Ryan Grube, Staff Writer
When starting guard Marcus Evans went down with a knee injury in the quarterfinal of the A-10 tournament against Rhode Island, VCU’s lack of serviceable depth at the position was immediately felt.
VCU lost that opening conference tournament matchup, as well as the NCAA Tournament contest at the hands of UCF.
Now, as the Rams prepare to kick off the 2019-20 season, a lot rides on the shoulders of freshman guard Bones Hyland. For men’s basketball, a vital piece of the Rams’ roster in recent history has been the backup point guard position. So now, Hyland will become the latest in a long line of great backup point guards.
When VCU legend Eric Maynor was the starter from 2007-08, fellow big-name alumni Jamal Shuler and Joey Rodriguez backed him up.
For the next decade, VCU enjoyed the luxury of elite two-man backcourts. It wasn’t until the 2017-18 season — after Lewis had graduated — that the Rams realized the importance of a reliable backup point guard for their offensive and defensive schemes.
The black and gold rode an unproven scoring tandem of Jonathan Williams and Tyler Maye to an 18-15 record in 2017-18. For the first time in seven years, the Rams missed out on the Big Dance.
Evans’ injury history — two Achilles tears in the past two years — makes the Wilmington, Delaware, product’s role that much more important.
Hyland, the No. 64 ranked player in the 2019 class by 247Sports, was heavily recruited by VCU as Rhoades continued the search for his next great point guard.
Hyland’s 26.1 points per game average certainly caught the head coach’s eye. For Hyland, the winning culture and family aspect at VCU was too convincing to turn down.
“I came on a visit, and it was just the love and the energy they had towards me,” Hyland told The Commonwealth Times earlier this month. “It was more than just basketball, just making sure you’re good on and off the court.”
After his promising performance in the team’s annual Black and Gold scrimmage — 10 points on 4-7 shooting — early indications are that Hyland has answered the Rams’ questions at the backup guard position.
Rhoades said he was impressed by the freshman’s showing in the squad’s intrasquad scrimmage, but he added that Hyland must continue to develop behind Evans.
“Bones is a very good player, he’s talented, he’s just got to learn like all of us in our freshman year in college,” Rhoades said after the Black and Gold game. “And then when you’re playing against all-conference players in practice every day, they’re seniors, they’re men. But he’s battling every day.”
That experience will certainly help Hyland as he becomes VCU’s most crucial piece ahead of the upcoming season.
Hyland’s elite scoring ability and talented defensive skills will give Evans more opportunities for rest, and they should also allow for more flexibility in Rhoades’ rotations.
Having a capable ball-handler on the court at all times is extremely important in today’s college basketball. It’s something the Rams haven’t been able to accomplish in recent years.
Overuse with Evans and bad shot selection with Williams has plagued VCU recently, and it has limited the Rams’ success.
With Hyland behind Evans, the hope is that those problems have been solved.
The Rams begin the regular season at home against St. Francis (Pa.) on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.