What Cleveland State Transfer Tyree Appleby Could Do For The Gators

When word came out that Florida was in touch with Cleveland State transfer Tyree Appleby I went into a deep dive to see what makes the Horizon League star so talented and desired by the Gators as well as by the host of other high major teams to contact him.

What I found was an extremely crafty scorer with a feel for the game that allows his 17 points per game to feel effortless. The way he zips around the floor as the fastest player on the court is mesmerizing and the willingness he shows to distribute the basketball is a bit surprising for someone of his scoring potency. Here’s some of the best stuff I found going through the film.

Let’s get into a bit more detail. Here’s what I think of Appleby’s game and what he could bring to the Gators if he decides to come to Florida.

2018-19 Stats

17.2 Points
5.6 Assists
3.7 Rebounds
1.4 Steals
3.4 Turnovers
42% Field Goal
38.9% 3-Point
78% Free Throw

Passing

When you look at Appleby’s raw numbers one thing that might jump out to you is his assist and turnover numbers and I wanted to clarify some things. First of all, the 5.6 assists probably don’t even tell the full story of how good of a passer he is. You see, at 17.2 points per game he was taking a lot of the shots while he was on the floor and that means his assist opportunities weren’t as many as you’d see from a lot of other guards. Instead of just looking at his assist count (which still is really good at 5.6) if you look at his passing analytics you’ll be a lot more impressed.

Appleby’s assist rate was 37.4% which was 12th in the country. As a reference point Andrew Nembhard’s assist rate was 32.8% and 46th in the country. I’m not suggesting that Appleby would come to the SEC and be a better passer than Nembhard but it shows how efficiency he was as a passer and how you can’t just look at raw assist numbers to gauge the quality of a passer.

The next thing I want to clear up is his 3.4 turnovers per game which is going to look ugly to a lot of you. Here’s the thing, it shouldn’t.

Between taking a lot of shots and being the primary distributor on most plays where he wasn’t the shooter Appleby was one of the highest usage players in the country being involved in 30.9% of possessions when he was on the floor (for some reference, Nembhard was used in 17.5% of possessions and Jalen Hudson was the highest on the team at 24.1%). Considering the fact he was used in an absurd amount of possessions he didn’t actually turn the ball over that much.

Appleby’s turnover rate was 20.6% last season, Nembhard’s was 22.4%.

So, while Appleby’s 3.4 turnovers per game might look a bit scary to you at first know that they shouldn’t and he’s actually not a player that’s loose with the basketball. Currently a bit skinny at 6’1” and 165 pounds he was occasionally bumped off his spot and he sometimes did get in trouble by over-dribbling but on the whole for an extremely high usage point guard he did pretty well taking care of the rock.

Speed

One of the things that make Appleby so special is his speed. Coach White has expressed a desire in the past to get a bit quicker and landing Appleby would add a speed demon for 2020-21.

A blur in transition Appleby was a one-man fast break whenever he got the ball off a defensive rebound or outlet pass. Taking off like a sprinter he would scramble defenses as they’d try to stop the ball and Appleby had the handle to either get through a trap or the vision to hit a cutting teammate. When you combine his transition possessions and assists in transition he was at 1.374 point per possession off the break putting him in the 72nd percentile nationally. The ability for him to control the pace of the game with his speed made him a nightmare for opposing teams in the Horizon League and while a step up to a high major league would bring faster opponents he still figures to be one of the fastest players on the floor no matter who he plays for.

Ball Handling

Even though he plays the game at breakneck speed Appleby isn’t often out of control or turnover prone and you can chalk up that reliability to a tight handle that he’s put in a lot of work to develop. In the video I shared you can see his ball handling on display as he left defenders in the dust on his way to layups. The Gators were a team that didn’t excel in transition the last two seasons and getting a guard like Appleby who can take off like a cannon when possession changes could play to Coach White’s strengths. Over 22% of Appleby’s shots came in transition and he was able to get a lot of easy points before defenses could get set up. Putting points on the board without having to run any half-court offense is a luxury and the Gators haven’t done that a lot recently.

Florida also had some issues against pressure, whether it be full-court or half court traps. Appleby’s speed and ability to handle the rock makes him extremely difficult to contain in the middle of the court and he could help make the Gators impossible to press in the future. As I mentioned before he actually does a good job of taking care of the ball even though he plays with crazy tempo and that shows a mature guard even for a sophomore.

Pick And Roll

In terms of offense coming out of set offense it’s all about the pick and roll for Appleby. A whopping 39.1% of his shots came as a pick and roll ball handler with a boat load of assists also coming off pick and roll so it’s safe to say he runs those plays a lot. Much of Cleveland State’s offense was dribble handoffs into pick and roll and that gave Appleby the tiniest bit of space he needed to either dart towards the rim or pull up for a jumper.

We know Appleby’s speed and dribbling ability makes him a threat going towards the rim but what really made him lethal in the pick and roll was his ability to shoot off the bounce. Well over half of his jump shots came off the dribble and he was incredibly comfortable with those looks. Shooting 38.9% from three is a good mark on it’s own but when you see the fact most of those shots came off the dribble and from well behind the arc you start to see just how good of a scorer he is. The constant threat of him rising up and drilling a shot made defenders try to crowd him off the pick and roll and if they did that Appleby would hit them with a dribble move on his way to the rim. That’s what made him so difficult to guard and that’s how he could average both 17.2 points and 5.6 assists in a season.

Would His Play Translate To High Major Basketball?

I’ll be honest, the Horizon League wasn’t good last season and that definitely aided Appleby in putting up such robust numbers. Watching the film it was evident he was dominating lesser defenders in the league, cooking them with dribble combinations and simply outrunning them in transition. Will he be able to do that at the power five level? Not quite as much, but I still think he’ll be an elite scorer. He was one of the best shooters off the dribble in college basketball last season at 35.9% (almost all threes) and historically that has translated. He also shot a very respectable 46.7% when closely guarded which also points towards his shooting translating at higher levels. He’s got a sleight frame that will need to be improved during his redshirt season but I think he plays the game with a high level of offensive IQ and he should be able to adjust to the high major level. Will he continue to average over 17 points while chipping in five and a half assists? Probably not, but he could still be an impactful scorer.

Does Florida Have A Good Shot At Landing Him?

I definitely think so. The connection of Mike White coaching Tyree’s brother Raheem at Louisiana Tech can’t hurt and with Florida likely losing Andrew Nembhard to the draft next season there will be point guard minutes available in 2020-21 when Appleby becomes eligible to get on the court. I think there is some really good mutual interest here and I wouldn’t be surprised if a Florida visit happens soon.

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Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.