With five minutes left in the epic invasion of Mordor, De'Andre Hunter came down on the ankle of a balrog and rolled it. The injury ruled Hunter out of the next game, a Wednesday night home game with Louisville, creating a void in the rotation. True freshman Marco Anthony was tabbed to step in. Marco made the most of the opportunity, stepping in and throwing himself into the action with the same lack of fear he showed in the Blue-White Scrimmage the preceding October.
He provided a spark that helped the Hoos grind out a comfortable win over the Cardinals.
Will Marco have a similar opportunity this season, and will he be able to run with it the same way?
What He Brings
Marco is almost as difficult to scout as are the freshmen because he received such a small amount of real playing time. He did, however, demonstrate a few things. For one, he plays with a fearless attitude. He did not care that he was a lowly true freshman playing his first meaningful minutes against an imposing front line - he took the ball into the lane and directly to the chest of a 7-foot shotblocker. He took contested jumpers late in the shot clock. He jacked three treys and nailed two of them. He didn't back away from the moment or the opponent. He showed that he could get and hit shots. In that one bit of real action, Marco scored 10 points in 18 minutes on six shots. In his other appearances, Marco was less efficient.
In high school, Marco was a monster scorer, a guy who would put in 30 on any given night, and on the EYBL circuit he was a solid producer. The Louisville game confirms that there is potential to be a guy who can get buckets because of his fearless approach and legendary work ethic. He has the frame to be a rugged, physical wing in the Justin Anderson mold. He did drop 16 pounds from last season - a great move that should allow him to be a bit quicker and more explosive - but is still a solid 212 pounds at 6-4. He's willing to mix it up and get after people on defense.
What I Would Like To See More
Games like Louisville. Even if there are no injuries, the Hoos need minutes from their bench. A guard stepping up would free up Hunter to play the big forward position where he ate people alive last season. If Marco can come in and give 13-18 productive minutes per game, that will go a long way toward plugging the depth gap. Since injuries are always likely in basketball, the need is even greater.
Outside shooting. Marco did hit the two threes against Louisville and 38.5% of his treys overall, but his stroke is funky and has not yet demonstrated that his outside shot is consistent. If he's going to be able to spell Guy and Jerome, and free Hunter up to play big, he's going to need to be a three-point shooting threat defenses will need to honor.
What I Would Like To See Less
Flailing on defense and getting beat. Marco worked hard but struggled defensively. He had a hard time keeping people in front of him, and was often out of position away from the ball. Not surprising for a true first year. How quickly will he improve? How much can he improve based on his athleticism? Lateral quickness is an issue - more of one that if he had turned out to be the 6-6 he was listed as being before he was measured at UVA.
Empty possessions. Take away the 4-6 with 2-3 from three in the Louisville game and Marco was 6-22 in his other games, 3-10 from the arc and 1-3 from the free throw line. Garbage time, yes, so we are not reading too much into it, but those were his stats and we have to see if he can do better. Is he one of those players who does better when he plays with the first team? If he can improve his two-point shooting and hit open threes at his freshman rate in more minutes, he can be a contributor.
"Marco [is] going to have to step up," Associate Head Coach Jason Williford said in an interview this summer. Marco and a pair of true freshmen are the perimeter depth for the Hoos. That means Marco is probably going to get real playing time. If Braxton Key can play, Marco will likely only see spot minutes absent injury. If not? The starters can't play all game every game. Marco's going to have to step up.
One promising performance in relief and a heroic high school pedigree give hope that Anthony can be a player at UVA, but he's still just a sophomore, and there are serious concerns about his lateral quickness and mechanics. If he can provide a few Hippocratic minutes a game, he will fulfill an important if unsung role for the team. For a lightly-used rising sophomore from a lower level high school division, that's quite an accomplishment.