Season Wrap-Up: Ty Jerome

Being good at writing about sports (or trying to be, like this guy) includes moving past the fear of being wrong. One has to accept that you’re going to be wrong sometimes and be willing to own it graciously.

Ty Jerome took some time getting acclimated to college hoops during the first half of last season, and I questioned his place on the court — especially when outcomes hadn’t been decided. By the beginning of February, it was obvious that I’d messed up.

Part of my doubt was performance-based: through the end of December, Jerome had more turnovers (11) than made baskets (nine) and his hesitancy on the floor had opponents punking him for the ball and resulted in missed opportunities for both himself and others. I think I was also subconsciously acknowledging that it was going to be really difficult to keep a 10-man active roster happy and was fishing for candidates to drop out of it to try to maintain the peace.

Ty Jerome always belonged. It turns out that some patience was required; something that shouldn’t have been a surprise when you factor in that Jerome was dropped into college basketball with half a season’s worth of rust from double hip surgery — a procedure that he was still rebuilding strength from during the season itself. Add in the adjustment period required for a new player to imprint their every move in CTB’s heavily choreographed offense and defense until they’re reactions instead of reads, and it’s understandable that it took Jerome the better part of two months to let his true self start showing on the floor.

There were signs early. Set up with big, low-stakes minutes by routs of Grambling State and Robert Morris, Jerome had 11 points and 11 assists in 39 minutes over the two games, hitting half of his six three-point tries. He scored five points in four minutes and gave the team a burst of first half energy in our squeaker over Ohio State, and then was given crunch time minutes against West Virginia when CTB wanted a third ball-handler on the floor.

The true turning point of his season came in our win over Notre Dame in South Bend. Two games after being allowed to run the team for the majority of an exhibition-esque win over Boston College, Jerome turned in a game-changing four minute stint in the second half, hitting two three-pointers and a runner to turn back Notre Dame attempts at a run (each basket extended a two possession lead to three) and then freaking a Notre Dame defender with a dribble move to assist London Perrantes for a three-pointer to put us up by double digits — a margin that would hold through the final horn.

His next outing was even better. Undaunted by the top-ranked defending national champs or the largest crowd to watch a college basketball game in Pennsylvania, Jerome dropped three first half threes to help spur us to a nine-point halftime advantage. In the final minutes of the game, he hit a go-ahead jumper from the baseline and then moments later shook his defender to hit a tying runner with 17 seconds left. He did miss a three that would have put us up and missed a boxout on Donte DiVincenzo that led to the game-winner, but a.) nobody’s perfect and b.) the lasting impression from this game are of a first year scoring 15 against the best team in the country and waving off veterans to take an All-American off the bounce — eight days after he only received six cursory minutes against Georgia Tech. That kind of confidence and ability means that there’s something special there.

Established as a rotation cog, Jerome’s February and March saw ups (four double-figure outings, 37.5% 3PT shooting, 24 assists to 13 turnovers) and downs (a combined 0–7 in losses to UNC and Miami), but as the record indicates, no one was all that consistent during this span.

Jerome’s 4.3 points and 1.5 assists per game don’t look like much, but please notice that, as a freshman guard, he shot 62.2% on two-pointers (64% around the rim) and finished his first year posting a higher offensive efficiency mark (109.4) than Sean Singletary (0.99), a better three-point shooting percentage (39.7%) than J.R. Reynolds (38.4%), and scored in double figures as many times (five) as Malcolm Brogdon did in theirs. That’s lofty company (and one must also remember that Ty only played about a third of our minutes this season — less than all three guards I compared him to), but the point is that there’s reason to believe that Ty Jerome will be really good really soon.

Offseason Assignment:
I’ve got two.

The first one is to put some hours into quickness and agility. Ty’s tall — he’s a legit 6'5'’ and he could still grow — and that atones for some sins defensively, but he’s not fast, and burner types in opposing backcourts will give him trouble. Nigel Johnson and Prospective Elite 2018 Point Guard might mean he always guards wings and this is a moot point, but a little extra juice never hurt anyone anyway.

The second is to work on quickening the release on his jumper. I came to terms with the “fifth grader who shot threes too early” form when it started going in at a 40-percent clip, but he’s going to have to be able to get it off faster now that the word is out. He was already starting to get his shot off faster toward the end of the year (once he was able and/or comfortable with putting more legs into it), so I’m assuming this one will take care of itself.

Jerome is going to play and play a lot in 2017–18, though how the rotation on the wing will shake out between him, Kyle Guy, Devon Hall, DeAndre Hunter, Nigel Johnson, and Marco Anthony is up in the air and will undoubtedly be contested hotly on the practice courts of JPJ over the next six months.