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UVA Basketball: The All-American cases for Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter

uva basketballHalfway through its ACC schedule, No. 3 Virginia (20-1, 8-1) sits near the top of both conference and national standings. The Cavaliers once again boast one of the nation’s top defensive teams and, this year, pair one of Tony Bennett’s best offenses alongside it.

Though the Cavaliers’ strength comes in the form of an outstanding all-around team, they do feature three outstanding players who could warrant All-American consideration: Kyle Guy (a third-team All-American selection last year), Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter.

On Monday, Jerome was named one of 10 finalists for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award. On Tuesday, Guy was named one of 10 finalists for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award, and Guy and Hunter were named to the Wooden Late Season Top 20 Watch List. On Wednesday, Hunter was named one of 10 finalists for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award.

With individual award lists narrowing down, it’s worth assessing those three players’ chances at being named an All-American.

Having an All-American is no small deal, especially for a program like Virginia. If any Cavalier were to be selected in 2019, it would mark the fifth such selection in five years, following Malcolm Brogdon and Justin Anderson in 2015, Brogdon in 2016 and Guy in 2018.

Having that many All-Americans in such a short timespan has only happened once in program history: back in the early 1980s, when Ralph Sampson and Jeff Lamp combined for six selections in four years.

Here’s how each of the Cavaliers’ three best players stack up as the team hits the last portion of the regular season.

Kyle Guy

Named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press, National Association of Basketball Coaches and Sporting News last year, Guy has only been better this year across the board.

’17-’18 14.1 41.5 39.2 82.4 2.6 1.5
’18-’19 14.5 45.3 43.8 85.4 4.5 2.1

It would seemingly make sense, then, for Guy to be a selection once again. Virginia is still one of the best teams in the nation, Guy is still generally looked to as the face of the team, and he’s been even better this year.

When Guy has gotten going, he’s been nearly impossible to stop. He’s drilled at least three three-pointers in more than half of UVA’s games, and he’s made five on three separate occasions: key non-conference wins against South Carolina and Maryland and the ACC opener against Florida St. But Guy is more than just a long distance shooter: His 47.4 two-point field goal percentage is by far the best of his career and is higher than Jerome’s as well. Based on his shooting numbers, Guy is deserving of a second straight All-American selection.

There are a couple of reasons why Guy might miss out. The first is the improvement of the players around him. Both Jerome and Hunter, one could argue, have become more vital cogs to the Virginia attack, and both have posted better assist numbers than Guy this season. Unlike last season, Guy can’t claim the “top scorer on a top team” title, which — though an imperfect measurement — is certainly worth something in the eyes of voters. That title belongs to Hunter right now.

Really, though, what may determine Guy’s status as an All-American is whether he gets out of his mini shooting slump. He’s made just seven of 26 shots over the past two games, and the week-long break between games seems to be coming at an ideal time for him. If Guy gets back on track and puts up strong efforts in big games — starting with Virginia’s rematch with Duke on Saturday — he’ll certainly play his way into consideration.

Ty Jerome

One only needs to look at the past two games to determine Jerome’s worth to this team. The last two games are the only two ACC contests in which Virginia’s offensive efficiency wasn’t over 100. The Cavaliers’ last two games have produced their two highest-turnover games of the season.

Only five players in the nation have an assist percentage above 30 and a turnover percentage below 13 and only two — St. John’s Shamorie Ponds and Jerome — play on a NCAA Tournament-caliber team. Jerome has just 33 turnovers in 634 minutes played, a remarkable number considering how often he has the ball. Ponds, also a possible All-American, has turned it over 50 times in 763 minutes played. Jerome is very much up there with the best point guards in the nation when it comes to efficiency, which is key in Virginia’s low-possession system.

Despite those numbers, it is hard to measure just how good Jerome is. A stat can’t measure an offensive set run to perfection or the leadership qualities Jerome brings to the table. If Virginia needs a big shot, Jerome is often the guy taking and making it.

Jerome’s candidacy for an All-American team hinges on his ability to get healthy. If he can, he’ll have plenty of opportunities on big stages — starting with matchups against Duke and UNC — to show voters just how good he is. If he can help lift his Cavaliers over the Blue Devils in Charlottesville and the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill with big games, it will be very difficult to argue against his inclusion.

De’Andre Hunter

Hunter is Virginia’s best chance to be represented on an All-American team team this year. The sophomore forward is one of just nine players in the nation shooting at least 55 percent on two-point shots, at least 42 percent on three-point shots, at least 77 percent on free throws and averaging 5 rebounds per game. Only four of those players — Cameron Johnson (UNC), Hunter, Steven Enoch (Louisville) and Dean Wade (Kansas State) — play in major conferences.

Hunter is Virginia’s best individual player on the offensive end, and his stats in big games prove it. Against A-level competition (teams inside the top 50 in KenPom rankings), Hunter is averaging 17.1 points per game, which includes two 20-point efforts. Last year, Hunter registered an offensive rating of at least 100 in 13 of 18 ACC games, a really good number for a player who wasn’t even starting. This year, he has been in triple digits of eight of Virginia’s nine ACC games.

In the span of roughly a season-and-a-half, Hunter has gone from seldom-used wing to sixth-man extraordinaire to star. He’s the best offensive weapon on one of the nation’s most efficient offensive teams, and he’s been terrific on the defensive end as well. Hunter is a strong few months away from being the 11th All-American in program history.

augusta free press
augusta free press