CBU freshman guard Taran Armstrong is well on his way to winning the WAC Freshman of the Year. In just his ninth game at the Division I level, Armstrong set the CBU single-game record for assists. Armstrong dished out 15 assists in the Lancers’ win over North Dakota on Wednesday night.
And the hype surrounding the one they refer to as ‘Taz’ grows after each game. According to some, Armstrong is arguably the best guard in America and perhaps draft-ready.
Who’s the best point guard in the 2022 NBA Draft?
Taran Armstrong, Cal Baptist
— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) December 7, 2021
— College Insider Inc. (@collegeinsider) December 8, 2021
Taran Armstrong (@taranarmstrong1) of @CBUmbb should undoubtedly be on the Bob Cousy watchlist! The frosh guard was highly touted coming out of Australia and is proving it so far with averages of 12ppg/8rpg/9apg. In CBU’s win over North Dakota…
7.5 A:TO ratio! pic.twitter.com/sc34n3y8ve
— CBB Nation (@CBBNation247) December 8, 2021
Here is Armstrong’s stat line through nine games: 12.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game. And Armstrong has a nearly 3-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Not bad for a true freshman getting his first taste of Division I basketball.
According to Lukas Harkins of HeatCheckCBB, there is a lot more to Armstrong than meets the eye.
– Cal Baptist, 7-1, performs 85.0 points per 100 possessions better with Armstrong on the floor than without.
– Armstrong is dishing 8.0 assists per game and exhibiting the nation’s best assist rate at 48.3 percent.
“Armstrong deploys stellar vision, plays with shifty tempo, has tremendous ability, and — perhaps most importantly — is extremely creative. To fit the metaphor of his playmaking wizardry, he has an undetectable extension charm on his bag of tricks.”
But, Harkins also noted that the Lancers haven’t really played anyone so far in 2021-22. The Lancers have eight wins and only one of those wins was against a KenPom top-200 foe in Northern Colorado on Nov. 21. And all games but one have been played at the CBU Events Center. In the lone game away from Riverside at No. 7 Texas, Armstrong had six points, seven rebounds, one assist and seven turnovers in the 68-44 loss.
— California Baptist Men's Basketball??? (@CBUmbb) December 8, 2021
Yes, Armstrong passes the eye test. The true freshman has the size at 6’5, the length, the athleticism, and the high basketball IQ. But what about other intangibles? As a true freshman, learning how to play defense at the next level can be a difficult transition. Armstrong is a catalyst of the Lancers offense and thus has to be on the floor. This means defending without fouling. It is something head coach Rick Croy believes Armstrong realized quickly when he stepped foot on campus and has done really well thus far.
“He’s made tremendous strides defensively since our first scrimmage at USF,” Croy said. “When you have his talent and his ability, the first thing you have to be is available. You can’t be in foul trouble and you also have to be able to impact that side of the ball.”
Croy continued on with his assessment of what his freshman point guard is doing to get better.
“He’s really learning how to use his size, length and his tenacity to be able to do that consistently. He’s extremely coachable. And I don’t even think he’s scratched the surface in regards to what kind of defender he can be.”
In terms of being on the floor and being available, Armstrong is averaging a team-high 33 minutes per game. And the true freshman has yet to foul out of a game in his first season of college basketball. Armstrong plays 85.7 percent of every game according to KenPom. According to KenPom, Armstrong leads the nation in assist rate at 50.4.
The Burnie, Tasmania native was the No. 2 prospect out of Australia where he played at the NBA Global Academy in Canberra, Australia. Armstrong was also a member of the Tasmanian U20 State Team and participated in the FIBA U19 World Cup on Basketball Australia. And in 2019, Armstrong led Australia to a Gold Medal at the 2019 FIBA Oceania Tournament. At the Basketball Australia U20 National Championships, Armstrong averaged 25.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 44 percent from the floor.
The potential is there. Competitiveness, drive, desire, and ability. All there. Being coachable – check. As stated above, size, length and athleticism – check. Competition will get more difficult with games at UC Riverside and at Arizona plus WAC play beginning in three weeks. Right now the hype is real. And if Armstrong continues to perform at the high level he has thus far, it’s only going to get louder.
Armstrong is the frontrunner for WAC Freshman of the Year. No doubt of that. And in a guard heavy league like the WAC, the freshman guard will face some of his biggest challenges beginning in late December. There will be ample opportunity to make believes out of the hype and firm up the case as best guard in the WAC.