
George has an elite ability to get balanced and square to the basket, whether turning from receiving a pass or dribbling into his shot.
That lightning quick release also make his shot fake a killer. All he needs is a slight head and shoulder fake to get his defender up in the air, side dribble, and rise up for the three:
That second defender isn’t that far away. George, though, is so fast getting into form the help defender off of Flagler isn’t able to reach him.
Now we can talk about how the shot allows George to create for others. Defenders have to respect how quickly he can get his shot off. That means he can catch them in advantageous closeouts, drive into space, and read the warped defense to find open teammates. This kind of skill is particularly potent when paired with plenty of smart cutting and sharp shooting. It just so happens Baylor has those things in spades.
Here, we can see a defender has to rush out at George, leaving Adam Flagler wide open in the corner:
All George has to do here is to look at the rim to manipulate the defense, much like a quarterback will look off a safety. George then makes the quick decision to swing to ball to the open shooter. It can’t be discounted how huge a skill it is to be a quick ball mover. Last season, Baylor had several ball stoppers who liked to dribble and feel things out. George isn’t one of those players.
Next, the shot fake allows George to get paint penetration. That creates an open look for Cryer:
By this point in the second half, George has shown how dangerous he is offensively. Notice how 21 on defense dives down from Bridges to assist on the George drive. Perhaps that’s a principle of Norfolk’s defense, but it’s rare for a team to want to help one pass away like that. More likely, 21 is panicked by the drive, and George happily takes advantage. He reads correctly that Cryer’s man is rotating over and puts the ball right into Cryer’s shooting pocket on the skip pass.
Finally, George also has the vision to see his teammates cutting even when he himself is on the move:
Again, it’s the shot fake and one-dribble attack that gets the defense in rotation. Jalen Bridges cleverly cuts right past his defender, number 4, with hands up ready to receive the pass. George keeps his head up, spots, Bridges, then gives a huge fist pump as Bridges converts and draws the foul. George could easily have taken the initial three look. He had enough space. Instead, he passes up a good shot and creates a great shot passing between two defenders.
Effort and Anticipation
Another unheralded aspect of George’s game is his effort. George is simply trying the entire time he is on the floor.
Here on offense, George tracks Flagler’s shot attempt, running across the floor and beating everyone to the ball:
There are many NBA players who, in George’s position, would have stood watching the shot. Turn on any NBA game and you’ll see it happen almost every possession. George, though, realizes his defender has turned and lost track of him. He uses the opportunity to extend the possession. Then he’s got that vision to throw a perfect arcing skip pass to Cryer’s shooting pocket from deep in the opposite corner. Cryer can’t convert, but it’s the kind of effort play that has the potential to generate extra offense for the team.
Then there’s defensive effort and anticipation. George had just missed a shot on the previous possession, but he remains focused in transition and pounces on the lazy pass:
Thus far, George hasn’t been too much of a gambler on defense. He’s mostly chosen well when to jump a passing lane. Here, he rightly anticipates the pass to create easy offense.
His defense and anticipation show up in his quick hands, as well:
Cryer’s man ill-advisedly attempts to split between Cryer and George. George picks his pocket, and then it’s off to the races.
Against Northern Colorado, George had a couple of similar steals that highlight his anticipation, both on and off the ball. He got a steal off a late double-team in the post, then drew a charge with quick footwork defending his man on the perimeter.
Hopefully this has provided a glimpse into just some of what makes George such a special player. With his talent, he very well could hunt his own shot most possessions. Yet, George demonstrates a mindset that looks for winning plays.
Watching him in this Baylor culture and ecosystem will be a delightful experience for Bears fans all season long.