Xavier’s sophomore guard suffered a season that didn’t go how he, or fans, anticipated.
Xavier basketball is built on the idea that players arrive, develop, and become serious contributors on top level teams by the time they are upperclassmen. The history of the team is littered with players like James Farr, Jason Love, and BJ Raymond who overcame up and down starts to turn into stars when their time came. Kyky Tandy got off to much better start than any of those players, but his story took an odd turn in his sophomore season.
Through the first five games of the season Kyky Tandy was off to the start that most fans were expecting after his strong finish to the previous year. He was getting 28.6 minutes per game and turning that into a line of 14.8/1.2/3.0. Kyky had also made 41% of his 29 three point attempts. There was no question that, even if it was against typical early season competition, Tandy was in a groove early in the season. He was less effective in 11 minutes against UC and another 11 against Oklahoma. He wouldn’t play more than 20 minutes in a game again until Xavier’s penultimate Big East game. He would only play double digit minutes three more times in total. On three occasions he didn’t appear at all.
What, exactly, happened to Kyky is difficult to determine. His shooting percentages dipped as the season went on. In conference play he shot only 28% behind the arc, but he only had 25 attempts. Kyky’s usage rate jumped to 23% on the year, but his assist rate went up with it and his turnover rate dropped. Shooting inside the arc continued to be a concern and Tandy’s 40% mark was a step down even from his freshman year. At the rim, where Tandy figured to be such a threat coming out of high school, he shot 56.2%, good for second worst on the team. He also only got to the rim for 16.7% of his shots, a lower rate than even three point specialist Nate Johnson.
Tandy ended up averaging only 14.4 minutes per game for the season. His final line dropped to 6.6/1.3/1.1 on .379/.833/.359 shooting. Whether his drop in minutes or production came first is something of a chicken and egg situation. What can’t be questioned is that something caused Coach Steele to lose all faith in him. Tandy was an afterthought for most of the year even as Xavier Twitter clamored for him to get more time. When Tandy did get in games he was obviously pressing and seemed to hunt shots more than normal. His defensive effort was questionable, then got better. His shooting never did.
But then, as a final twist to a bizarre season, Tandy exploded in Xavier’s furious comeback that fell just short against Georgetown. After playing a combined total of 25 minutes in the previous four games, he played 22. In that time he went for 14/5/1 and was the catalyst in Xavier’s late rally. It seemed as if he had finally taken his chance and earned more time. Then, against Marquette in a must win game, Kyky played seven minutes and shot just 1-3. He didn’t appear in the Big East tournament and his name landing in the transfer portal wasn’t a surprise to anyone. It coming back out was.
What other grade can you give a guy who hovered right around average and mixed flashes of brilliance (24/3/3 against Toledo) with stretches of ineffectiveness (no points between January 6th and February 16th)? Kyky may have merited more time after his first five games, but he didn’t get it. When he did play, he wavered between ineffective and a decent outside shooting option. Whatever step forward fans were hoping for never came. Why that was remains a matter of much conjecture.
Tandy deserves a lot of credit here. He will likely never be an on ball stopper the likes of Nate Johnson, but he worked hard in the second half of the season to at least be an active defender. Coach Steele had rightfully questioned his effort on the defensive end after one lackluster performance. It seemed as if Kyky responded to the coaching after that and made genuine strides toward becoming better. A full 33% of Tandy’s career steals came in the final six games he played this season.
Overall grade: C
Kyky’s development is on the knife edge right now. Frankly speaking, it’s hard to understand why he came back to Xavier. The situation in front of him has not changed much. Paul Scruggs, Dwon Odom, Adam Kunkel, Nate Johnson, and Colby Jones will all be competing for the minutes that Kyky wants. All of those players are coming off a season in which they showed more than Tandy did and recorded more playing time than he had.
And yet Kyky still has a world of talent to fall back on. The reason his grade for this season wasn’t worse is because he demonstrated that, given time in a game, he can be productive. In games in which he played at least 20 minutes (and the sample size is small at five) he averaged 16.8/2.2/3 and shot the ball reasonably well. Give Kyky time and he’ll give you production. It’s on Tandy to demonstrate that every time he steps on the court. Whether he can do that or not will determine whether he becomes another Xavier player who develops into a star.