After a stellar four years at Saint Mary’s College where it could be argued that he was the best centre in college basketball, Jock Landale did not hear his name called in the 2018 NBA Draft.
While Landale boasted a mouth-watering arsenal of post moves as one of the most efficient scorers in college, a lack of athleticism, not being an elite shot-blocker, inability to guard quicker players, and lacking range on his jump shot were some of the question marks placed on the 6'11 big man from Melbourne. After two seasons in Europe and a successful 2019 FIBA World Cup, Landale may well be ready to make the jump to the NBA as soon as next season.
It's March 5, and BC Zalgiris have traveled to St Petersburg in Russia for Round 18 of the EuroLeague season. It's bitterly cold outside, just 2 degrees Celsius, but inside Sibur Arena, Landale was heating things up.
Zalgiris were carrying a three-game winning streak into their game against Zenit St Petersburg, looking to continue their run towards the playoffs. While the Lithuanian side would eventually fall short by just 1 point in an overtime thriller, Landale placed his team on his shoulders to deliver one of the best performance of his career to date.
In the pivotal overtime, Landale put his side ahead with a thunderous dunk early, and he would again out his team up by 1 with another dunk inside the final minute. Yet the home side edged their noses in front when it counted with just 2.8 seconds left from the charity stripe. A desperation prayer at the buzzer by Zalgiris went unanswered.
The Australian Boomer finished the game with a career-high 27 points on an almost perfect shooting performance. He scintillating shooting performance included making 10 of 10 shots from the field, including 2 of 2 three-pointers, while he also made 5 of 6 from the free throw line. His PIR of 30 tied his personal best in the competition.
Importantly for Landale's NBA aspirations, he showcased that he has the tools coveted by the NBA. Not only was his efficient interior offensive game on show, but he was able to demonstrate his ability to score all the way to beyond the three-point arc. Combined with his ability to set strong screens, rebounding, passing and ability to finish at the rim, Landale's game has diversified thanks to his European experience.
Landale still has his weaknesses, but who doesn't? His ability to guard quicker players, especially on the perimeter, remains an area he could continued to work on, but it has noticeably improved. While he will never be a great shot-blocker, he is able to hold his position in the post against bigger players and boxes out well, allowing his team mates to swoop in for rebounds at both ends of the court. His work in on-ball screens and the pick and roll is second to none, and in the modern-day NBA, this would shine through as a strength.
The global COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic saw the indefinite suspension of the EuroLeague season, and it came about just as Landale was elevating his game to another level.
Across the season, Landale has been providing 11.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.0 assist per game, shooting 64.6% from the field and a solid 30.2% from long distance. In 13 of his last 18 games, he has scored 10 or more points such was his form of late, with his career-night against St Petersburg the last time he stepped out in the EuroLeague.
While the EuroLeague has not yet called it a season, the Lithuanian national league has. Landale's team sat atop of the standings with a commanding 22-2 record, 5 games clear of fellow Australian Cameron Bairstow's Rytas Vilnius. Given the current climate, a decision was made to end the 2019/20 Betsafe LKL season and crown current regular season leaders, Zalgiris Kaunas as champions.
Having already won the King Mindaugas Cup (National Cup), a game in which Landale poured in 11 points on 4 of 5 shooting, he also took part on the three-point shooting contest, finishing the competition shooting 39.3% from beyond the arc.
There is a place for players like Landale in the NBA. With an undeniable work ethic and steadfast focus, it is almost certain that he will eventually receive his shot.
Zalgiris has since released all personnel, including the players, so they can return home. Landale is now on his way home to Australia to ride out the coronavirus pandemic, hopefully his next stop will be the NBA.