Marial Shayok read the pass, jolted toward the ball and watched it glance off his hands and out of bounds.
It didn’t matter to him that his team was leading by 28 points in the third quarter, or that he was on his way to a game-high 22. He wasn’t happy.
The Sixers’ rookie slammed the scorer’s table and screamed: "F---!"
There wasn’t much to be frustrated about for the Delaware Blue Coats — the Sixers’ G-League affiliate — or for Shayok during their 111-88 win Saturday at 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware, over the Long Island Nets. The 24-year-old is averaging 24.6 points per game, best in the G League (minimum five games played). He doesn’t have an exceptional burst, but he’s a savvy scorer with a polished mid-range game and minimal wasted motion on his jumper. Within a stretch lasting just over three second-quarter minutes vs. Long Island, Shayok scored 10 points thanks to a mix of timely pump fakes, hesitations that bought time and space, and effective work using screens both on and off the ball.
While he’s developing all of those skills, they haven’t come out of nowhere. A late bloomer, Shayok scored 18.7 points per game as a redshirt senior at Iowa State, boosted his stock throughout the pre-draft process and was drafted at No. 54 by the Sixers. Blue Coats head coach Connor Johnson wants to see improvement in other parts of Shayok’s game.
I think he’s a very talented scorer,” Johnson said. “He can score in a lot of different ways — he’s a confident scorer, he’s a good finisher at the rim, he’s got a great ability to get a mid-range jump shot off, and he’s a good, consistent three-point shooter. He walks in with those skills.
"I think he’s gotten better as an on-ball defender. I think the two areas for him to improve are his on-ball defense, which we work on every day, and his ability to use his scoring to create shots for others. So, if someone closes out on him, he can’t shoot it, but can he find somebody else? Making that next play is a big point of emphasis for him, and I think that will be what continues to drive his progression.
The defensive focus is a logical one, and it helps to explain why Shayok might have been so miffed about letting that potential steal slip away. Shayok did pick up three steals Saturday, and the Blue Coats’ system asks him to play an aggressive style of defense. While the Sixers prefer to have the perimeter defender “force the ball off the screen” in the pick-and-roll, with the big man dropping into the paint, Johnson explained that Delaware uses that scheme exclusively.
“The Sixers, they kind of get a choice — they can read situations more,” he said. “We’re locked in on these guys — they’ve gotta have ball pressure all the time, they’ve gotta fight over every screen. So, they create that habit and when they go back down there, they get a little bit more room to operate. But they’re already ready to play the most demanding, physical style. I think he’s bought into that really well and he did a good job fighting over today.”
Shayok thinks his 7-foot wingspan can be an asset.
“Just being locked in throughout the whole play,” he said. “Using my length and making it tough for the offensive player. Just trying to do what I can to cause havoc.”
As a two-way player, Shayok is limited to a maximum of 45 days in the NBA between the start of G League training camp and the end of the Blue Coats’ regular season, and he’s not eligible for the NBA playoffs.
Shayok named Tobias Harris as a Sixer who’s provided mentorship during his stints with the Sixers, and encouragement to “keep doing what I’m doing.”
He’s yet to make his NBA regular-season debut and show any of his intriguing offensive skill set in a meaningful game with the Sixers, but he said he’s not looking too far ahead.
“I just want to take it a day at a time,” he said of his goals. “Win the day, and continue to get better every day.”
Koumadje's "mean streak" and first triple-double
Christ Koumadje stands 7-foot-3 and a quarter inches tall — without shoes. He is a very unlikely candidate to record a triple-double, and yet he did it Saturday for the first time in his life. The Florida State product had 12 points, 16 rebounds and a franchise-record 10 rejections.
He said he was oblivious of the achievement until an assistant coach informed him when he checked out late in the fourth quarter, and he was surprised to learn he’d made franchise history.
“That’s the franchise record? That’s pretty cool. Hopefully I can get 12 and keep it up,” he said with a deep chuckle.
(Image courtesy of Kevin Gallagher)
For Koumadje, Johnson’s priorities are maintaining verticality on defense, expanding his offensive package beyond dunks, and staying free of foul trouble. He managed to play nearly 33 minutes against the Nets, though he earned a third-quarter technical foul for a discussion with an official that evidently crossed a line.
I think he has a mean streak, an emotional streak to him that, if fueled the right way, can really help and be a positive and if fueled the wrong way, can be a negative.” Johnson said. “It can take him out of what makes him successful, make him focused at yelling at the refs as opposed to yelling at his teammates and as opposed to what we need from him from a team perspective.
"So, I think part of our challenge is to channel that energy in the right direction, and knowing that for him to get to the next level — and he, like all these guys, is close to doing that — that sort of stuff won’t be tolerated. He’s gotta be as locked in as he can be every minute he plays.
In a league that values unlocking potential and trying to discover just how much a player might have to offer, Koumadje’s competitiveness — seen in the occasional thumbs down gesture to opponents after a block, the sustained effort in the second half of a blowout and yes, the disputes with referees — is an interesting quality.
What are the origins of that fieriness?
“I think it just comes from my background,” he said. “Being from Chad, in my neighborhood with my cousins playing soccer, we always compete. … You just get that from being around that type of mentality. You hate losing. Whenever I’m on the court, I just try to give all I’ve got.”
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