Thoughts on Bryant, Dyami Starks’ Shooting Slump

After putting a legitimate scare into Notre Dame a few days ago, the Bryant Bulldogs laid an egg against Ohio State. The lopsided defeat wasn’t all that surprising; after all, Corey Maynard sat out the contest due to a bum wrist. It left Tim O’Shea with the inexperienced point guard combo of Shane McLaughlin and Declan Soukup, never an easy proposition against a top five KenPom opponent.

Dyami Starks had another tough shooting effort in the loss, his eighth straight performance of sinking less than half of his shot attempts. Since scoring 100 points in Bryant’s first three games – two of them in victory – Starks is shooting a dismal 34.9% from the field. It isn’t from a lack of trying – the junior has attempted 109 shots (16 per game) during the stretch, with 62 of those attempts (nine per game) coming from behind the arc. After taking the NEC by storm in his sophomore campaign, is Starks trying to do too much or has the new defensive attention bothered him?

It’s likely a little of both. Against Ohio State, Starks only converted 5 of 15 attempts and was clearly forcing perimeter shots. It’s never easy when Aaron Craft is guarding you for most of the game, but when Starks put the ball on the deck he had moderate success, scoring five points on four trips to the rim. Undaunted, Starks still hoisted up several contested looks 20-26 feet away from the basket with a majority of those within the first 20 seconds of the possession. There was more time to run offense and find a better shot. According to Hoop Math, his shot attempts aren’t significantly different from last season:

2014: 28.6% of shots at the rim, 18.5% of shots as 2PT jumpers, 53.0% of shots as 3PT jumpers
2013: 28.0% of shots at the rim, 17.7% of shots as 2PT jumpers, 54.3% of shots as 3PT jumpers

Starks’ shooting percentage on long twos and threes has decreased some – 37.5% this season compared to 42.4% last season – and that’s likely because he’s now at the top of the opposition’s scouting report. Head coaches are throwing their best perimeter defender at the 6’2″ guard and it’s leading to far less open looks. Not having Frankie Dobbs on the roster isn’t helping either.

Starks is a wonderful talent, but with more defensive attention as a preseason all-conference first teamer, he’ll need to dribble drive and create a bit more, in order to open up his perimeter game. With the athleticism to create, a more concerted effort getting to the lane will keep defenders more honest and less willing to body up with Starks on the perimeter. In addition, Starks is automatic at the free throw line (89.6% FT%) so it will benefit him to earn more freebies from the charity stripe, which will only increase with more activity around the basket. Given the junior’s superb work ethic, I’d expect him to adjust and become a little more selective with his shot attempts.

While I’m on the subject of Bryant, I was impressed with freshmen Daniel Garvin and the aforementioned Soukup. During a four-minute stretch on Wednesday night, Garvin drained an open three, drove past a defender and hit a runner in the lane, and after turning it over, hustled back and rejected an Ohio St layup in transition. Tim O’Shea wasn’t sure how Garvin would fare in his first season of college basketball, but Garvin’s recent play clearly speaks for itself. The athletic and long freshman is averaging 7.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in his last six games. He’ll likely be a key member off of O’Shea’s bench.

Another potential impact freshman is Soukup, who reminded me a little of Steve Nash (I know, I know). Soukup isn’t flashy or lightening quick, but he possesses excellent poise and body control when handling the basketball. While his line against Ohio State doesn’t jump out (four points, one assist, one steal in 19 minutes), the crafty Soukup didn’t have difficulty getting his own shot or creating for others. It wouldn’t surprise me if he emerges as Corey Maynard’s backup (sorry Shane McLaughlin) at the point once Bryant is playing conference games. And for those of you expecting Jason Brickman’s brother, Justin, to emerge as a freshman, you’ll likely be disappointed.

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

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