Ty Jerome talks. A lot. Constantly. It's been noted about him since he started at UVA. As a freshman he was always talking on defense, on offense; in practice, in games. You see him after plays, grabbing a guy or pointing and telling him something. In huddles, he talks. At the Chris Paul Camp this summer, one of the things a scout mentioned was that he was always talking, pointing out defensive assignments or offensive mismatches to his teammates. It's not about talking trash - he might do that, too, for all we know - but about communicating with his teammates. It makes a team better, and it's a skill, a talent that has an under-appreciated impact on a team's quality of play. It's a hidden force multiplier, hidden because a viewer has no idea it goes on. It's a force multiplier because a team that talks a lot is always going to be better than a team that doesn't talk. Ty Jerome reminds me of Larry Bird in how he makes his team better by talking.
It's not the first time I've mentioned Bird in the context of Jerome, because I early on noticed another parallel between the two players: while they don't jump (Bird was 6-9 and rarely if ever dunked and Ty at 6-5 had a breakaway and didn't dunk) and won't be blazing past guys downcourt, both have another underrated athletic talent: incredibly nimble hands. Both have the hands of a master pickpocket or illusionist. With their hands, as well as their brains and mouths, they can dominate over guys who can outjump or outrun them. (Parenthetically, this talk of Bird is further relevant because he is -curiously - the latest Hoo Carson McCorkle's favorite player)
This team is Ty Jerome's. He will be the general. He will be both quarterback and middle linebacker, the guy calling out the signals for both units. Jack Salt is the senior captain. Jerome might or might not be named a captain. Kyle Guy will lead in his own way and might or might not be a captain. But Ty Jerome will be the one telling people where to go and setting the example for how Hoos work on their game. He will probably be the one who, as a younger Guy said of Devon Hall, "You don't want to get him mad." He might toss a ball at your head (and no, I don't think he will live that one down any time soon). In his junior year, it will be his team. It also might be his last year. His play in the ACC in 2017-18, and his performance at the Chris Paul Camp, made him a big blinking bleeping blip on the NBA radar.
The 2017-18 season was one of tremendous growth for Ty Jerome. It seemed to follow a similar trajectory as his first season: shaky start that left fans doubting him, followed by much stronger ACC season with at least one signature Moment, then a somewhat disappointing post-season performance. It was all on a much higher plane, however, as Ty was a very good sophomore making his adjustment from a supporting role to the driver's seat and ended up as one of the best players in the ACC. He probably was deserving of higher than third-team All-ACC - a great honor in its own right. In the ACC Tournament he did not shoot the outside ball well, but his floor game was sublime, as he finished the tournament with 20 assists, a 2:1 steals:turnovers ratio (6:3), and 14 rebounds. In the NCAA Tournament disaster, Ty went down with the ship, baling to the end. He then won the press conference, and it is worthy of reliving:
He then proceeded to win the offseason with his trademark constant training and summer camp success. Now, as practice for the new season gets underway, he gets ready to step into a leadership role as one of the most senior Cavaliers.
What He Brings
When you think of Ty Jerome, you think of the HowitzerTM shots late in the clock that ignite the JPJ crowd or drop cheerleader mouths, and the passes whipped to Mamadi Diakite on the baseline, and the drives into the paint for that awkward looking runner that always drops through. You might even think of his defense and the defensive rebounds he grabs as part of UVA's team rebounding ethos. What I didn't think about enough until hunting for clips to put in Resilience was how often he dives to the floor, climbs over people, and jumps out of bounds to win the ball. Isaiah Wilkins became famous for it, The Zay, but watching Jerome closely you realize he is Mini-Zay. Ty Jerome embodies "Whatever It Takes."
Winning loose balls is just an almost unnoticed contribution Jerome makes, but the noticed ones are substantial. He's outstanding with the ball in his hands. He did not convert his own shot at a high rate on pick-and-roll plays (0.714 PPP for an Average rating on Synergy Sports), but his pick-and-roll passing was excellent: to spot-up shooters for 1.233 PPP for a 91% Excellent rating, and 1.857 PPP to cutters (not enough possessions to get a rating). Only on passing to the roll man did he not have a high PPP rating (0.684 for 12% and a Poor grade). Jerome truly excelled in isolation plays, and in transition. His 1.114 PPP in the overall isolation category was good for the 92% "Excellent" rating from Synergy. On "Isolation-derived" offense - including his own shots and passes - his rating was even better: 1.167 PPP for 94%. He scored at a 1.286 PPP rate in transition, placing him in the 86% group for another "Excellent" rating. For a guy who is not considered all that athletic, Ty is one of the best in the game at one-on-one matchups.
Even on the other side of the ball, Jerome's rating in Isolation defense was "Good" in the 62% range, giving up just 0.71 PPP. That means he was winning the individual battles by 50% at 1.114 PPP to 0.71. He also was "Very Good" at pick-and-roll ball-handler defense, giving up only 0.607 PPP. He did better when his man went to the basket than defending pull-up jumpers.
Teams tried posting him up seven times last season, and they got exactly nothing out of it.
While Jerome was one of the better scorers in the nation with the ball in his hands, he still scored well, but not at the same level, off the ball. On both spot-up and off-screen shots, Jerome graded out at just above 50%, in the "Good" range, with just under 1 PPP. He was able to hit 43.8% of his shots off screens for an "adjusted Field Goal percentage" of 51.4%. He hit 34.7% of his spot-up shots for an aFG% of 48.5%.
Jerome averaged 12.4 ppg in ACC play last season on 41.1% 3FG% shooting with a 21.9% usage rate. His offensive efficiency rating in ACC play was 115.8, which is very strong. Almost across the board, his numbers improved in ACC play. In addition to being a dependable scorer from the point guard position, Ty was a timely producer. He took 44 of his 153 3FGA in the last ten seconds of the shot clock (ACC-only breakdown unfortunately not available), and hit above his season rate. For the season, he was a 37.9% three-point shooter, and he converted on 39.6% in the last ten seconds of the shot clock. This stat just confirms what we all remember seeing...
But Ty brings not just the ability to buoy his team's scoring when needed and to break down opposing defenses (without getting to the rim); he also brings an excellent ball control game. His Steals:Turnovers ratio was an even 1:1 at 1.6 per game on the season and 1.8 in ACC play (2:1 in the ACCT). He added 4.4 assists per game in ACC play, capped by that 20 assists in three games ACC Tournament performance. On top of all that, Ty contributed more than his share to the team's control of the defensive boards with 3.2 defensive rebounds per game in the ACC (11.9% DR%, third among perimeter players behind Devon Hall and Dre Hunter) from the point guard position. One would be hard-pressed to find a sophomore point guard in UVA history with better overall numbers.
Those are the numbers, and the video. Ty brings a lot more. As discussed above, he is the floor general, the heir-apparent to Isaiah Wilkins' ball-winning leadership and a catalyst who makes the engine run. In watching film and going over statistics to prepare for these player reports, I became convinced that this season is going to be all about Ty Jerome.
What I Would Like To See More
Last year in this space I said I wanted to see more production in the post-season, more high ball screen action, and more consistency. "Translate his production from 14 minutes per game to 28 and develop a little more consistency by cutting out the zero games." For the most part, he did that, especially in ACC play. He also did increase his production in tournament play, especially rebounds, steals and assists. This year I would like to see his post-season shooting be at the same level as regular season.
This year, what I want to see more is not much different. First up is more consistency, especially in the non-conference season. Last year, Ty was a sophomore adjusting to a greatly expanded role. He had some rough moments. This year, he is a returning veteran. I want to see him come out of the gate in November at a high level. No dumb turnovers, no bad shooting nights; just consistent high-level play. I also want to see more efficiency in the post-season, and more exploitation of mismatches - something that might have prolonged the season last year. Given his 92% ranking in isolation play, Ty should be able to deliver here. I would say "more free throws" but I'm not sure that is realistic to ask.
What I Would Like To See Less
Last off-season I was asking Ty to cut down on the silly fouls and reckless turnovers. His turnover rate and fouls/40 were high and his ability to be a major force depended on bringing both of those numbers down. He did an extremely good job on both fronts, but there is more room for improvement. He cut his turnover rate in ACC play from 21 to 14%, and his fouls/40 from 4.9 to 2.8. What he needs to do now is make that foul rate consistent. He still had some high-foul games, and with needing him on the floor 35+ minutes per game, we cannot afford the 2nd first half foul or the early second half third foul. One area to watch for is the turnover-foul, where he loses the ball near the midcourt and then fouls to stop a break. Those are the turnovers we don't want to see any more.
On nine occasions last season, Jerome played more than 35 minutes - and that was with experienced depth in the backcourt. With a true freshman as the only other pure point guard on the roster? Coach Bennett is going to find it very difficult to force himself to get Ty off the court. Most coaches hold their point guards like security blankets, and Bennett might be more attached to his than most. Don't expect Ty to complain - expect him to train. Do not be surprised to look at the box score after an ACC or tournament game and see "40" in the minutes column for Ty. If he plays less than 35 minutes in any "Quadrant A" game this season, it will mean either that game was decided minutes before the end, or Jerome got into foul trouble. He's going to run the show, probably on defense as well as on offense.
From freshman to sophomore year, Ty Jerome improved his game in almost every dimension. His two-point shooting percentage fell, but that 60% was unsustainable with higher usage over more minutes. His 48.9% 2FG% in ACC play was more than solid. His overall 3FG% of 37.9% was a bit of a drop from the year before, but that included early and late season shooting struggles. In ACC play, he hit 41.1% of his threes. Look for him to be at or above that number for the season this year.
When an interviewer suggested that Ty might not have another jump in his game, Coach Williford disagreed. So do I. There is precedent for Bennett's perimeter players making a jump from even a very good sophomore performance. Joe Harris, Justin Anderson and London Perrantes had their best seasons as juniors. Malcom Brogdon and Devon Hall improved every year. We've seen some of the places Ty has room for growth. With Ty's work ethic and what we've seen from Bennett's past stars, expect to see him make that growth in what could very well be his last season at UVA. That, my Friends, is a very bad thing for the rest of the NCAA.
The Growth of Legends
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