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San Diego State’s fierce four: Dwayne Polee

Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Aztecs have an obvious depth problem.  A good one.  The now 10th ranked Aztecs have four perimeter players on their bench that could be starting for teams across the country.  And this isn't just some homer tooting his team's horn here.  Don't believe me? Let's start with the two transfers.  Dwayne Polee already did at St. John's.  Aqeel Quinn walked away from a D-1 scholarship at Cal State Northridge to get here.  And he's taking minutes from the starters now - he played 21 minutes against Boise and 26 at Air Force after logging an average of 16 minutes in his first 9 games played. Then there are the two freshmen.  Soak in the energy with which Dakarai Allen defends.  You can't tell me Duke couldn't use more of that attitude across the board after seeing their inability to stop guys off the dribble thus far.  And finally, after seeing Iowa State's Matt Thomas (a known shooter, freshman) all but disappear in his last three games has made me appreciate not only Matt Shrigley's decision to redshirt last season, but also his absolute fearlessness with which he plays, dating back to the first time I saw him play at La Costa Canyon.

Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

All that said and I haven’t even mentioned D’Erryl Williams or James Johnson, who both have been banged up a bit at several different spots already this season.  Today, the focus will be on the high flying Dwayne Polee as we await the Aztecs’ match up with Fresno State this evening.  Here’s some things that were said about him in review of his season with St. John’s: “Jumps like a bunny … nice pull up jumper … hints of a reliable floater … quick off the floor.”

No surprises there – all things we’ve seen from him on a regular basis.  I can recall surprise in the voices of at least two broadcasting duos after a pull up near the lane by Polee around the time of the Wooden Legacy this season, but I don’t blame them.  He is kind of known for his leaping ability.  Just read these titles.  They might be overblown a bit, but the fact that someone is saying it is all you need to know.

But Polee is more than that now.  He only attempted 22 threes in his season at St. John’s.  Now, we know he’s confident when those looks are there for him and he knows he is going to make them.  Heading into tonight, Polee is 11-32 (34%) on the season from downtown.  The rise up the polls has been one great ride, but the Aztecs haven’t risen too far to forget Polee’s 11 key points against Creighton or his 12 against USD.  It’s never fair to say one guy won a game for a team, but DP certainly did his part late in both those games.  And without those wins there’s no top 10 ranking this early in the season.

Polee really makes things fun for this team.  He’s turned himself into a very valuable part of this team, but that explosive leaping ability keeps fans on the edges of their seats, eagerly awaiting a play that is sure to send The Show into further frenzy.  And that’s a special quality.  But the polished offensive game is what really keeps him on the floor.  And his long frame creates so many fun possibilities for his coaching staff.

The Aztecs rarely need to take two of their three bigs off the floor at once.  Nor would they want to; Davis, O’Brien, and Spencer have all been outstanding this season.  But Polee makes that an option – against a Boise State that puts four guards on the court, for example, the Aztecs at least have that peace of mind knowing they can match that quickness on the perimeter if guys run into foul trouble.  Put Polee on the floor with three guards, suddenly another shooter is added to stretch the defense and open driving lanes for Thames, Shepard, and O’Brien.

Watching the Air Force game, I remember hearing the guys on TV point out twice just how incredibly long the jump stop of Dwayne Polee is.  This really doesn’t seem like news; NBA guys take a “jump stop” and magically travel 25 feet.  But these two actually weren’t traveling violations.  He can take one dribble from beyond the three point line, then one quick, slithering jump stop through the defense and be under the rim.  It’s that easy for him.  And it’s just a matter of recognizing the opportunity for him as he works off the ball in an offense dominated by Xavier Thames pick and rolls.

And to end here – let me clarify my point on recognizing the opportunity.  For guys like Polee, Shrigley, Allen or anyone playing off the ball on offense for SDSU, it’s tougher than it seems when trying to decide what to do when the ball gets kicked to you.  Those guys first decide whether to pull the trigger from deep, but then what do you do if you drive?  Knowing when to pull up for a jumper, floater, or go hard to the rim is a skill in a way, but each situation is also unique; especially at a high level where guys like Skylar Spencer are waiting to send your shots into the stands.

Now for some quick housekeeping-type fun stuff.

Rise to top 10 in the AP poll: This really is incredible.  The Aztecs started the season unranked and were picked to finish 4th in the Mountain West as we all know by now, and here they stand at #10 in the country.  Now people are mentioning them as a potential contender for an NCAA title.  But this isn’t really news on Montezuma Mesa; we knew this team would be good while the experts said this would be the 13th straight rebuilding season for the Aztecs.  The great thing here is: It only took 15 games for the Aztecs to climb this far!  The confidence this fan base has put in this team has been validated and now it’s time to enjoy every bit of this success.  Aztec fans deserve it.

Fresno State fun: Just over one year ago, remember the highlight Jamaal Franklin turned in on a fast break in Fresno’s gym?  In case you missed it, check out the video below.

(That was a great video placed into the article by Ben! He didn’t know but San Diego Sports Domination was the first to upload a viral video of that dunk that was shared by over a million people. Please click this link if you want to help us get more hits.

Peep those sneaks: We know by now this team knows their sneakers, so here are a few of my favorites from the last few games:

Aqeel Quinn in a very gold NikeID of the LeBron X (Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

Xavier Thames is introduced before taking on Boise State in the white/cement Jordan III (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

Skylar Spencer in the White/Black/Red Jordan XX is challenged above the rim by Andrew Wiggins (Photo Credit: Laura Jacobsen)

Xavier Thames scoops and scores over a frozen Joel Embiid in the “Black Flip” Jordan III (Photo Credit: Laura Jacobsen)

Be sure to tune into ESPN3 and see the Aztecs take on Fresno State!

Written by Benjamin Dull.  You can find him on Twitter or read his blog.

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