After Virginia’s 76-51 my esteemed colleague Will Campbell mentioned that he was surprised at Marial Shayok’s 15 point outburst in 20 minutes, and I have seen similar sentiment among UVA fans. But should we be surprised? Given what Virginia lost coming into this season, someone has to step up, so why not Shayok? I’ll take that a step further and ask this question. Could Shayok be the next Justin Anderson?
Rewind back to three years ago. The Hoos were looking for someone to replace the irreplaceable Joe Harris. In stepped Justin Anderson. Coming off a summer spent improving his three point shot, Anderson took 2014-2015 by storm averaging 13.9 points per game and 50% from three point range through 21 games before an injury all but ended his season (he would play four more game, but outside of the NCAA Tournament opener against Belmont, wasn’t himself). It didn’t come as a huge surprise as the season before he was named ACC Sixth Man of the Year, and an uptick in opportunity would signal a potential outbreak.
Fast forward to this season and the Virginia Cavaliers are looking for somebody to replace the irreplaceable Malcolm Brogdon. Why not look to a player who, with an uptick in opportunity could be primed to break out? I think Shayok can be that player, and his favorable comparison to Anderson after two years is the reason why.
Anderson came to a Virginia team that needed ACC caliber players and played right away averaging 24 minutes per game his first year and 21 minutes per game his second year. In these 20+ minutes he averaged 7.7 points per game and shot 30% from three. Shayok came into a little different scenario, not being leaned on right away for contributions and his minutes and (as a by-product) his scoring showed. In his first two years Shayok only saw the court for about 15 minutes per game and he averaged only four points per game in those minutes. However, in games when Shayok was given the opportunity to play 20+ minutes, that average almost doubled to 7.5 points per game.
Furthermore, advanced stats suggest that the two players are much more comparable, and Shayok may even have a slight edge. In his first two years, Anderson had offensive ratings of 106.3 and 100.9 in his first and second years respectively. Shayok, meanwhile came in at 102.6 and 104. But where Shayok may have the edge is in effective field goal percentage (due likely to his superior three point percentage early in his career). Shayok comes in at shooting 48.7 and 56.4, while Anderson only shot 46.7 and 47.0 effectively from the field.
Finally, I’ll add a little anecdotal comparison. Through his first two years, Anderson showed he was never afraid to take a shot. When some Virginia players (such as London Perrantes early in his career) would defer to others, Anderson would launch a shot, even if ill-advised. It’s a practice that has led me to call him a “no, no, yes” player as when the ball is in air, as a fan you’re cursing the poor shot selection, but are joyous as the ball finds the bottom of the net. Over the last two years, Shayok has taken the torch as the Hoos’ next “no, no, yes” player. Whether it was one of the three pointers that spurred Virginia’s miraculous comeback against Wake Forest last year, or his nine point outburst in a five and a half minute span against Butler, his best play seemed to come at times when it was least expected. Just like Anderson who ascended to a “yes, yes, yes” player in his junior campaign, I look for Shayok to make a similar jump.
While I don’t think Shayok will eschew his senior season as a first round draft pick in next summer’s NBA Draft (I don’t think he has the raw talent NBA scouts salivate over), I do think it is more than reasonable for him to ascend to the team’s leading scorer and into the argument around who is its best player.
The Hoos are back in action tonight at JPJ for their home opener against St. Francis (Brooklyn) at 7pm on ACC Network Extra.