It's Sure Nice to Have a Shot Blocker

Robert Allen

STILLWATER -- Last year the competition in the Big 12 wasn’t really close as the Cowboys freshman Yor Anei led the conference in blocked shots. Anei is at it again. His defensive presence in wins like the road win at Charleston and the two wins in Brooklyn last week at the NIT Season Tip-Off were huge. Anei has 23 blocked shots in the Cowboys seven games. He is just one ahead of Iowa State’s 6-10 post player George Conditt. Anei is 13 in the nation in blocked shots total as Oregon State seven-footer Kylor Kelley has 36 blocks in eight games. Anei is 10 in the NCAA in blocked shots per game averaging 3.29. The leader is 6-10 James Sparks of Georgia Tech, who is averaging 5.2 blocks a game.

“Opponents are shooting a lot of three-pointers against us and they aren’t making a lot of them,” head coach Mike Boynton told the media the other day. He then reached back and knocked on the wood of the scorer’s table in Gallagher-Iba Arena and said, “I hope it stays that way.”

Anei was the MVP of the NIT Season Tip-Off last week and is currently averaging 12.9 points and 7.6 rebounds a game to go with the blocked shots. He is a presence that opposing teams just simply can’t deal with very well. He is the rim protector supreme and his teammates know how critical that is.

“You can be all the way up the floor but somebody gets near that basket and the ball is flying off the backboard and out toward half court and we’re (Cowboys) are running that way (to the offensive end),” said grad transfer Jonathan Laurent, who has played previously at Rutgers and UMass. “It was hard to get accustomed to that because I hadn’t played with a shot blocker like that, but it definitely changes the game.”

The Cowboys are able to punish opponents two ways on defense as point guard Isaac Likekele is an intense and intimidating presence at the front of the defense. His pressure on the ball was huge in Brooklyn and it will be all season. Like Laurent said, if a team does get it inside and Anei is in the game then they had better be very careful about putting the ball up for fear they will wind up with the ball’s logo imprinted on their forehead. Anei and Likekele are classmates, came in together, and basically broke into the line-up together.

“I’m very proud of him and that’s my brother right there,” said Likekele. “Him being happy all the time, working hard all the time, and really focusing on his game and his craft and what he has to do to be successful every day is showing up now on the court for him. I’m happy to see him out there balling and having fun.”

Yes, because the guys on the other team aren’t having much fun at all, just ask Syracuse and Ole Miss. Wednesday night one of the best shot blockers in the NBA in Patrick Ewing will get to see Anei’s game up close as Georgetown comes to Stillwater.