Even before getting an opportunity to see Kyle Guy take the court for Virginia’s annual Blue-White scrimmage a couple weeks ago, there were noticeable differences in the Cavaliers sophomore guard.
The man-bun is gone, leaving the impression of a player ready to let his game make statements for him. And though he’s still listed at a slim 6-2, 175 pounds, there’s now some muscle definition in his arms, thanks to a vigorous offseason workout schedule.
So is this the season Guy makes the jump? As a rare McDonald’s All-American at UVA, Guy came in facing greater expectations than most Cavaliers freshmen, and his first year under Tony Bennett was solid. He averaged 7.5 points per game and at times was the Wahoos best scorer. At other points he struggled.
With his inexperience and thin frame, there appeared to be times in the second half of the season Guy was simply worn down and some of his worst offensive struggles came on short rest, such as the second game of the ACC Tournament, and the back end of stretches in which Virginia played two games in three days.
“I’ve put on 10 pounds since last season,” Guy said. “So I think that’s a help. I feel a little quicker, a little stronger, more athletic. All of that. I don’t think the Saturday-Monday thing really had much to do with it. Sometimes it just wasn’t my night. I don’t really believe in slumps or anything like that.”
Bennett has traditionally been more likely than many of his peers to ease his freshmen, even a top-30 recruit such as Guy, into the college game. But in what could be a transitional season for the Cavaliers, Virginia could certainly use an All-ACC type year from the Indianapolis product.
That will mean expanding his game. Last season, Guy excelled as a catch-and-release jump shooter. He knocked down 49.5 percent of his three-point attempts and had one of the quickest releases around. But he spent the offseason working on expanding his game.
During Virginia’s open scrimmage, Guy spent more time handling the ball and used some improving skills in that area to get into the lane and create more shots off the dribble. That’s likely something the Cavs will need to see a lot of without London Perrantes around to run the offense and set his teammates up for good looks.
When The President is a Precedent
Several players have made a big jump from their first to second years under Bennett. Malcolm Brogdon saw his scoring average increase from 6.7 points per game to 12.7 and during his Washington State days, Klay Thompson went from 12.5 points per game as a freshman to 19.6 as a sophomore.
There’s certainly talent on the Virginia roster and players such as DeAndre Hunter and Nigel Johnson will likely have some big nights over the course of the season. But going back through Bennett’s time at Virginia he’s almost always entered the year with a preseason All-ACC pick and clear-cut go-to guy. Mike Scott, Joe Harris, Brogdon and Perrantes all fit that bill.
Guy seems like the most likely candidate to emerge in that role for the 2017-18 Cavaliers, but he’s still got plenty to prove.