Before the start of basketball practice, Citadel coach Chuck Driesell called sophomore forward Matt Van Scyoc into his office.
Van Scyoc, a 6-6 swingman, had put together one of the best freshman seasons in school history in 2012-13, averaging 11.1 points and shooting 37.2 percent from 3-point range. He became the first Citadel freshman to rank in the school’s single-season top 10 in points, field goals, 3-pointers, free throws made and minutes played.
But there was another stat that Driesell wanted to discuss — Van Scoyc’s 69 turnovers, second-most on the team.
“Coach Driesell had a highlight tape of every turnover,” Van Scyoc said. “He made me watch every single one, and after each one he’d stop the tape and ask me, ‘What were you thinking here? What were you thinking there?’”
The exercise was a long and painful one, but one that should prove beneficial in the basketball education of Van Scyoc, a project that is vital to the Bulldogs’ success this season and over the next two years, as well.
“I think you will see his turnovers reduce tremendously,” said Driesell. “And we need those to. Defensively, he’s really focused on his footwork and his understanding of defense and his ability to move and not lose sight of his man.
“He fixes those two areas, and we know he can shoot, and you will see a much improved Van Scyoc from a year ago, which I think was pretty impressive for us.”
Cutting down on turnovers is just one of the goals Van Scyoc set out for himself after last year’s 8-22 season, which included a 5-13 record in Southern Conference games.
With all-SoCon center Mike Groselle and his 15.6 points per game no longer available, the Bulldogs’ offense will not run chiefly through the post.
With that in mind, Van Scyoc wants to expand his game beyond last year’s role as a spot-up shooter.
“That’s what I was mainly, a spot shooter,” he said. “I got open looks and occasionally got to the basket. This year, I’ve worked extremely hard on rebounding, driving to the hoop, ball-handling and coming off screens. Those are things I’ll be doing a lot more of this season.”
So will all the Bulldogs, as The Citadel becomes a more perimeter-oriented team this season. Without Groselle and junior forward P.J. Horgan, who had to give up basketball due to a back injury, the Bulldogs will rely on freshmen Tom Koopman (6-8, 210) and Nate Bowser (6-9, 210) inside, with 6-6 freshman Brian White able to pitch in at the big forward spot along with 6-5 sophomore Quinton Marshall.
Junior forward C.J. Bray, who redshirted last year with ankle issues, is now battling nerve damage in his shoulder.
On the perimeter, the Bulldogs are more experienced with juniors Marshall Harris and Ashton Moore, redshirt sophomore Dylen Setzekorn and sophomore Raemond Robinson joining Van Scoyc.
“With Mike so talented under the basket, we had to give it to him last year,” Van Scyoc said. “And sometimes that might have slowed us down or caused some turnovers, but that’s what we had to do. This year, we have more athletes across the board and we don’t have to set up that post game. We’re more out on the perimeter and trying to get to the hoop. We have some new ball screens on offense and I think that adds to the strength of the guys on the team.”
The Bulldogs are picked to finish last in the SoCon in Driesell’s fifth season (he’s 24-68 so far). But Van Scyoc said there’s a different feel this season.
“Last year, we were kind of, ‘Woe is me,’” he said. “We were like, ‘We’re picked last, we’re not going to have a good year, let’s just do the best we can.’ This year, the attitude is more of a mean demeanor, and we want to come out and prove people wrong. Our confidence is much higher. You’ve got to believe in yourself, and we do.”
The Bulldogs begin their season Friday at VMI in the All-Military Classic, facing either Air Force or Army on Saturday. Their home opener is Nov. 12 against Presbyterian.