A Fond Goodbye to Marial Shayok

The pixels were barely dry on my Jarred Reuter piece when the news broke that Marial Shayok would be following Jarred out of town. Life comes at you fast: less than a week ago, The Ringer published this piece calling Marial an NBA wing after he scored 23 for us in an NCAA Tournament win. Now he’s gone.

Shayok’s departure is more surprising than Reuter’s, but only slightly more so. In the name of speculation (and only speculation, I’m the least plugged-in UVa writer on the Internet), here are some possible reasons that Marial decided to head out:

  1. ) He grew tired of never securing a permanent spot in the rotation. In each of his three seasons in Charlottesville, Shayok had periods where his PT grew sparse, either due to injury or ineffectiveness. That wears on you.
  2. ) He saw playing time as hard to come by next season. There are three wing spots (not to be confused with WingStops) in a Tony Bennett lineup. Devon Hall feels like a fixture. Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome look like future stars and will need more time than they saw this year. Some people say DeAndre Hunter is our best NBA prospect, and Darius Thompson played almost 70 combined minutes over our last two games and is still around as I type this. With one season of eligibility remaining, there’s a good possibility that Marial wanted to spend his last year in college getting buckets somewhere without worrying about a quick hook or having to compete for minutes. That idea approach worked well for Jeff Jones (not the coach or the walk-on, but the late ‘00’s edition): he transferred to Rider for his last year after three seasons at Virginia and averaged 13.4 points per game — almost double any number he put up here — after sitting out.

Marial never quite got there. He had stretches where he looked unstoppable on offense (the tournament in Charleston last fall where he scored 27 in two games before getting hurt, the month of January 2017 where he averaged 13.8 per game and hit for double digits six times and seven games, and UNC-W this year, where he hit the cheat code in the middle 20), but never strung together enough consistent efforts to secure a permanent role.

When on, his quick first step and ability to get to the rim paired with his midrange jumper off of two dribbles to provide us with a key secondary scoring option; when off, he drove into contact that he couldn’t finish through and played like his controller needed calibration.

He was never exactly trustworthy on either end of the floor. His assist rate (a promising stat in his freshman campaign) dwindled and his shot percentage (the percentage of possessions he ended with a shot, not the percentage he made) went way up this year, like he took his role as instant offense so seriously that he refused to look at anyone else. Defensively, he was a strong individual defender by virtue of his extension cord arms, but he could be caught out of position as a helper. The team went just 6–8 when he played more than 20 minutes this year; they won 17 of 20 games when he came in under that mark. There could be something to that.

Still, he could score, which came in handy on a team notorious for having problems in that department. When he was on, that jumper was sweet. I admired them even as I sighed about what a bad shot a contested long two is. I hope that wherever he goes, it’s somewhere that encourages their players to take two crossover dribbles, a hard move right, and a fadeaway jumper off of one leg. It’ll probably go in.

I never like transfers. I’m not a journalist; I have a rooting interest. That means I want every single one of these guys to succeed and buy in to the warm and fuzzy team concept and be happy forever, and it sucks when it doesn’t work out. These pieces aren’t fun. Here’s hoping Marial lands somewhere that he can go out on a high note, and that we use these three (three!) scholarships to port in something good.