Crumpacker: Landale A Force in the Pivot for SMC

Dec. 8, 2017

By John Crumpacker #WCChoops Columnist

If ever there was an argument in favor of a college basketball player staying in school all four years to hone his craft while earning a degree in the process, Jock Landale would be Exhibit A.

Over the course of his three-plus seasons at Saint Mary’s, the 6-foot-11 Landale has gone from being just a tall kid at the end of the bench averaging a measly five minutes per game to maturing into one of the best players in the West Coast Conference and among the best true centers in the country.

The lesson here is you get out what you put in.

“It’s an accumulation of things,’’ Landale said. “I credit finding the drive to work to get better and realizing what it takes to play on this level. I put more and more time in the gym. It’s realizing this is what I want to do in the future. I don’t take anything for granted.’’

If laid out on a graph, Landale’s career at Saint Mary’s would look like an arrow pointing up, left to right, at a 45-degree angle from when he arrived in Moraga in 2014 to the first nine games of the 2017-18 season.

As a little-used freshman in 2014-15, the native of Victoria, Australia, played in 21 games, started none, averaged 5.0 minutes per game and contributed 2.1 points and 0.9 rebounds. He improved to 7.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game as a sophomore in 2015-16 but still did not start a single game while averaging 14.5 minutes.

Landale’s big leap came in his junior season in 2016-17 when he started all 34 games for the Gaels and produced 16.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game to go with 41 blocks in 28.3 minutes of court time. In a 7-2 start for the Gaels in 2017-18, Landale’s scoring and rebounding numbers are 21.4 and 9.3 with 17 assists in 30.2 minutes per game.

“You want to see guys keep improving,’’ coach Randy Bennett said. “As a coach, that’s one of the best things you can see. Jock’s like a poster boy for what it’s supposed to look like in player development. Knock on wood, he keeps doing it his senior year. He’s better this year than last year. It’s very gratifying.’’

Landale has progressed to the point where he’s looking at playing on the highest level once he leaves Saint Mary’s.

“The ultimate goal is to play in the NBA,’’ he said. “If not, I’ll play in Europe. Right now, I’m pretty set on playing in the NBA. Ultimately, depending on how well we do (as a team) will help guys after college.’’

Bennett said his big man has a future in basketball post-Saint Mary’s. Whether that means the NBA depends on a variety of factors, most of them out of the player’s control. The only thing Landale can control is the quality of his play and his desire to improve. Over his career in Moraga he’s averaged better than 60 percent on his field goals and 73 percent from the free throw line.

“He’ll play at a high level … whether that’s the NBA or not,’’ Bennett said. “Someone has to like your game. He’s one of the best players in college basketball. Jock’s a very good player. He’ll play for a long time.’’

Being in Bennett’s program for four years made Landale the player he is today. He learned from his coaches and teammates alike what kind of effort playing Division I basketball demands.

“When I first came to Saint Mary’s, I was just going along for the ride,’’ he said. “I didn’t realize what it took to play on this level. I realized how much time these guys put in for their craft. I thought maybe one day I can make something of myself.’’

Landale started playing basketball at age seven in Australia and represented the country on the national team in an Under-19 tournament in 2013. However, for two of his formative years as a teenager Landale was away from home in boarding school and played no hoops. This was a very tall lump of clay that needed to be molded properly.

“I think there is a sense of accomplishment, seeing where I came from four years ago,’’ he said. “I’m proud of the improvement I made. I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied because there’s a lot more to come.’’

The measure of this Saint Mary’s team might not come until Jan. 18, when the Gaels travel to Spokane to play Gonzaga. The two programs have been dueling for the top spot in the WCC the last few seasons and 2017-18 looks to be no different.

“We do subconsciously measure ourselves against Gonzaga because we’re the two powerhouses in the conference,’’ Landale said. “At Gonzaga coach (Mark) Few has done a great job of piecing together a great program. It’s something we challenge ourselves for each year, beating those guys. Gonzaga is always going to be a great measuring stick for us.’’

Individually, at least, Landale is measuring up quite nicely.

John Crumpacker spent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards. Crumpacker has been covering #WCChoops since the 2014-15 season.



The Last Meeting
Saint Mary's 84, UC Irvine 53
December 11, 2016
Moraga, Calif.


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