The Aztecs are off to the best start in school history at 17-5 and their victory at UNLV in overtime earlier this month was easily one of the programs best wins in recent memory. A decent part of the teams success this season can be attributed to the play of senior wing Kyle Spain, who scored 8 of SDSUs 9 points in overtime in the road win over UNLV.
After starting the season with a few big performances with the Aztecs other key player, senior small forward Lorrenzo Wade, suspended, Spain has come back down to earth to some extent in conference play, partially due to a minor injury. A strong wing player with a nice jump shot, Spain had no trouble taking advantage of a weak non-conference schedule, but has been inconsistent against better competition. Despite a couple of off-nights, hes built significantly on a solid junior campaign due to his ability to put the ball in the basket, particularly on a per-minute basis.
The first thing that jumps out about Spains game is how productive he is when he looks to score. He currently ranks 25th in our database in points per possession at 1.25 and 13th in points per 40 minutes-pace adjusted, two good measures of how big of an impact he makes when hes on the floor. Spain is quite a scoring threat for a player that isnt a great athlete, a dynamic ball handler, or a terribly efficient shooter from inside the arc, due to two key characteristics of his game: his catch and shoot ability and his knack for getting to the line.
Spain possesses very sound mechanics on his jump shot, as well as a very quick release, allowing him to knock down shots from three point range with tremendous consistency. Capable of hitting shots at a fantastic rate when left open, he proves equally capable of hitting shots with a hand in his face largely due to the fact that he doesnt take many off balance jumpers from the perimeter. Thus far this season hes been one of the most prolific shooters in the NCAA per-40 minutes pace adjusted, ranking 12th in three-pointers made.
Inside the arc, Spain is just as aggressive when trying to get to the line as he is with his shot selection from the perimeter. Though his quickness doesnt allow him to create much separation, at 225 pounds, Spain doesnt hesitate to go right at a defender when he can get to the rim. His tremendous strength and girth makes him very difficult to contain at this level without a foul, which allows him to get to the free throw line at a very good rate; he ranks 13th in free throw attempts per-40 minutes pace adjusted. The fact that he shoots 85% from the line certainly helps his efficiency.
Spains strengths manifest themselves in his numbers, but so too do his weaknesses. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Spain makes under 25% of his pull up jumpers and is even less proficient when going one-on-one. His mediocre 2-point percentages can be attributed to his lack of leaping ability and non-existent mid-range game. When he does put the ball on the floor, he struggles to fully get past players that aggressively steer him away from the rim, often forcing up some tough shots around the basket. He does compensate for this inadequacy by running the floor hard in transition and attacking the offensive glass, but hes clearly more valuable for his ability to get to the line than his ability to score inside.
On the defensive end, Spain shows extremely active hands, gets in a good stance, and is willing to box out and work hard on the glass, however, he lacks the lateral quickness to make a major impact. Hes slow to close out at times, but not because he isnt trying. Despite not being overly quick, his ability to anticipate helps him rebound at a tremendous rate and also force turnovers.
In terms of NBA potential, Spain is limited by his lack of athleticism and offensive versatility. At this point, Spain needs to come up big for SDSU in big games to boost his stock enough to garner more attention at the Portsmouth Invitation Tournament, while making the NCAA tournament could also be a plus. When its all said and done, Spain seems like a player who may be able to find a spot in the NBA via training camp, but could just as well end up in Europe.