Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Most teams in the NCAA do not give freshman players a lot of playing time, but Men’s Basketball uses the roster’s three freshmen as another piece of coach Mike Rhoades’ “army” on the bench.
This season, the Rams have used an average of about 12 players a game this season, rotating many pieces from the bench. They have used all 14 players in a game three times this season.
Freshman forward Vince Williams and freshman guards P.J. Byrd and KeShawn Curry have all impacted the game when stepping on the floor this season.
In the first half against Richmond Feb. 13, Williams drove toward the basket on the baseline and rose up, slamming the ball down with two hands. The dunk brought the Siegel Center crowd to its feet and the building was electric for the rest of the night.
“Vince just make plays that don’t show up on stat sheets and box scores,” redshirt-junior forward Issac Vann said after the game against Richmond.
Williams also had an open look at three from the right wing and drained it against the Spiders, in addition to recording two blocks.
“He’s such a talented player,” coach Mike Rhoades said. “And my job — and I know I have the support of his mom and dad — is just to light that fire under him every day and keep getting more out of him, because he’s got so much more in him.”
The Toledo, Ohio, native called himself an “all-around player” that can play defense, pass and score.
“I don’t really look to shoot the ball a lot,” Williams said. “I just like to get my teammates open, especially [De’Riante Jenkins], [Issac Vann] and [Marcus Evans], even Marcus Santos-Silva when he’s on the block … As they get the points, stuff opens up for me too. And just drive and get the opportunities when I have them.”
Williams has appeared in all 26 games for the Rams, averaging 14.7 minutes. In each appearance, he averages 4.9 points and 3.1 rebounds.
Like Williams, Byrd has appeared in all 26 games for Men’s Basketball so far. He proves to be a key player off the bench for the Rams this season as he comes off the bench to give redshirt-junior guard Marcus Evans a rest each night. Byrd averages 9.1 minutes while accounting for an average of 1.3 points a game.
“[Byrd] is electric, fast, quick, makes good decisions,” Williams said of the freshman point guard. “He’s a shooter too.”
Byrd logged a career-high 5 points on three different occasions this season. He also recorded a career-high 20 minutes against Fordham Jan. 5.
Rhoades said Byrd is “doing a better job off the ball screen” as he gains more experience this season.
“Sometimes you have some tough games, which we all have playing that position as a freshman, but he’s continuing to getting better,” Rhoades said. “We’re really tough on him. We’re tough on our point guards around here and he’s coming along. He makes his teammates better … and he’s learning on the job.”
Curry has appeared in 13 of the 26 games this season for the Black and Gold, averaging 6.6 minutes. The guard is shooting 61 percent from the field.
“I’ve just been my biggest fan at all times,” Curry said. “Just keep myself motivated and that’s what’s going to keep me mentally strong. That’s what keeps my confidence the way it is.”
The Jacksonville, Florida, native impressed during the exhibition game against UVa-Wise Oct. 30, scoring a team-high 15 points in 15 minutes.
“He’s getting in the game and it’s an instant bucket,” Williams said. “He scores in less than 30 seconds and I’ll play 15 minutes and he got the same points as me so far. He’s come in and about to do something amazing for the team.”