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Chuck Landon: WKU’s Bassey is a big problem for Herd

January 12, 2019

He’s a big deal.

A very, very big deal.

Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey stands a towering 6-foot-11, weighs a strong yet athletic 245 pounds and is still a teenager.

But what a teenager.

As a high school senior at Aspire Academy in Louisville, Kentucky, this native of Lagos, Nigeria, was ranked as the No. 6 prospect in the nation by 247 Sports. Bassey is considered a five-star one-and-done player, who will be playing in the NBA this time next basketball season.

So, what’s he doing at Western Kentucky in Conference USA?

Ah, that’s a story for another day.

The more immediate point is Marshall University has to contend with Bassey when the Thundering Herd hosts Western Kentucky at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Cam Henderson Center.

Marshall has to contain a guy averaging 14.6 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots, while shooting 65.0 percent from the floor.

“There’s a good possibility he has a good game,” conceded MU head coach Danny D’Antoni. “What we can’t give him is a great game.

“If we don’t give him the extra points from the offensive rebounds and things of that nature, if he doesn’t get assists on us coming too fast and him passing out for 3-point shots, if we can eliminate that and the extra points, ... if he faces up and gets buckets and stuff like that, so be it. Somebody is going to score.

“You can’t do too much on him because they have four, five, six other good players. So, you have to be careful you don’t try to stop one and then create three leaks somewhere else.”

That’s where 6-9 sophomore Jannson Williams and 6-9 sophomore Mikel Beyers enter the conversation. MU’s duo of big men will have the primary responsibilities for defending Bassey.

“I’m definitely going to be guarding him,” said Williams. “He’s taller than me and bigger than me. I’m giving up both of those. But in high school, I had to guard big, 300-pound dudes, so this is nothing I’m scared of — at all. It’s actually something that I look forward to. It’s more fun to me.”

Of course it is. It’s a challenge. And what does any true competitor crave more?

“That’s exactly right,” said Williams emphatically. “That’s 100 percent what you want. He’s going to be stronger than me. He’s bigger than me and he’s a little bit taller than me.

“So I’m just going to have to be a dog on Saturday. And see how he likes it. I have a lot of respect for the guy, though.”

The same is true for Beyers.

“Me and Jannson are going to have our hands full,” said Beyers. “But we’re more than capable of containing him and sticking to the game plan. I think we have a real good chance this weekend.”

Hear the attitude? Beyers also is excited about guarding Bassey.

“You want to go up against the best of the best,” said Beyers. “Everybody has to lace their shoes up. They’re going to have to prove it to me. All the hype? When you step on the court, all the hype goes away. You’re going to have to show me why you’re the five-star recruit, why you’re the one-and-done.

“I’m looking forward to going against him. It’s going to be a great test to see how we match up against great bigs.”

That’s why this is a “big” game.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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