The Weber State University men’s basketball team dropped two games to high-profile opponents this season: Brigham Young University and the University of California, Berkeley. Following those games, some questioned Damian Lillard’s ability.
Let’s break down how good Lillard is.
Everyone knows what he did in the first few games of the season, tearing through the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, Northern New Mexico College and other smaller schools. The first big test for Lillard this year came against Utah State University.
Against a physical and (at that time) still-healthy USU team, Lillard put up 17 points, four assists and three steals. It was also clear that he was the best point guard on the court, outshining USU’s Brockeith Pane. What really stood out to me during that game was the leadership and maturity that Lillard showed. He proved that he can be a good leader and not cave under pressure. He also proved that he has the maturity to play at a higher level when he avoided a late-in-the-game scuffle with Pane.
The next big test for WSU came against Saint Mary’s College, a very strong mid-major school that will most likely make it to the NCAA Tournament. Against the toughest opponent that WSU had faced so far, Lillard exploded for a then-career-high 36 points. At times in the game, he single-handedly carried the Wildcats and kept them in the game. Once again, he showed that he has what it takes to compete on the big stage, and against tough, physical opponents.
A few weeks later, the Wildcats would face BYU, which is where I started hearing people doubt Lillard and question his ability, but if we look at what he did in the game, he still proved his quality.
It was clear during the game against the Cougars that Lillard didn’t play his best game, but he still turned in a strong performance, racking up a double-double. He finished the game with 15 points and 10 rebounds. I’ve never understood how some doubt his quality after that game. Yes, he didn’t play his best game, but he still got a double-double, and proved he is an all-around player who can compete with quality teams. Don’t forget how good BYU is.
A few weeks after the game against WSU, the Cougars nearly knocked off the University of Baylor (and probably should have); at the time, Baylor was the third-ranked team in the nation.
Lillard held his own in a game in which he didn’t play his best, against a strong BYU team, and people still question his ability? Doesn’t make much sense to me.
The next big test for the Wildcats came against UC-Berkeley. After this game, I heard multiple people say Lillard was all hype and not as good as advertised. Once again, I had to wonder why. Lillard put up 14 points, outscoring all UC players except for two. Again, this wasn’t one of his best games, but he still showed he is competitive against big-name opponents.
My final example of why Lillard is special came last week in the game against Idaho State University. In the second half, Lillard showed that he has the ability to entertain and wow fans. He showed this on a fast-break dunk. I cannot properly explain how exciting the play was. As he ran down the court, it looked as if everyone else on the court was stuck in slow motion. He cut past a defender, flew to the rim and threw down a monster dunk. You could feel an electricity in the arena as the crowd reacted.
After that play, it seemed that every time Lillard touched the ball, the crowd would would rise in anticipation of what he was going to do.
Lillard is special. He will play in the NBA, and I feel his performances against strong teams aren’t bad or cause to doubt him. He has shown that he will be a quality player in the NBA.