Jock Landale is having a special season. Not only is he the centerpiece of a Saint Mary's offense that has steamrolled to 18 straight wins, but he is putting forward a solid case to be considered the best centre in college basketball.
The 6'11 senior is averaging career-best numbers of 22.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. He leads the West Coast Conference in points, rebounds, field-goal percentage (65.8), offensive rebounds (3.2) and defensive rebounds (7.6). Such is his interior dominance and superior post play, Landale also leads the nation in total field-goals made (229), and there is daylight between him and second.
Over the course of the last week, the Melburnian averaged 30 points and 15 rebounds between two conference games against San Francisco and San Diego last week, helping guide the Gaels to their best ever national ranking of 11. He was duly recognised for his remarkable on court output by being named West Coast Conference Player of the Week Award, for the fifth time this season no less. His five Player of the Week honors moves to within reach of the conference record of 6 which is shared by Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison (2005-06) and LMU’s Bo Kimble (1989-90). With his latest conference award, Landale also has increased his career tally to 7, tying for third all-time in the conference..
That's not where the recognition ended this week either.
Landale was announced as one of 20 finalists for the 2018 John R. Wooden Award, the list of front-runners for the sport’s most prestigious honor and the John R. Wooden Award All America Team. He is the only true centre to appear on the shortlist, and joins two other quality big men in Duke's Marvin Bagley III and Texas star Mohamed Bamba.
It is hard not to get excited about Landale and the amazing senior year he is currently enjoying. His output and potential is on track to well and truly surpass the stellar senior year logged by fellow Aussie big man Cameron Bairstow at New Mexico in 2013-14. That season, Bairstow posted averages of 20.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 55.8% from inside the arc. Landale is head and shoulders above those statistics, and his team is winning, and winning well--taking aim at an NCAA Tournament berth as a current #11 ranked team.
After Bairstow, you have to go back to Andrew Bogut's brilliant 2004-05 sophomore season at Utah where the big man garnered National Player of the Year honours for any relevant comparison for Landale. Of course, Bogut would go on to being drafted number one by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2005 NBA Draft. That season, Bogut averaged an outstanding 20.4 points, 12.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. While the game has changed a lot since 2005, it is hard not to see some merit in comparing the two players and their significant college outputs that are eerily similar.
Many argue that Landale's game may not translate to the modern NBA game, citing he is not athletic enough, his foot speed is too slow to guard on the perimeter, or he can't shoot the three-ball. Make no mistake, Landale is the best post player in college basketball right now--and he can shoot the three-ball. The Saint Mary's offensive structure rarely allows Landale to shoot from distance as he plays one out in the post with four shooters on the perimeter. On the right team and in the right situation, there is a place for Landale in the NBA. But right now, Landale is on track to deliver what could be argued, the best season by any Australian in college basketball ever.
Bogut went on to guide the Utes to a Sweet Sixteen appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2005. If Landale can help guide the Gaels into the latter stages of the 2018 big dance, it is hard not to see Landale becoming the next in a long line of recent Aussies to play in the NBA.