The ASU men's basketball team boasts efficient offensive players like freshman guard Luguentz Dort, sophomore guard Remy Martin and redshirt junior Rob Edwards. However, redshirt senior forward Zylan Cheatham, who contributes on both ends of the floor, flies under the radar.
An argument can be made that Cheatham is the Sun Devils’ most valuable player. He's averaging 11.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists this season.
Cheatham’s rebounding average leads the team and the Pac-12. His 2.5 offensive rebounds per game make Cheatham one of the more dynamic rebounders in the conference.
Cheatham is a smart, calculated crasher of the offensive glass. He measures where the shot is going to fall off the rim, evading the eyesight of his defenders. Once he sees the angle, he darts in, grabs a tough offensive rebound, which leads to points for the Sun Devils.
Cheatham’s rebounding also leads to another facet of his game — fast break creation. Here, he grabs the rebound and immediately pushes the ball. Cheatham catches the Kansas defense scrambled and makes a fantastic pass that redshirt sophomore forward Romello White couldn’t finish.
Cheatham’s passing is another part of his game that goes unnoticed. His 3.7 assists per game is the fourth-best average in the Pac-12. He also boasts an assist percentage of 20.7 percent, meaning he assists on over 20 percent of ASU’s made field goals while on the floor.
Here, he makes a nifty dump pass in traffic to White. While Cheatham is known for his high-flying dunks and athletic finishes, he makes the perfect read after driving into the lane, drawing White’s defender to him.
However, there is no stronger asset Cheatham possesses than his defense. Cheatham currently has the eighth-best defensive rating in the Pac-12 with a 94.2.
This sequence showcases Cheatham’s defensive value to the greatest degree. He bothers a defender’s dribble, then he performs a high hedge on a ball screen, helping Dort get back to his man. This leaves Cheatham having to get back to his man, who is rolling to the basket.
If the ball-handler gets the timing off the screen right, this is an open shot at the rim. But Cheatham gets back to his man, forces a deflection and gets the steal.
Cheatham is essentially the Sun Devils’ Swiss Army knife. ASU depends on his consistent production on the glass, his playmaking and his tenacious defense.
Jeffrey Horst is the digital editor-in-chief of The State Press. He previously served as the publication's sports editor and worked at Cronkite News and ArizonaSports.com.