BURN THE HORSE
When Strong’s 6-5 guard Stetson Billings committed to UALR last fall, we all thought that was a solid pickup.
He’s an Arkansas kid who played for the Arkansas Wings in AAU ball. He’s a good shooter, effective defender and hard worker. All solid reasons to like him.
Then came a mid-January night. Billings’ line: 57 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in an 89-65 victory over Bearden. FYI, Bearden was playing a box-and-1.
Those 57 points got the attention of a lot of folks in the region. Billings has improved every year. He averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds as a sophomore, 22 points and 14 rebounds as a junior and 31 points and 12 rebounds last season.
“Stetson is a young man that if I was a college coach I would have been here recruiting him,” Strong-Huttig Coach Anthony Avery said. “He’s 6-5, but can play at the 1, 2 or 3. He’s long-armed and jumps well. He makes everyone around him play harder because that’s what he brings to the game. He gets everyone involved and is a leader on the floor. I wish I had 15 of him on my team.”
Again, that’s all good. But this is what potentially makes him a big-time player in the Sun Belt.
“Stetson is a long, rangy player who can really defend. In time, he could be someone we assign to guard our opponent’s best perimeter scorer night-in and night-out,” UALR Coach Steve Shields said. “He is a very good rebounder at both ends of the floor and really reminds me of a young John Fowler, who was the 2009 Sun Belt defensive player of the year. Stetson is a very tough player who is not afraid to mix it up.”
This is how Billings sizes up his own game: “I’m really a versatile player. I can play in the inside, play outside. I like to take the mid-range jump shot. I’m trying to increase my skills at taking the jump shot off the dribble. I get rebounds. I’ll hold the best player if you need me to. Whatever Coach wants.”
Billings fits into the mix at the 2 and 3 positions for UALR this season. Junior Will Neighbour and sophomore Taggart Lockhart both played the majority of the minutes at the 3 last season.
“My goals are just to come in and help wherever I can. Just to work hard in every position,” Billings said.
It is interesting to hear Billings talk about improving his mid-range game. That is the very thing ESPN downgraded him for when they rated him an 83 as a recruit. ESPN: “As much as we value his stroke and decent ability to leap, we’d like to see diversity in his game. Can he develop a mid-range pull-up? Will he be a guy who can get to the paint? These are two questions we have in evaluating him.”
Billings was among the first of the newcomers to report and has spent the summer gaining much-needed strength with Coach John Barron.
“It’s been going pretty good. I love it here. I like working out with Coach Barron. I’m just trying to get stronger and bigger,” said Billings, who reported at 174 pounds and is now at 190. “I always tried to gain weight but it seemed like I never could. I’m very excited. It encourages me a lot to keep working to get bigger and stronger.”
Upside: Above average shooter and defender and hard-worker on the court.
Downside: Needs to get stronger and prove he can hit the pull-up jumper with consistency.
Outlook: Billings figures to get a pretty good look this season, whether at the 2 or the 3 position (or both).