Two Key Players Off to Promising Starts in Virginia

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 18th, 2016

Virginia and Virginia Tech are both off to 2-0 starts with both teams posting a pair of easy victories. Given the quality of their opponents, these results were neither surprising nor particularly interesting. However, one takeaway from the first week of action is that a pair of players we thought might be key to their success are off to promising starts. The caveat of course is that this is just two games against sub-175 KenPom teams, but fans of both the Cavaliers and Hokies should be optimistic about what they have already seen from Marial Shayok and Ahmed Hill.

Marial Shayok as a consistent scoring threat will be key for Virginia. (Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports)

Shayok has been a source of frustration for Virginia since his arrival two seasons ago. He has regularly mixed snippets of his obvious talent with games where he was a complete non-factor. The Cavaliers could afford to live with his volatility when Malcolm Brogdon was around to provide offensive punch, but the time has come for Shayok to be a more consistent presence. After one week of action: so far, so good. Although Virginia has spread the wealth with nine players averaging between 6.0 and 12.0 points per game, Shayok so far leads the way (11.5 PPG). He has clearly embraced his role as a go-to scorer and his improved mid-range game has resulted in shooting a scorching 64.3 percent from the field. After the victory over St. Francis (Brooklyn) on Tuesday night, Shayok told reporters that plenty of offseason hard work has helped him feel less tired during games. He also noted that he “lost about 20 pounds because I stopped eating Domino’s and cookies.“ While less pizza and cookies is probably a good suggestion for all of us, Tony Bennett has to be pleased that Shayok has gotten serious about his conditioning and is much improved this season.

Down the road in Blacksburg, Virginia Tech is thrilled with how terrific Ahmed Hill has looked early this season. The redshirt sophomore played nearly 30 minutes per game in 2014-15, showing tremendous upside while scoring 8.7 points per game and shooting 38.6 percent from three. He tore the patellar tendon in his left leg last preseason, costing him all of last year. In his first game action since the injury, Hill scored 14 points against Maine and followed that up with an outstanding performance against High Point, scoring 20 points fueled by six three-pointers. He leads Virginia Tech in scoring through two games and is shooting an absurd 52.9 percent from three-point distance. Hill, to his credit, has noted that consistency in his shooting form is responsible for his improvement, saying that repetition over the summer helped him to stop changing his shot on every attempt. His hard work appears to be paying off early this season.

Ahmed Hill’s emergence as a high-volume scorer is huge for Virginia Tech. (

Virginia Tech has a deep roster this season that looks like some of Buzz Williams’ best teams at Marquette: an outstanding point guard duo in Seth Allen and Justin Robinson; an undersized big man who can play inside and out (Zach LeDay); and versatile wings like Justin Bibbs and Chris Clarke. Still, it is Hill’s emergence as a legitimate scoring threat that could be the key factor that lifts the Hokies back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006-07.

Mick McDonald (70 Posts)

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One response to “Two Key Players Off to Promising Starts in Virginia”

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