On the Usefulness of Clint Chapman

Anecdotal and statistical evidence suggest that Clint Chapman has far underperformed his four-star rating out of high school. In fact, to say that the most successful stretch in a nearly two-year career came when scoring 7,4, and 6 points hints at something failing even to achieve mediocrity -- hardly promising, to say the least. Add in the free-percentage at under 16 and a field goal percentage under 35% and Chapman's career at Texas looks even less promising. Not promising at all, really.

None of this comes as news even to the casual Texas basketball fan. It's worth bringing up because PB has essentially given up on Chappy (see comments of following link), while Scipio Tex wonders if Chapman is a potential transfer candidate after the season. Given Damion James' struggle completing his transition to the perimeter and the resulting hit to his draft stock, it's entirely plausible that he returns for his senior season, with a group of players that will be able to stretch the floor more capably and give him more room to operate. The problem -- Texas would be one over the scholarship limit if James returns and two over if J'Covan Brown manages to find his way into school, certainly not outside the realm of possibility, but only barely so.

All of that sets up the question about whether Chapman will ever have a chance to succeed in burnt orange. Count me among the frustrated at Chapman's rushed shots near the basket and inability to finish what should be easy plays. However, his athleticism for his size and much better touch than he has shown this season gives me hope. In his freshman season, Chapman made nearly 70% of his free throws, demonstrating an ability to hit from the line.

For Chapman, the problem appears to be his release point -- when he struggles, he shoots the ball long, releasing it too far in front of his body and not finishing high enough. I wouldn't be surprised if Chapman was a guard in middle school and perhaps early high school before hitting a growth spurt. He shoots like someone who has yet to completely grow into his body. That is to say, with minor tweaking, he could return to consistency at the line. It seems like a stretch to consider a missed jump shot a success, but his stroke looks good in rhythm out to 17-18, actually an easier shot for him than a free throw with his release.

Much like Connor Atchley, his general problems appear mostly mental, combined with a continued struggle to adjust to the speed of the college game, an adjustment lengthened by inconsistent minutes. Chapman has yet to lose himself in the game with any regularity -- he struggles against himself as much as he does against the opponent.

Since I count myself a realist, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that he could well break out at some point in his next two seasons. Despite the struggles at the free throw line, Chapman does have a soft touch, demonstrated on two plays in the last three games spinning to his left in the lane and finishing. One such play came off the bounce, showing a rhythm that he has rarely been able to find, but that suggests the ability to reproduce such plays.If Chapman can consistently replicate those plays, developing a shot fake and drop step off the move could result in easy layups.

Two more plays came off the bounce on quick moves to the basket, one finishing with a lay up and the other with a ill-conceived dunk attempt against Baylor where he was too far away to finish. The aggressiveness, however, was not ill-conceived, and exactly the mentality he needs more often on the offensive end.

Also like Connor Atchley, Chapman struggles to maintain rebounding position, needing to work on consistently getting low and boxing out with authority. Truthfully, he will never be a good rebounder for his position, but that limiting factor won't be the element of his game keeping him from being successful. In fact, Chapman already rebounds at a slightly higher rate than Atchley on both the offensive and defensive ends -- also better than Matt Hill.

Defensively, Chapman has the athleticism to move his feet well, particularly when hedging on ball screens, he just needs to exhibit better awareness. On one play matched up against James Singletary, Chapman bodied up on him too much, allowing the dribble drive, then tried to beat Singletary to the spot. Ostensibly a good move, unless that spot is the free throw line. Needless to say, Chapman committed the foul. For comparison, Matt Hill doesn't have close to the footspeed to even beat Singletary to that spot enough to commit a foul -- he would be trailing on the play. As a post and help defender, Chapman has the ability to block shots -- with the third highest rate of blocked shots, behind Connor Atchley and Dexter Pittman.

All told, I'm not ready to give up on Chapman, yet. He will certainly consider his options after the season and wonder where his playing time will come from if James stays. However, Matt Hill is much less valuable to the program, as he demonstrates far fewer raw skills, instead being limited to setting screens, rebounding, and making easy baskets -- skills that Chapman needs to demonstrate an ability to consistently execute, but skills that ultimately provide the team with little upside. As harsh as it may sound, Hill is a stiff and Chapman, whatever his faults, is not.

Chapman is not a complete loss, and, in fact, shows sign that he could be finally breaking out -- albeit in a limited way. His playing time will decrease when Gary Johnson returns to the lineup for the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments, but the last three games have set Chapman up for a productive finish to the season, a finish that could springboard him to much bigger things next season, which I hope will come in burnt orange and not on the bench in street clothes at another university, sitting out his transfer season.

Feel free to disagree.

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