The curious game of Khalif Wyatt

Let’s take a respite from  the tortures of this Sixers season, and pay tribute to the sweet, nasty, Big 5 baller whose college career came to a close this weekend. Temple University’s Khalif Wyatt.

khalif wyatt double thumbs up

The visual incongruity of Wyatt’s game is what make it so hypnotic. Undersized for his position, not a great shooter, and perhaps the least athletic player on the floor during this NCAA Tournament run, Wyatt defies the laws of basketball physics and ranks as an elite college scorer behind a honed and profligate arsenal of off-tempo dribble drives, flips, fades and space creating bumps.

khalif wyatt on oladipo khalif wyatt NC STATE


Temple v Indiana


The 6’4 scoring guard, dumped in  an astounding 62 points in 2 tournament games (The tournaments leading scorer), carrying Temple on his back in wins over NC State, and a heartbreaking near upset of the #1 seed (and NBA stacked) Indiana Hoosiers squad.

In short, his game is the ecstatic celebration of crafty, middle aged, YMCA basketball. 

Middle-aged male friends posing on a basketball court

But for the all the affection his game generates, it’s largely been assumed that the physical deficits will simply be too great against longer, more athletic NBA competition. That’s reasonable, but allow me to offer the counter-argument:

Wyatt just played against a squad of NBA athletes in Indiana, and was personally checked by, lottery-bound, projected NBA defensive ace, Victor Oladipo.

Hmm… That looks like a high level NBA athlete to me… How did Wyatt do? He blistered Indiana and Oladipo for 20 first half points and a 3 point lead at the break. Given the no show by the rest of the Temple squad (Starters Randall, O’Brien and Cummings went a combined 0 for 21) Indiana’s 2nd half plan was simple, stop Khalif at all costs.

Immediate double teams, a box and 1 zone scheme, and even the occasional double team off the ball, Indiana was determined to keep the ball out of Wyatt’s hands. He still scored 11 more points, the game only lost by a failure of any other Temple player to score, and this incredible, game saving block by Christian Watford…

zeller oladipo celebrate oladipo dagger Wyatt defeated

My theory is that a great scoring artificer like Wyatt is going to get buckets no matter the competition. Could his upside be a tiny, less athletic Paul Pierce?

Would a tiny, less athletic Paul Pierce be any good? Will he still draw the heaps of fouls that make him so effective? Will he be able to defend ANYBODY at the NBA level?

I don’t know the answer to  those questions, but I think he’s at least earned his shot offer his response.


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