Fall 2020 Scouting Report
As the first top-100 consensus high school prospect recruited during Mike Rhoades’s burgeoning head coaching career at Virginia Commonwealth University, Nah’Shon Hyland arrived at the city of Richmond with expectations of eventually being one of the best players in the Atlantic 10 Conference across his NCAA career. However, Hyland tormenting the A-10 during conference play has adjusted many expectations higher to perhaps Hyland being a future NBA pro. Bones will have an anticipated major increase in offensive responsibility for his sophomore year at VCU with De’Riante Jenkins and Marcus Evans both finishing their NCAA eligibility and Marcus Santos-Silva transferring to Lubbock, Texas. While such a leap in scoring and playmaking load seems daunting, Hyland can also benefit from the higher spotlight on the team to truly put up a monster season.
His number one skill is naturally his sniper rifle of a jump-shot. Hyland’s 43.4% three-point shooting as just a freshman and over 9 three-point attempts per 40 minutes immediately proves that he shoots it accurately and often. However, being a dangerous shooter is more complicated than simply a percentage and number of attempts. The true test is to be able to keep that weapon in different shooting scenarios and Bones passes that test comfortably.
Hyland squares himself to the hoop quickly and gets a shot up on any clean look. If the defender has wisely closed down the space for a clean look, he has the patience to get the defender biting on jab steps, head fakes and all sorts of feints to get the defender inched back just enough for a clean look and quick one-motion release anyway.
Knowing how automatic he can be with just a forearms worth of breathing room, Hyland has great instinct for relocating around the arc without the ball to make himself available for jumpers all over the court. He is a player who wants the ball, but knows he has to move to make himself available for the ball instead of loitering in one spot outside of passing vision.
What sums up the stress Hyland’s shooting can put on an opposing defense is that he feels comfortable from a range that seems to stretch almost to the next state over. NBA-distance threes are notoriously difficult for many freshmen to successfully try due to the sheer amount of strength and stamina needed to be developed to keep the shooting mechanics secure while adding the extra force. The likes of Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry did not make those majestic logo-brushing three-pointers a consistent part of their shooting arsenal until their core and lower body strength gains were achieved as NBA veterans. While Bones is far from a finished product in terms of strength development, the relatively small amount of strain he needs to apply to fire rhythmically from beyond NBA arc distance is quite impressive.
Handle and Fluidity
The second skill of his that tends to pop off the screen is his shiftiness with his handle. Hyland relies on frequent use of hesitations and hang-dribbles to make up for struggles blowing by his defender from a standstill. The explosion is not quick twitch or overwhelming and his lack of strength prevents any bully-ball tactics but the pacing, footwork, and ease of change of direction of his ball handling can all get Hyland slinking towards the rim to prevent any thoughts of Bones being a shooting-only prospect. There are times where Hyland gets stonewalled a bit from his dribble paths, especially when not using a ball screen, and defenses will still play him for the jumper while closing out, but having comfort with multiple modes of attack is what separates the pros from the great college players.
While Hyland can get into the lane at a fair rate, his effectiveness when he got there was less impressive. As a freshman, Bones shot better from beyond the arc than he did inside the arc (43.4% vs 43.0%). He currently opts heavily to runners and scoop layups that extend fairly far from the rim but outside the reach of any shot contests. Those runners and scoops are great surprise counters to standard rim protection and sliding defenders, but they are difficult to become efficient enough as main weapons as a driver. A big reason for their relative inefficiency is the finesse of their releases often avoids bodily contact by design and removes chances for drawing fouls. Nah’Shon only took 24 free throws all season with his general lack of physicality around the paint. If Bones is not going to thrive at the rim as a speed demon or high riser, he will best learn some of the foul drawing dark arts that smaller players like Lou Williams have learned to apply their slick handles into pressuring defenders into costly mistakes. This growth in foul drawing will be especially necessary for more scoring potential if Hyland does not grow more at ease with pullups in the midrange that tend to get more influenced by closer shot contests and less time to prepare his footwork before firing.
The sophomore campaign will test Nah’Shon Hyland’s passing acumen as well as the new primary creator of the VCU offense. Hyland can miss passing windows towards the rim in the half-court at times. Frequently, Bones will make a retreat dribble if his initial drive out of pick and rolls and closeouts gets halted and then look for a two-handed bailout pass on the perimeter or to the low post. Despite actively attempting to play it safe with these bailout passes, they can result in turnovers themselves due to difficulty maintaining the pivot foot and lack of room to scan the floor while having a defender in his jersey. More reps as “the guy” should get Hyland more comfortable with live-dribble pocket passes and weak side reads to keep defenses imbalanced and scoring chances open. As for now, Hyland’s passing seems most comfortable in the open floor and in passing chains where his solid willingness to move the ball and willingness to keep the ball flow going shine the most.
Hyland has been inducted into the VCU intense pressing and scrambling defensive style and he has been able to contribute primarily by weaponizing his good wingspan for a guard. A solid sense for anticipating the next offensive action lets that wingspan make routine passes into turnovers fairly regularly. Better yet, Bones knows how to long-arm himself to be a rather great shot contestor for a guard, secretly finishing top 20 in the entire A-10 in block percentage.
Playing in such a demanding defensive scheme as VCU’s does well to develop good habits of alertness and keeping on one’s toes to prepare to cover a ton of ground at any moment. Those traits mostly applied to Hyland in his freshman season as he communicated and stayed engaged in plays even after undergoing multiple actions in a possession. However, Hyland did succumb often to the traps of many eager long-armed defenders, relying too much on anticipation and length to succeed on gambles. The bouncing around and hopes to get ahead of plays lead to positioning errors or lost assignments that hustle and length can only sometimes recover for.
Furthermore, Hyland’s lack of quick-twitch quickness and strength does pose at least short-term questions as to the ball handlers and scorers Hyland can most capably defend. Guards with NBA level quickness can consistently gain steps on Hyland to spots, although Hyland’s positional size and recovery ability help to make sure the scoring windows do not last for too long. The tendency to allow drivers into the lane can magnify when a ball screen is involved as Nah’Shon’s current lack of strength makes for extra delay fighting through and around the ball screen to stay attached to the handler. The lack of strength discourages short-term ideas for switching Hyland onto bigger forwards and centers as he is not yet ready to be a deterrent in the paint. The athletic deficiencies combined with his attempts to recover led to Hyland being fairly foul prone at 4.5 fouls per 40 minutes during the season. Luckily, the issue of lack of strength is a weakness that plagues the majority of college freshmen, even those who have been elite prospects since age 15. Becoming a Zion Williamson level bully will not likely be in the cards for Bones, but strength is generally low hanging fruit on the development path.
The pro appeal for Nah’Shon Hyland lies in him potentially working in multi-ball handler lineups on and off the ball as a guard who can fit next to all sorts of teammates due to the value of great shooting and functional dribble-driving. Add that to an encouraging defensive foundation, that can make leaps in versatility with further athletic gains, and Hyland’s profile describes the “best of all worlds” scenario imagined when the combo guard style player became popular.