McCloud making an early case for 6th Man of the Year

With most teams now a quarter of the way through Horizon League play, certain players are beginning to stand out as candidates for end of year awards. Milwaukee’s own JayQuan McCloud is making a case for Horizon League Sixth Man of the Year with his strong play thus far.

A sought after transfer from  Murray State, McCloud has provided energy off the bench since becoming eligible towards the end of non-conference play on December 9th. His uber-athleticism, solid defense, and surprisingly potent three-point shot have been useful for the Panthers as Austin Arians continues to work on finding his shot, and JR Lyle eases his way back into the rotation while recovering from an ankle injury.

In eight games played so far this season, McCloud is averaging 17.8 minutes per contest, scoring 8.6 points, and contributing 2.5 rebounds. His numbers are even stronger in league play, where he is playing over 21 minutes, scoring 10 points, collecting 2.5 rebounds, and adding one assist per contest.

The Panther bench, which averaged only 12 points per game before McCloud became eligible, now averages over 14 points per game with Quan bolstering the second unit. McCloud accounts for over 70% of Milwaukee’s bench points in games he plays, a number that proves his ability to keep opposing defenses honest even when offensive threats like Matt Tiby, Jordan Johnson, and Akeem Springs are on the bench.

I spoke to Coach Rob Jeter about McCloud and he sang his praises as well, saying: “He’s really athletic for his size, he can play the one through the three.  He has all the intangibles that you want as a guard…he is another piece we can put on the floor that can score.”    

As impressive as McCloud has been to start league play, he isn’t the only bench player making an early case for Sixth Man of the Year.  Looking at statistics in league play, here’s six other strong contenders for the honor:


McCloud’s stats compare favorably to all of these players, especially when looking at numbers in Horizon League Play. His numbers look even more comparable, however, when looking at recent winners of the Horizon League Sixth Man of the Year. The 2014-15 winner, Jubril Adekoya (Valpo), averaged 5.4 ppg and 4.4 rpg. 2013-14 winner Jon Harris (Cleveland State) contributed 11.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest. LaVonte Dority (Valpo), the 2012-13 winner, came in at 8.6 points and 1.2 rebounds per game. Finally, the 2011-2012 recipient, Eli Hoffman (Detroit), averaged 11 points and 7.4 rebounds in Horizon League play. In looking at these numbers, the previous four winners have collectively averaged 9.2 ppg and 4.8 rpg. These statistics are staggeringly similar to McCloud’s current Horizon League averages of ten points and nearly three rebounds per game.

The most obvious thing the recent award recipients have had in common is their team’s competitive play in the Horizon League. When Adekoya won the award last year, Valpo finished first in regular season league standings. Harris’ Vikings finished second in 2014, Dority’s Crusaders took first in 2013, and with Hoffman Detroit finished third in 2012. Whether the coaches, SID’s, and media members who vote on end of season awards would care to admit it or not, team success has a major bearing on award recipients. While it is true that great teams almost always have great players, the exposure, notoriety, and recognition that comes from playing on a team that finishes at or near the top of its respective conference seems to always weigh heavily on the minds of those voting for awards.

The fact that JayQuan McCloud’s numbers are right in line with past Sixth Man of the Year winners, and also compare favorably with other potential candidates to receive the award this year can be coupled with the notion that Milwaukee figures to be extremely competitive in the Horizon League.  All of these factors seem to be the perfect recipe for a Sixth Man of the Year. McCloud is showing no signs of slowing down, and his play seemingly gets stronger each time he sets foot on the court.

“He hadn’t played basketball since high school,” Jeter said of the Freshman transfer.  “He’s gotten better each game, he was a little anxious to start.”

As he continues to build chemistry with teammates he has spent just over a month of true game time with, McCloud will maintain or even improve his numbers throughout the rest of the season.  If you throw out the Wisconsin game (his first game with Milwaukee) where he scored zero points, Quan’s numbers would be even better. He is growing as a player as he gets comfortable in the program, and this is apparent with every game he plays.

McCloud does what every sixth man is supposed to do: gives Milwaukee a versatile option off the bench, providing a certain skillset that the starters can’t.  According to Coach Jeter, JayQuan’s unique skillset is his ability to create his own shot, “He can score off the dribble, we have a lot of catch and shoot guys and he gives us a different element.”   McCloud also finishes a lot of games on the court with four starters, proving that the coaching staff likes what they see from him, as they trust him to finish off games.  Right now JayQuan McCloud is the first man off the bench, but often the last player off the court.  That sure sounds like a Sixth Man of the Year to me, let’s hope those voting feel the same way.   


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