We are five short days away from the Virginia Basketball season kicking off with a visit from the Towson Tigers on November 6. The number five has some significance this season as the Hoos are preseason No. 5 in the AP Poll, and third year Kyle Guy—who wears No. 5—will be a huge piece to the Cavaliers having a successful season.
After Virginia lost to UMBC in the NCAA tournament, Guy shared his experience in a gut-wrenching Facebook post that detailed the fallout from the loss—which included death threats—and his desire to put it all behind him and move on.
“I am now striving to be a person that wakes up and gets out of bed and makes the devil go ‘oh shit he’s up’,” Guy said in the post.
Now, it’s time to start the season and Guy is ready to go. “I think we’re going to be a very tenacious group this year, and I think that the open dialogue that we’ve had as a team and coaching staff, that Coach Bennett has not made us do but allowed us to do, has made us a closer group and just better overall because we know we can trust each other,” he said. “We know we’ve been vulnerable and now we can really move past and get to March again which is the ultimate goal and just play our best and leave everything on the floor. I think that’s all we can do.”
Last season, Guy led the Cavaliers in scoring with 14.1 points per game. He shot 39% from beyond the arc, making 83-of-212. His 35 steals were third on the team in raw numbers, with Guy having a 2.1% steal percentage. Guy’s defense has improved tremendously over his first two seasons, and his 1.5 fouls committed per 40 minutes stat was good for 26th best according to KenPom.
Additionally, he’s assumed more of a leadership role on the team. Where Ty Jerome has picked up the traditional leadership role from Devon Hall’s departure, Guy is more of an Isaiah Wilkins like player who plays with his heart on his sleeve. “Oh yeah, 100%,” Guy said when asked if he plays the good cop to Ty’s bad. “He’s [Ty] more vocal, and I can be vocal, but I also like more so talking to people one-on-one and making sure they hear me and understand and know that I’m not doing this for my health, that I’m doing it because I want the team to be as good as possible.”
Guy became the face of the program last season, earning a spot on the All-ACC First Team and being named a Third Team All-American by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the Associated Press. He’s one of 20 players named to the 2019 Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award, and ESPN named him a preseason third teamer All-American for this upcoming season. Expectations are high, but Guy is ready.
Guy does a lot of things well, specifically on the offense. He’s one of the more creative players Virginia has, and uses screens better than just about anyone in the country. According to a piece from Brian Geisinger on ACC Sports from January, no one uses more screens than UVA, and Guy is the best at doing it:
“Guy accounts for nearly 43 percent of Virginia’s screen possessions. He has scored 100 points (60.7 effective field goal rate) on 89 screen possessions this season — both of which are tops in the ACC by a mile. North Carolina’s Kenny Williams in No. 2 with 40 screen possessions; Guy’s teammate Devon Hall is second with 52 screen points, according to Synergy.”
Setting and using screens is a bit of an art form; you have to be able to read the defense and get yourself open for the best shot. Guy’s ability to shoot quickly with a minimal amount of space makes him good at this, as does his ability to make them go in.
Count on more of this action this season, but Guy has also worked hard to diversify his shooting portfolio. “I’m a big proponent on expanding my game in all areas,” Guy said. “I’m known for my, you know, jump shot, and I still try to make that as consistent as possible and Coach stays on me about that. Just trying to stay aggressive and make sure that I’m working on all areas, whether it’s creating off the dribble for somebody else or for myself, defensively, anything. Just always trying to hold myself accountable and get a little bit better each day.”
With Jerome, De’Andre Hunter, Braxton Key, and Mamadi Diakite (to name a few) flanking him, the offensive wealth is more spread out. Ideally, this leads to more opportunities for Guy.
At 6-2, 175, Guy is one of the smaller guys on the team. While he does an excellent job taking it to the rim more and creating a shot for himself in the lane, he struggles to finish through contact and doesn’t get to the line as often as he should. Part of that seems to be refusal by every referee to call contact on Guy, but part is not selling it enough. I don’t mean sell à la a Grayson Allen sniper head flop, but at times Guy tried so hard to avoid the contact to make the shot that refs just won’t call it.
When he got to the line, he was very good, converting 42 of 51 attempts for an 82.4% mark.
Best 2017-18 Game
Kyle Guy was one of the most consistent players for the Hoos last year, but against VCU he shone with a career-high 29-point outburst on 11-for-20 shooting (5-for-9 from three) to go with four steals. Virginia led by as many as 12 in the first half, but the Rams closed to within two points with just over eight minutes to play in the game. Guy had eight points in the last 2:47 of the game to help turn a 66-62 lead into a 76-67 final score and a win in Richmond. He scored in a variety of ways, showcasing his diversity on offense.
Best 2017-18 Play
This is going to a couple plays in back-to-back games in the ACC Tournament (where Kyle was outstanding, earning tournament MVP for his 16.7 points per game). Against Louisville in Virginia’s first game, Kyle appeared to have dunked the ball on a fast break after the Hoos broke the Cards’ press (2:39 mark):
His teammates said that the play wasn’t a dunk, so when Guy had a chance against Clemson to show his chops, he wasn’t leaving any doubt (:51 in the clip):
He did participate in the McDonald’s All-American dunk contest, so there’s no question he can throw down, but that (those, depending on your take) was the first dunk for Guy at Virginia.
2017-18 PPG: 14.1
2017-18 RPG: 2.6