College Court Report Player of the Week: T.J. Cline, Richmond Spiders

After changing his habits during the summer, TJ Cline has become one of the most well-rounded players in the NCAA in 2016-17.
After changing his habits during the summer, and putting in work to improve his ball-handling and jump shot, senior forward T.J. Cline has become one of the most well-rounded players in the NCAA in 2016-17.

CALGARY, Alb. — Coming into the season, he wanted to make a name for himself. He wrote a story through The Players’ Tribune back at the end of November, entitled “Making a Name for Myself.”

After a summer where he worked on improving his ball handling, jump shot, eating habits and sleep patterns, he has become one of the top players in the entire NCAA.

His name is T.J. Cline, and the senior has the Richmond Spiders making noise when nobody expected them to.

Thanks to some help from Nancy Lieberman, who is an assistant coach with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, or ‘mom’ as she’s known to Cline, the native of Plano, TX is reaping the rewards from a summer of hard work and dedication to the game of basketball.

Last week, Cline had himself one of the best two-game stretches of his career, and he etched his name into the record books at Richmond in the process. He averaged a double-double across two wins for the Spiders, and recorded the first triple-double in school history on Saturday afternoon.

For his efforts this past week, one where the Spiders won a pair of home games and kept pace with other top teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference, senior forward T.J. Cline has been named the College Court Report Player of the Week for the week of January 23 – 29, 2017!

Coming into the week, the Spiders were looking to keep pace atop the conference standings with the likes of the Dayton Flyers and VCU Rams. With two winnable games on tap for Richmond on their home floor, the odds were on their side.

Up first, the Rhode Island Rams came to town to take on the Spiders. While the Rams were expected to be a much-improved  team from last year, Richmond continued their own strong play with a 73-62 victory over Rhode Island.

In 34 minutes of action, Cline recorded his eighth double-double of the season to lead the Spiders on the night. He scored 21 points for the third-straight game, and added 13 rebounds and 4 assists. Cline also shot 64.3% (9-of-13) from the field.

Then, on Saturday afternoon against the Duquesne Dukes, he etched his name into the record books at Richmond.

In the Spiders’ 101-90 victory over the Dukes, Cline became the first player in Richmond history to record a triple-double. He recorded 34 points, on 11-of-15 (73.3%) shooting, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists in the victory.

For the week, the senior big man averaged 27.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game, while only committing a combined four turnovers in the two wins. He shot a combined 20-of-29 (69.0%) from the field, and 4-of-10 (40.0%) from the three point line. Clearly, his off-season work on his jump shot is paying off.

However, Cline struggled from the free throw line, going just 11-of-20 (55.0%) from the charity stripe.

For those of you who aren’t following the Spiders, or don’t know much about them, it’s time to start paying attention. Richmond sits atop the Atlantic 10 Conference at 7-2 overall, a half-game up on VCU. They’ve won the games they should win, and have also notched wins over the St. Bonaventure Bonnies and Rhode Island (this past week).

The Spiders square off with VCU this week, in what is a can’t-miss game that could go a long way in determining who wins the regular season crown.

While he’s not doing it alone, Cline has been the undisputed leader of Richmond this season. He excels on both ends of the floor, and his improved conditioning has allowed him to remain on the floor longer each night. He is one of the most versatile forwards in the country, and doesn’t quite get the attention he deserves.

Coming into the year, he was looking to make a name for himself. You can bet that the name ‘T.J. Cline’ is on draft watch lists for several NBA teams, including the Sacramento Kings.

Imagine a mother-son combination at the NBA level. Wouldn’t that be something.

Regardless of where he plays, if he keeps going on the trajectory he is currently on, NBA teams will come calling.

For his efforts over the past seven days, a stretch that saw the senior forward record a triple-double against Duquesne on Saturday, T.J. Cline has been named the College Court Report Player of the Week for the week of January 23 – 29, 2017!

– T. Bennett

Previous Winners

Jan. 16 – 22, 2017: Jacob Wiley, Eastern Washington Eagles

Jan. 16 – 22, 2017: Dallas Moore, North Florida Ospreys

Jan. 9 – 15, 2017: Jahad Thomas, UMass-Lowell River Hawks

Jan. 2 – 8, 2017: Ryan Taylor, Marshall Thundering Herd

Dec. 26, 2016 – Jan. 1, 2017: DeAndre Harris, Nicholls Colonels

Dec. 19 – 25, 2016: DeWayne Russell, Grand Canyon Antelopes

Dec. 12 – 18, 2016: Ian Baker, New Mexico State Aggies

Nov. 28 – Dec, 4, 2016: Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure Bonnies

Nov. 21 – 27, 2016: Marquise Moore, George Mason Patriots

Nov. 14 – 20, 2016: Eric Mika, BYU Cougars

Nov. 11 – 13, 2016: Jairus Lyles, UMBC Retrievers

**College Court Report Player of the Week recipients are selected from teams in the following conferences:

America East, Atlantic Sun, Atlantic 10, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Conference USA, Horizon League, Ivy League, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot League, Southern, Southland, Summit League, SWAC, Sun Belt, West Coast, and WAC

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