Shayok, Reuter leave UVA basketball: What it means

uva basketballMarial Shayok and Jarred Reuter are leaving the UVA basketball program. The Reuter news was perhaps expected, given his limited playing time.

The Shayok news is a bit of a shock, for lots of reasons.

The question in WahooWorld: what does it all mean?

First, to the easy one, Reuter. Listed at 6’7”, 243, Reuter, a sophomore, averaged 10.8 minutes a game this year, but only got double-digit minutes once in Virginia’s last 12 games.

This is significant because the Cavs had a big hole in the post in their last seven with the lingering illness that limited the availability of defensive post stopper Isaiah Wilkins.

Not getting off the bench when UVA needed something from the post was the writing on the wall for Reuter, a talented back-to-the-basket post scorer (58 percent shooting from the field) who is just undersized relative to his skill set in terms of competing in the ACC.

It’s not hard to imagine Reuter transferring down to a mid-major conference and putting up double-digit points. There’s a lot to like about Reuter’s game: his ability to finish with both hands around the rim, his mid-range jumper, his free-throw shooting (76 percent this past season).

The decision to transfer makes a lot of sense for Reuter, who was fourth in coach Tony Bennett’s four-man post rotation this season, behind Wilkins, Jack Salt and Mamadi Diakite, and presumably would have to contend with redshirt freshman Jay Huff next season for minutes as well.

It also makes sense for Reuter to transfer out now, as a sophomore. He sits out next year, then has two years at his new school to make a difference.

The transfer of Shayok, a junior, makes less sense, from the perspective of the student-athlete, anyway.

Caveat: I’m not certain of Shayok’s progress toward receiving his undergraduate degree. A junior in eligibility, if Shayok is on pace to graduate in May, or the summer, then he could transfer as a grad student and play somewhere immediately next season.

Otherwise, he goes somewhere, sits a year, then has one season afterward to finish out his eligibility.

And either way, he doesn’t have a lot of time to earn minutes and further whatever professional aspirations he may have for down the road.

And he wouldn’t be crazy to have professional aspirations. An athletic 6’5” wing, Shayok has NBA talent on both ends of the floor. On offense, Shayok can score on dribble drives and mid-range jumpers, and is good enough from three-point range (32.8 percent) to keep defenders honest.

On defense, Shayok was the third-best player in the ACC in terms of defensive rating this past season (92.2, according to Sports-Reference.com), and was the league’s best perimeter defender.

Shayok’s issue was consistency, or lack thereof. On the one hand, you have him scoring in double-digits 15 times this season, including a career-high 23 in Virginia’s first-round NCAA Tournament win over UNC-Wilmington.

On the other hand, you have the three goose eggs (at Cal, at N.C. State, at home against UNC), and the uncomfortable five-game stretch that had him logging 54 minutes total when arguably his team needed him most (as Wilkins was dealing with his illness).

Shayok might have the highest ceiling of any of the members of the 2016-2017 UVA roster, but you had to wonder from night to night if you’d get the good Shayok or the one who would score two points in 24 minutes at Syracuse or one in 18 minutes against Providence, in addition to the goose eggs and the other eggs that he had a tendency to lay in big games.

So, shock to the system, but you have to ask the question if Shayok, and for that matter, Reuter, made these decisions to leave entirely on their own.

I am not claiming to be privy to anything resembling inside information on this, so keep that in mind. That said, it’s not hard for me to imagine Bennett having already made the decision in his head at some point in the past few weeks to tell Shayok and Reuter that their minutes would likely be limited next season.

For Reuter, it’s the addition of Huff after a redshirt year. For Shayok, it’s the emergence down the stretch of freshmen Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome, who would seem likely to start next season, alongside rising senior Devon Hall, with rising senior Darius Thompson the first perimeter player off the bench, and redshirt freshman DeAndre Hunter ready to take some minutes.

We shouldn’t even address here the prospect that the nation’s top high-school recruit, Michael Porter Jr., who committed to Washington but has asked out of his scholarship from UW with the firing of the coach who recruited him, Lorenzo Romar, and who lists Virginia among his finalists, might be a part of the equation.

(Though I just did. Bad me! Because … it ain’t gonna happen. Even if Porter calls Guy one of his best friends, and just today told USA Today that “back when they were recruiting me they always talked about needing a scorer. If I go there, I can step into that role.” OK, so it might happen. But it ain’t gonna happen.)

Bennett still returns seven guys who averaged double-digit minutes, has two four-star recruits who redshirted this past season ready to compete for playing time, and now has three scholarships (those of Shayok and Reuter, plus Austin Nichols) to use as he sees fit.

What we saw happen today is a shock to the system, but in the end, it makes sense, when you look at the big picture.

Column by Chris Graham


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