Kyle Guy bounced back.  Repeatedly.  In so doing, he earned impressive accolades as a sophomore.  He was named the ACC Tournament MVP for his two dunks.  First-team All-ACC.  Third-team All-American.  Yes, Tony Bennett's first McDonald's All-American became an NCAA All-American in his second year of college basketball.  He did it by bouncing back.

Guy had a horrendous post-season in his freshman year.  In four games, he scored a total of 25 points - 20 of them against a historically bad Pitt team in the first round of the ACC Tournament.  He was 4-6 from three against Pitt and only made one in the last three games.  But he worked his ass off all spring, summer and fall, and came back to drop 29 on VCU as part of a strong start to the 2017-18 season. Against West Virginia, he missed 7 of his first 8 threes - then nailed 5 of 6 in the second half to erase a 9-point deficit and give his team a chance to win.  He shot poorly in ACC play (33.9% from three and 36.6% overall) with back-to-back games of 5-19 (@FSU) and 5-21 (VPI) - then bounced back to hit 53% of his threes and 49% of his shots and lead the Hoos to their second ACC Tournament championship in 5 years.

Comparing his freshman to sophomore numbers, Guy improved almost across the board.  With some glaring exceptions, he improved his out-of-conference performance, his ACC performance, his OOC-to-ACC split, and especially his post-season performance.  As a freshman, his performance fell off from a strong OOC season to the ACC.  He had difficulty overcoming the intensity of defensive attention ACC coaches paid to him.  The same thing happened during his sophomore campaign, but when you look at the OOC-ACC differential in the two seasons, the drop-off was less in almost every category.  Even when he struggled, he was improved.  On defense, he improved so much that he became an excellent defender.

The only areas where he did worse as a sophomore than a freshman were three-point shooting accuracy, free throw rate and assist percentage.  He went from 49.5% on threes as a freshman to 39.2% as a soph.  Even here, however, his OOC to ACC dropoff declined from first to second year.  His free throw rate went from a low 17.1% to a microscopic 11.9% - and only 9.4% in ACC play.  The assist percentage drop was inconsequential as he's not out there to set up the other guys and the drop coincided with an increase in usage from 22.3% to 26.1%.

What He Brings

ACC coaches will tell you what Kyle brings on the offensive end by their relentless focus on him.  Every game, he has the best defender chasing him all over the floor.  He comes off screens to find a second defender shading over to deny the passing lane.  When he cuts through the lane he has to fight off more hands than a woman at a sexual harassers convention.  Yet he still excels.  Yes, his three-point percentage dropped off and he still didn't shoot any free throws - watching him get smacked around with zero protection from ACC referees was one of the most outrageous sights of the season - but he still managed 1.078 PPP coming off screens for a Very Good (73%) rating by Synergy Sports.  His use of screens was far ahead of his freshman year and approached a Joe Harris level of mastery.  He should only get better at it, as our wings tend to become experts at the use of screens when they become upperclassmen.  Harris, Malcolm Brogdon, Devon Hall all were superb in their senior years.  Look for Guy to reach that level.

The offensive game is obvious.  Watching Guy play offense is a joy.  But he brings so much more than just a great jump shot and a grasp of using screens.  He is also a tough defender and an intense competitor. Both of those can easily be overlooked.  The two traits come together when he is attacked on an isolation play.  After a season in which he was picked on as relentlessly as the high school dork, Guy held his opponents to 0.577 PPP on isolation plays, giving up only 26.3% shooting as a sophomore.  He rose to the moment: Even though statistically he was terrible at driving the ball (0.182 PPP driving right and 0.647 PPP driving left), he converted some tough drives late in big games.  His trademark expression is a goofy smile, but he flashes fire.

What I Would Like To See More

Free throws.  Guy is a 90% free throw shooter. He should be shooting more than 1 per game.  That's partly on him and partly on the ACC referees.  I don't know why but for some reason they seem to have decided last year that it was open season on Kyle Guy.  Repeatedly he got hacked and smacked and no whistles blew. It was so bad in the ACC Tournament that on a play where you could hear the smack in the face ON TV, no whistle blew.  Still, when only 20% of your shots are at the rim, you only convert 50% of them and your PPP on isolation plays is 0.375 PPP, you're not doing much to earn respect.  After the OOC schedule last year, we all thought he had done such a good job improving his penetration game, but the ACC season put the lie to that.  He still doesn't get to the rim against good defense, and he still doesn't get to the line.

Ball screen action.  A player who can get a shot up as quickly as Guy can, and who is as deadly a shooter, should be deadly on ball screens - and Guy was.  He scored 0.93 PPP on pick-and-roll plays, enough for an Excellent rating (83%).  He should be getting those screens at the arc where he is a threat to pull up and pop a three.  It has to force a defensive overplay that will open up other opportunities.

Physical aggression going to the basket. Early in the ACC season Kyle got run down from behind and hacked to the floor on a breakaway. He did seem to learn from that experience that at this level you have to go full speed to the rack on every break. But on his dribble penetration, he like all UVA players not named De'Andre Hunter sought to slide by and avoid contact.  When the big man comes over, jump into his chest and use the off hand to put the ball up on the backboard.  Teams were pressing out on Guy and the weakside big man was cutting him off and it was very effective.  He had a hard time passing around the big and he didn't tend to challenge the big.

The same?  Kyle had a great year defensively and a very good year offensively.  His tournament performance was superb.  Even against UMBC, Guy came through.  He was 7-11 from the floor for 15 points with 4 rebounds and 2 steals.  He improved.  Let's see more of the same great play and more of the same improvement.

What I Would Like To See Less

Bad shooting games.  After a freshman campaign in which he hit at least 50% of his threes in every game of 5+ attempts, Guy suffered through shooting performances of 1-6, 1-6, 1-7, 2-9, 3-10, and 3-14.  After that 3-14 abomination against Virginia Tech, Guy did settle down last year, attempting no more than 7 threes in a game (3-7).  I want to see him shooting a lot, but not missing.

Related, I want to see fewer of those twisting-in-the-air shots and off-the-shoulder slings.  Just because you can doesn't mean you should on a regular basis.  Again, this was something that he seemed to focus on after that Tech performance.  Through the meat of the ACC schedule, Guy's form was inconstant and often sloppy.  He tightened it up later in the season, but he needs to keep it tight.

It may seem contradictory, but I want to see fewer games of under six attempts from the arc.  In 13 of the 34 games, he attempted fewer than 6 three-pointers.  It's up to the offense to figure out how to get him to that number.  If he's playing 36 minutes per game - and he will - that's only a shot every 6 minutes.

Expected Role

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Kyle Guy is going to play a big role for the Hoos this year.  I should have put that one in my "Bold Predictions" list.  Three times last season, Guy played every minute, including the overtime game against Virginia Tech.  The poor kid even endured the entire UMBC game.  The only ACC games from Duke onward in which he played fewer than 35 minutes were at Pitt - which was, you know, Pitt - and Notre Dame when he got hurt late in the first half.  For a young player of slight build, Kyle showed incredible stamina, because the minutes did not seem to faze him.  He shot just as well, and got after it on defense just as hard, in the last minutes of the game as he did earlier.  Expect much more of the same.  Tony Bennett is going to have a very difficult time forcing himself to take Kyle off the floor given the utter lack of experience on the bench.

Guy probably will often play the role of a decoy.  Bennett used Joe Harris that way at times, and Harris played it as diligently as he did hunting his own shots.  More, really.  Use the attention he gets to create openings for others. Of course, it remains to be seen how much defenses will be able to key on Guy with Hunter and Jerome also on the floor.

The other variable that will impact how focal Guy is in the offense will be one of strategy.  If Bennett continues to run primarily Sides, Guy will remain the bell cow.  He's the best at running off screens, which is the quintessential Sides play.  If Bennett incorporates more ball screen action, look for Guy and Jerome to take turns.  If he incorporates more dribble drive attack, Guy will be in the (enviable) secondary role of spotting up in the corner While Dre Hunter and Braxton Key attack the defense.

Final Analysis

"Their resilience will be tested," Bennett said of his players in the final press conference of last season, and that should make Hoo fans feel pretty good about this season.  Kyle Guy has made a habit of bouncing back.  It's why you know that no bad play, no bad game, no bad stretch of season will keep him down.

This might be Guy's last season at UVA.  If it is, it will be because he has taken the next step in his player development.  In an interview this summer, Associate Head Coach Jason Williford said he expects to see Kyle take the next step and expand his game.

An interviewer said to Coach Williford that it was "hard to imagine" Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy "taking a leap because they were so polished last season." This is how Williford responded.

There is some good precedent for Kyle, especially on his three-point shooting.  UVA guards typically improve their shooting percentages as they mature.  A sophomore dip in three-point percentage was common to both Joe Harris and London Perrantes.  Each of them came back to shoot the best percentage of his career the following year.  Guy, like Harris and Perrantes, saw his role expand from freshman to sophomore year.  Those two were able to consolidate those gains and get back to shooting a high percentage from the arc.  I expect Guy to do the same.

The Growth of Legends

 2FG%@Rim FG%3FG%PPG
 Joe HarrisMalcolm BrogdonLondon PerrantesKyle GuyTy JeromeJoe HarrisMalcolm BrogdonLondon PerrantesKyle GuyTy JeromeJoe HarrisMalcolm BrogdonLondon PerrantesKyle GuyTy JeromeJoe HarrisMalcolm BrogdonLondon PerrantesKyle GuyTy Jerome
Freshman42.0%45.1%31.9%38.2%62.2% 54.7%35.5%36.7%64.3%41.7%32.4%43.7%49.5%39.7%
Junior50.2%46.3%37.5%  52.8%59.0%49.0%  42.5%34.4%48.8%  16.31411  
Senior48.7%49.8%45.3%  56.3%60.5%56.3%  40.0%39.1%37.4%  1218.212.7  
See the patterns of retrenchment and growth played out in these several Hoo legends. Expansion in role or usage has been associated with a drop in FG% but that has bounced back the next season. Implications for Guy?

The above chart also shows that each of the other three "Bennett Age" Wahoo legends improved his at the rim field goal percentage every year - Perrantes by a shocking amount, particularly from sophomore to junior year.  That should be extremely unsettling news for Wahoo opponents.

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Kyle Guy, 2018-19 Preview
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