Inside the numbers: P.J. Byrd could inherit tough task, but major opportunity [INSIDER]
This week’s news of Marcus Evans’ injury is a brutal blow to next season’s VCU team. With the graduations of leading scorer Justin Tillman (18.9 ppg, 55.7% fg%) and starting point guard Johnny Williams (9.3 ppg, 5.7 apg), Evans was primed to fill two holes for the Rams, both as the team’s primary scorer (20.1 ppg career average) and as the expected point guard leader of the black and gold offensive attack.
Without Evans however (no word on the timetable for his return), the Rams will likely lean on some combination of incoming freshman P.J. Byrd, as well as converted point guards, De’Riante Jenkins and Malik Crowfield.
According to kenpom.com, Jenkins and Crowfield eventually earned backup duties at the position with the gradual decline of minutes from freshman backup, Tyler Maye. Over the Rams’ final five games, Williams led VCU, playing 68% of available point guard minutes, followed by Jenkins (18%) and Crowfield (9%).
Evans was even more leaned upon by Rhoades as the then-head coach of the Rice Owls, playing the Chesapeake native 74% of available PG minutes his sophomore year at Rice.
With no Evans or Williams, the keys to the offense could be in the hands of a rookie driver, 3-star incoming freshman guard, P.J. Byrd.
On paper, Byrd appears primed to become the most used freshman point guard at VCU in over a decade.
Percentage of minutes played by VCU point guards since ’04 tournament season
B.A. Walker 63.4%
Joey Rodriguez 61.5%
Briante Weber 46.5%
JeQuan Lewis 39.5%
Eric Maynor 39.1%
Darius Theus 28.8%
Johnny Williams 24.5%
Tyler Maye 17.8%
Teddy Okereafor 10.1%
Jairus Lyles 4.1%
Marquell Fraser 4%
Of that list, only Walker acted as the team’s primary point guard. He averaged 7.7 points and 2.7 assists in his 25.6 minutes of action per contest that season, helping to lead VCU to their first NCAA tournament appearance in eight seasons.
Rodriguez served as the team’s 2-guard his intro year, joining backcourt mate, point guard Eric Maynor. Weber played mostly off the ball his freshman year in his 18.8 minutes per game, coming in to wreak havoc off the bench typically beside starting junior point, Darius Theus, leaving combo guard Rob Brandenberg to act as the team’s primary backup point that season.
The Richmond, Texas native became VCU’s first 2018 freshman commitment and most likely, even sooner than he perhaps even expected himself, will become the the Rams first option at point as well. Byrd appears poised to inherit the most freshman point guard minutes of any rookie Ram since Jeff Capel led the black and gold back to relevance in 2004.
But will he be up to the task?