For someone as accomplished as Kyle Vinales was — the 2011-12 NEC Rookie of Year, two NEC All-Conference Teams — it wasn’t supposed to end this way.
But after scoring 1,514 points in 79 games for a stellar average of 19.2 ppg, Vinales sent out the following tweet today:
No more college ball for me. Time to start my pro career #bittersweet #Godisgood
— Kyle Vinales (@KVinales1) December 1, 2014
Matt Straub of the New Britain Herald confirmed the tweet with a Central Connecticut (CCSU) official, plus Vinales is no longer listed on the Blue Devils’ official basketball roster. Straub confirmed the university suspended the senior for a year in light of his arrest this past October. The decision, which was made prior to Vinales’ first court date this Friday, Dec. 5, has pushed the shooting guard to end his collegiate career and pursue basketball at the professional level.
Vinales departs CCSU having never won a single NEC tournament game and with an underwhelming team record of 34-44. It wasn’t from a lack of trying on the offensive end, however, as he took approximately 31% of his team’s shots when on the floor. He finished with a rather respectable shooting line of 41.0% 2PT/38.1% 3PT/81.3% FT, especially when taking into account the heavy lifting the 6’1″ guard underwent in carrying the offense. Despite being a major contributor, Vinales still finished with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.2, with 296 helpers versus 249 turnovers.
It was an excellent individual career that came up short otherwise, and there’s plenty of speculation as to why this was the case. Lack of team chemistry and defensive laziness, a.k.a. an inability to fully commit on that end of the floor, served as the likely culprits for the team’s underachievement.
Whatever the reason, CCSU’s offense was never efficient during Vinales’ tenure, even though he shared the court with talented teammates such as former NEC Player of the Year Ken Horton, Robby Ptacek, Malcolm McMillan, Faronte Drakeford and Matthew Hunter. The Blue Devils scored just 0.98, 0.99 and 0.95 points per possession in the past three seasons, respectively, failing to crack the upper half of the NEC in offensive efficiency.
Still, those offensive numbers would be welcome these days with CCSU off to a miserable 0-6 start. The offense has been dreadful, scoring 0.85 ppp thanks to a paltry effective field goal percentage of 42.9%. The Blue Devils are turning the ball over on 24.0% of their possessions — only 39 Division I programs have a worse turnover rate at the moment — while getting to the free throw line at an underwhelming clip. Quite simply, the team is struggling to score without Vinales absorbing nearly one-third of the team’s possessions.
Will it get better for a team originally picked to finish second in the NEC? That’s hard to say, but it can’t get much worse at the moment. Opponents have outscored Howie Dickenman’s undermanned group by an average of 14.7 points in the six defeats. For starters, it surely wouldn’t hurt if CCSU’s frontcourt play improved significantly.
After earning an NEC All-Conference Third Team selection as a junior, Faronte Drakeford has made just 33.9% of this two-point field goals without the floor spacing Vinales present, turning the ball over at a high rate of 25.0%.
Drakeford’s frontcourt mate Brandon Peel has also struggled scoring in the low block, converting just 41.7% of his shot attempts after shooting 53.0% the previous two seasons. Collectively, both power forward types haven’t been aggressive taking the ball to the rim – only 39.1% of the duo’s total shots have come near the basket. They will need to stop settling for the least efficient shot in the college basketball, the two-point jumper, of which they are making a meager 24.1% of their attempts.
It hasn’t been all miserable though. Of the guards, sophomores Matt Mobley and Khalen Cumberlander are leading the team in scoring with 18.0 ppg and 11.8 ppg, respectively. Their exciting combination of athleticism, agility and aggression should have Blue Devil fans excited for their backcourt of the future.
But without Vinales and McMillan for the time being due to a back injury, Dickenman’s squad is stretched dangerously thin. As a result, freshmen Kevin Seymour and Mostafa Jones and walk-on senior Greg Andrade have logged minutes in the early going. Seymour has looked good in limited minutes thus far, posting a team high 101.3 offensive rating after making 7 of 13 shots from the floor. The 6’0″ guard will likely see more time off the bench, as will the aforementioned Jones and Andrade.
In all, the Blue Devils look like a completely different squad without the services of the former NEC active leader in scoring. More of the scoring burden must fall on others now. Without Vinales, the Blue Devils’ projection should be bumped down significantly until further notice.
In all honesty, it will be a struggle for Dickenman’s group to make the NEC tournament.
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride