WEST DES MOINES — Marial Shayok knows what he can do. He’s just been waiting for the opportunity to showcase it.
In three seasons at Virginia, one of the slowest-paced teams in college basketball, Shayok conformed to the defense-first principles. Transferring to Iowa State this offseason, he hopes, will give him offensive freedom when he’s eligible in 2018-19.
Through the first five sessions of the YMCA Cap City League, Shayok has taken every chance he can to score.
“Those guys at Iowa State have just been helping me through my handle, my shot and I’m just trying to affect every part of my game, especially during this long year off,” Shayok said. “I get to do that and have the time to focus on everything I want to focus on.”
Summer league basketball, to a certain extent, has to be taken with a grain of salt. But Shayok has flourished in the free-flowing, up-and-down nature that it provides. He makes fluid cuts with the ball, can score in isolation and has some range from beyond the arc.
Through five games, the 6-foot-5 and 196-pound guard has scored 216 points — including two 50-plus point games. With three guaranteed games left this summer, Shayok has a chance to break the single-season scoring record (301), set by Georges Niang four years ago.
Breaking summer league basketball scoring records is far from the top of Shayok’s to-do list during his sit-out year, but every opportunity to have the ball in his hands is a good thing. It’s an opportunity to improve on his 44.5 percent shooting from the field — and 32.8 percent from 3.
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“I’ll run in the Iowa State system and really get to show off the offensive side of my game,” Shayok said. “It’s just attacking and pushing the ball in the Big 12. This isn’t the Big 12 or ACC, but I just have to come out here and show the fans I can score the ball.”
Shayok started 14 games as a junior at Virginia and averaged 8.9 points in 20.6 minutes. The numbers might not look like much on the surface, but given the Cavaliers’ 21.3-second average possession lengths — last in college basketball — the offensive opportunities were at a premium.
Iowa State will look different this season. Losing six seniors will do that. The Cyclones will look even more different when Shayok sees the floor, but the style of Coach Steve Prohm’s system won’t change. It will rely heavily on perimeter scoring with the wings getting plenty of touches
“Marial has great length and size,” Prohm said after Shayok joined the team. “He is a player that can really defend. I think he is just tapping the surface of what he can do offensively. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do in transition and space on the offensive end.”
Shayok might see himself as a player with a natural proclivity for offense, but three years at Virginia also opened his mind to defense. In the 2016 Sweet Sixteen matchup against Iowa State in Chicago, Shayok drew the primary defensive assignments on Monte Morris and Abdel Nader. He had 30 steals last season.
“(The defensive philosophy) had its benefits. We won a lot,” Shayok said. “Obviously the defensive side was huge for me just learning the importance of defense on every possession. The little things, just scoring off the cut and off a variety of screens helped me big time at UVa too. UVa has helped my game a ton.
“I just want to combine (offense and defense at Iowa State).”
Six players on Iowa State’s roster are sophomores or younger. Senior point guard Donovan Jackson and junior guard Nick Weiler-Babb, both going into their second seasons, are the veterans.
Shayok won’t have a direct impact on the court this season, but he’s been around winning throughout college. Virginia was 82-23 the last three years, so Shayok hopes to be an asset to his younger teammates.
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“This year (I’m) just trying to push everybody,” Shayok said. “With this year off (I want to) try to get everybody else better. The main thing is to try to work on my game and when I do play, I expect to show my improvements and be one of the leaders on the floor on both ends.”
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