Zach Cleveland is a prospect that I find very intriguing. He may struggle to find minutes on a Liberty team that has veteran presence at the big spots, but his skill as a forward is exciting to say the least.
He is primarily a forward and does most of his work in the high and low post, but has displayed an ability to handle and take defenders off the dribble that could develop into something special. On offense, Cleveland has shown off an impressive post scoring arsenal, getting defenders to bite on fakes and elevate with impressive touch to make shots.
In a sequence against Moline on March 1st, Cleveland was switched onto a quicker guard in what some might call a “mismatch.” Cleveland stayed with his man even with some quick dribble in and out moves and caught the guard in no mans land. This forced a turnover and a fast break opportunity. The player credited with the steal pushed the ball up the floor while Cleveland trailed, at last receiving the inside pass and slamming it down with one hand. Though this is just one sequence, it show the two way effectiveness of Cleveland and what he brings to a team. His switch-ability on defense allows for mismatches to have less of an effect and therefore taking away much effectiveness of the pick and roll.
His rebounding and passing presents opportunities for which teammates can take advantage of a reeling opponent. The end of this sequence is the one hand hammer, which is just some fun flare for a player to have and an exclamation point on a series of small things done well by the forward. He also does not show a shyness of pulling from three off the catch, an aspect of his game I’m sure will be even more looked into within a Liberty offense that loves to kick it out to shooters.
Cleveland is very active on defense, noticeably so off the ball. You can see his eyes darting back and forth and keeping his hands active for any opportunity to disrupt a passing lane. He attacks on the fast break, able to finish strong while pushing the pace. One of these times was off a lob on the break against Normal West that had the gym abuzz.
Overall as an offensive piece, Cleveland has such nice touch and footwork in the post in addition to his driving off the dribble that he should be able to score to some success at the next level. Defensively, he has the tools to be a real stopper and strong presence that any Liberty opponent will need to keep in mind when facing off with them. I believe he has great potential and I can’t wait to see what he brings to the table over his college career with the Flames