Marial Shayok was never supposed to play basketball at Virginia. Shayok, a New Jersey native, committed to Marquette and then head coach Buzz Williams in October of 2013. However, Williams left Marquette after the 2013-14 season to take over the Virginia Tech program and Shayok decided to re-open his recruitment. Ultimately Shayok chose not to follow Williams to Blacksburg, a great choice, and committed to Virginia in April 2014 over offers from Indiana, Minnesota, and Providence, among others.
Despite his late cycle commitment, Shayok made an immediate impact in his freshman campaign. He was the only freshman to appear in every game for the Cavaliers, and he earned one start at Wake Forest in late February. For the season, Shayok averaged 3.8 points and 1.8 rebounds in just under 15 minutes per game. While he shot just 41% from the field on the year, Shayok finished second on the team in three-point percentage at 38%. Overall it was an encouraging freshman year, with moments of brilliance interspersed with the usual freshmen speed bumps.
The question heading into 2015, is how will Shayok fare with an increased role? Shayok is one of the leading contenders, along with Darius Thompson, for the vacant backcourt spot in the starting lineup created by Justin Anderson's early departure. It's unreasonable to expect Shayok to simply slide in and mirror Anderson's production, but he'll need to be comfortable as a focal point of the Cavalier offense. One area that he'll need to focus on is at the free throw line. Shayok shot just 63% from the charity stripe in 2014, which is far too low for a ballhandler in late game situations. A lot will be asked of Shayok in the upcoming season, and how he's able to manage the newfound spotlight will play a major role in determining UVa's ceiling as a team.
Nickname: Super Marial