(February 9th) Other than some minor wiggle in the defensive statistics – the blocks went up a meaninglessly small amount and the steals went down by a pretty much equally meaningless amount – Blocker’s past few weeks have mostly stayed about the same. The drop from the 89th percentile in true shooting to the 76th is the most notable change reflected here, but that’s being unduly influenced by an 0-5 game against Ole Miss that will wash out in the schedule. We’re mostly just glad to see that Blocker is solidly back in the rotation, as he always should have been.
(January 24th) During Arkansas’s 12/16/23 game against Lipscomb, Keyon Menifield, the high NIL budget offseason acquisition for the Razorbacks, returned from injury. After that game, where Menifield was on a minutes restriction, Layden Blocker has played a combined 56 minutes, as Arkansas has started 1-4 in SEC play, with Menifield’s struggles a large part of the reason why. In the one game during that stretch where Blocker did receive minutes, against Florida, he recorded 14 points on a mere 7 shots, getting to the line ten times and also causing havoc on the defensive end. Basically, this isn’t about merit, and Blocker absolutely has shown he deserves more opportunity. We obviously have to caution Blocker about being publicly frustrated – that doesn’t reflect well in the draft process no matter how accurate the frustration is – but at the same time the lack of opportunity afforded him is clearly wrong.
(December 14th) Over the last two weeks, Layden Blocker finally started to get stable minutes, going from 14 minutes per game over the first six games to 21 over the last three. That immediately paid dividends – while he still isn’t getting the volume to really show off, his efficiency has now climbed into elite territory. The 95th percentile in true shooting, for a freshman guard, is unquestionably excellent, and the rate at which he gets to the line has gone from an already very good 88th percentile number to the maxed-out 99th percentile for guards. His blocks and steals went up similarly. At every stage of this season, Blocker has consistently done the best he can with the role he’s given, so it would not be surprising for the next step to be expanding his touches and letting a guy who has constantly exceeded expectations handle things.
(November 30th) Layden Blocker is a freshman on a veteran-laden team – the 7 players with more minutes than him have an average of 4.3 years of college experience – and as a result, his role is very, very small. However, he has played that small role excellently, proving strong contributions by taking care of the ball (83rd percentile in turnovers), scoring efficiently (83rd percentile in true shooting due to the high rate at which he’s gotten himself to the line) and defending (above average block rate, and a strong 77th percentile steal rate). He has also been surprisingly good at crashing the offensive boards, ranking in the 92nd percentile or a guard there. His role will need to expand at some point, and starts in the last two games while Davenport was out or limited may indicate it’s starting to, but Blocker has definitely handled the role he’s currently in well.