We all know who needs to get more playing time for #14 UVA. Kid named Kyle Guy. Has a man bun.
Guy, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball, and a McDonald’s All-American, is a tantalizing prospect as a freshman. You don’t get to be a Mr. Basketball in Indiana and a McDonald’s All-American without being able to put the ball in the basket, and what we’ve seen from young Mr. Guy seems to indicate that he has no problem with that part of the game.
Guy, a wisp of a fellow at 6’3”, 165, is shooting 55.6 percent from the floor (25-of-45) and 61.9 percent from three-point range (13-of-21) through eight games of his inaugural season at Virginia.
That, and an 8:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, tells you Guy can work magic on the offensive end.
The question about Guy, about any freshman in Tony Bennett’s program, has to do with the defensive end.
Even Anthony Gill, who went on to be the linchpin of UVA teams that earned two #1 national seeds, won two ACC regular-season titles and played in a Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, couldn’t get on the floor as a sophomore until he figured out what his role was in the Pack-Line.
So when you learn that guy is putting up his gawdy offensive numbers in just 16.0 minutes per game, well, just know it’s because Guy still has some work to do on the defensive side of the floor to earn more minutes.
“I always look and I say, Could I have played guys more or less? In the West Virginia game, it’s not just about scoring, it’s about so many other things in games like that, taking care of the ball, defending, and those were the things that I looked at from the West Virginia game,” said Bennett, willingly opening up a sore spot from the weekend, the 66-57 loss to WVU that had the message boards fired up over Guy’s limited minutes.
As the Cavs flailed away on offense against Press Virginia’s stifling D, Guy got just nine minutes, scoring seven points on 3-of-4 shooting from the floor.
East Carolina, Virginia’s opponent Tuesday night, is no West Virginia. The Pirates play zone, which almost requires Bennett to give a guy with Guy’s range extra minutes.
Guy ended up getting 21 minutes off the bench in the 76-53 UVA win, scoring a team-high 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, and 3-of-5 from three-point range, to go with four assists and no turnovers.
“He got it going early,” Bennett said, noting Guy’s first-half production, scoring nine on 3-of-4 shooting in 12 minutes.
“He deserved more minutes, and he got them,” Bennett said.
As Guy earns more minutes, and gets them, he takes Virginia to a different level offensively. His range stretches defenders out to the three-point line, opening up the mid-range and post, and his ability to drive to the basket can lead to rewards for backside cutters left open when help has to come his way to cut him off at the rim.
A key for Guy will be just getting stronger. He acknowledges as much.
“There’s a little bit of a gap” that he’s trying to bridge in the weight room with strength coach Mike Curtis, Guy said.
Like anybody, he wants to be on the floor more, but he’s biding his time, trying to get better every day.
“I talked to Coach [Ron] Sanchez and Coach [Jason] Williford to the side and just asked, What can I do? I really think I can help this team,” Guy said. “I’m not complaining about my minutes. I’m fine with not playing at all. I just want my team to win. I know my minutes are going to fluctuate throughout the year. Some games I’ll be able to put up numbers and help this team, and other games I can help this team by cheering.”
He can look for inspiration there at three UVA alums now getting paychecks in the NBA who had to earn their minutes on the floor early on under Bennett.
Malcolm Brogdon, a rookie with the Milwaukee Bucks, averaged 6.7 points in 22.4 minutes per game as a Virginia freshman in 2011-2012.
Justin Anderson, a second-year NBA pro with the Dallas Mavericks, only got 21.6 minutes per game as a sophomore in 2013-2014, averaging 7.8 points per game, after scoring 7.6 a game in 24.0 minutes per game as a freshman in 2012-2014.
Third-year NBA veteran Joe Harris, now with the Brooklyn Nets, scored 10.4 points per game in 29.4 minutes per game as a freshman in 2010-2011, and actually saw his minutes decrease by his senior season, to 28.8 minutes per game, in 2013-2014.
You earn your time on the floor under Tony Bennett, is the message.
Guy seems to have clearly gotten that message.
“There are no nights off, that’s for sure,” Guy said. “Coach preaches quality basketball every single day, especially the past month or so. So I have just been trying to take care of the ball, know my role, and just do whatever I can to help the team.”
Story by Chris Graham