Here is part two of my series breaking down the top returners to college basketball. Last week I dove in on UConn’s James Bouknight. Next up on the list is Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland of the VCU Rams. Not only does he have the best name in college basketball, but he has one of the purest jumpers you’ll see.
Bones Hyland is one of the top returning guards in all of college basketball, and in my way-too-early opinion, someone I consider a legitimate 2021 NBA prospect. He is currently in the top 35 of my 2021 board, and has potential to solidify himself as a 1st round prospect with a breakout season. When it comes to best shooting prospects in this class he’s top 2. And he’s not 2.
Let’s dive right in to what the elite floor spacer brings to the table.
Nah’Shon Hyland: G, 6’3″, 6’8.5″ WS, 165 lbs., VCU, Sophomore (19 years old), 38.5″ vertical leap.
9.0 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG.
43.3 FG%, 43.4 3P%, 66.7 FT%.
.575 TS%, 5.8 BPM, 2.5 win shares, 10.4 FTr, 22.1 USG%.
Offensive role: Floor spacer/secondary playmaker.
Defensive role: One position defender, can guard smaller 2’s.
NBA projected role: Rotation player, starter upside.
Swing factor: Adding strength/explosiveness.
ESPN 2021 mock draft: N/A (Disagree here, top 35 guy for me at the moment).
Additional shooting numbers:
Dunks: 1-1 (100.0%)
Close 2’s: 30-55 (54.5%)
Long 2’s: 7-31 (22.6%)
Synergy Profile attached below:
Adversity unfortunately struck Hyland at a young age. In 2018 he faced a tragic house fire that set smoke and flames ablaze with family inside. He managed to escape by jumping off the second floor, evading the house that was engulfed in flames, but in the process he struck his knee on to a brick stair way below which led to a torn patellar tendon and six month recovery timetable.
This truly devastating event wound up costing him the lives of his grandmother (Fay) and cousin (Maurice). A gut-wrenching tragedy at that age along with a serious injury on top of it that puts your basketball career in jeopardy is something you never want to see anyone go through. It was a gut punch for Bones, and he went through tough times (as expected) mourning his losses and recovering from his injury.
He did bounce back however, regaining his form of old by using his “why” as to what (and who) he was playing for to elevate his game to another level. That type of mentality is truly inspiring and should make everyone that reads this a Bones Hyland fan, no matter your affiliation.
“It made me become a better man because it helped me visualize things better, as far as what I was doing and what I was playing basketball for,” Hyland said. “It really helped me grow and become more mature, and just helped me become a leader.”
Entering VCU, he was a 4-star recruit and his RSCI was 89th in the nation and ranked 81st in the 2019 “24/7 Sports” composite rankings. He started the season coming off the bench for a VCU team that had tremendous (experienced) guard depth. He only played greater than 20 minutes once in his first eleven games, and in that game he finished with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in just 22 minutes against Jacksonville State in November.
Once they loosened the reigns on him and gave him more minutes as the season progressed and an injury to senior guard Marcus Evans hit, Bones took full advantage and showed that he belonged as a key piece in the rotation. He wound up securing an Atlantic 10 All-Rookie selection as a result of his strong finish and efficient play. He scored 9+ points in 5 of his last 6 games for VCU.
Playing in a limited role at first did suppress some of his upside on that end, but as the season wore on his workload increased and the production was undeniable, which is why he is a trendy pick as a breakout player of the year candidate by many college basketball pundits. He did break VCU’s record for 3s made in a season as a freshman after all. So let’s talk about that. The shooting.
This is what you’re all here for. The shot. His golden ticket to the NBA.
I’m not convinced there’s a better shooter in the 2021 class to be quite frank. His pristine three point shooting clip of 43.4% on 4.7 attempts per game in just 20.6 minutes per-game shows you that he’s capable of much more on a higher volume.
The shot versatility is super intriguing, as he can hit pull-ups from deep range, nimble step-backs, quick side-steps off the dribble, nails off-movement jumpers, and displayed some promising catch-and-shoot ability, which will be vital in his off-ball development. He has an excellent blend of versatility, range, and touch on his shot that makes him a threat almost anywhere on the court, and along with that he does a nice job of relocating off the ball to set up for clean looks.
I love this clip. Here he shows how sneaky and deceptive he can be by using his change of pace to create leverage through through long, “slow” strides to keep the defense guessing for when he’s going to either attack or get into a shooting motion. Manipulation of the defense is an underrated skill.
He had a 62.8 3Pr (three point rate) in his freshman season, and with an increased usage on the way I’m really looking forward to the type of absurd shooting stat-lines he puts up next season for the Rams.
Here’s a video from a game against Richmond where he went 5-for-6 from deep and showed off everything in his bag. Off movement relocation bomb. Good. Side-step off the crossover. Bang. Stepback from Mars. Splash. Pull-up three? Yup. Nothing phases him when he gets in these zones and it’s fun to watch. Expect to see a lot more of these stretches with his increased role and more freedom next season for VCU.
He has some deceptive moves off the bounce with a nice change of pace to his game off the drive and the ability to shield defenders off with his hips or back when he gets in front of them. It’s fun to watch him “dance” with the ball on the top of the perimeter at times, getting defenders off balance and using it to give him the separation he needs (which isn’t much) to get his shot off.
Here’s an example of some of his change of pace with the slight hesitation to freeze the defenders before bursting to the rim.
There needs to be improvement in his ability to get downhill and apply pressure on the rim without screens. He has the savviness to navigate around defenders and create leverage in subtle ways, but the lack of explosiveness or that “first step” can be apparent at times. Overall I like his craft and technique when maneuvering with his dribble to get where he wants in a technical way using that manipulation and change of pace at an effective level.
There were some very promising passing flashes from Hyland, and I believe the system/role he was in limited his per-game numbers as far as assists go. He’s a much better passer than the numbers give him credit for on the surface, but it’s also not something he’s great at currently.
Here are some of the encouraging passing flashes he displayed. Uses angles well and has adequate patience waiting for cutters.
This is the area of his game (outside of bulking up) that I think can improve his draft stock the most. Adding strength will actually also help him on some of the one-handed skip passes or wraparound feeds into the post that he’d use two hands for at times. That probably seems like nitpicking, but saving that split second by firing off one-handed passes can sometimes be the difference between a bucket and a turnover.
He’s very skilled playing out of the pick and roll, and can use it to create for himself and others pretty consistently. Video credit to Griffin Lyon for these P&R clips below, check out the full video here: Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland VCU offensive package.
If the playmaking improves in the larger role, then teams should feel more confident using him to run an offense. I’m not sure he’ll ever be relied on as a bonafide primary creator in the NBA, but he has the ability to play that combo guard role next to another initiator to share those responsibilities.
This is an area where he needs to improve in terms of on-ball prowess and just adding the strength as I’ve mentioned before for the point of attack. VCU’s defense was menacing for the most part last season, and Hyland did a nice job filling a role in their defensive scheme.
He wasn’t a liability on that end or anything, but he also didn’t particularly stand out in a positive way either which is typical for most freshman guards. He showed some decent defensive flashes with anticipation off the ball for steals and occasional blocks and his team-defense was mostly sound.
Here he shows a nice level of anticipation and aggression by applying pressure and securing the steal which leads to the easy transition bucket.
He can guard 1’s and 2’s in college, but at the next level it’s going to be vital for him to fill that frame out so he can hang with both guards on the defensive end at the very least. He’s a smart defender, so I don’t think there’s a ton of teaching that needs to be done, it’s more of the physical limitations that held him back from being a plus on that end. I look forward to his progression here next season.
He shot just 43.0% on two point field goals, which was actually slightly worse than his three point percentage. He’s not a bad finisher by any means though, as he’s shown the craft and skill to make impressive finishes in transition and around the rim.
He shot 54.5% on “close 2’s”, so the main area of focus for him will be improving upon his dreadful 7-for-31 shooting on long 2’s. The good news for him is that it is a very small sample size, so the fact that he doesn’t take a ton of long 2’s is actually very encouraging. We just need to see better numbers there next season, even if the volume remains low.
At 6’3″ with a plus wingspan, he has average size for a guard, but the main area of focus on his development will be the strength department.
When I asked him what he was working on most this summer he replied with this encouraging quote:
“I’m working on my strength and explosiveness this off-season,” said Hyland.
Adding strength and explosiveness will help him progress in the specific areas of improvement that I’ve mentioned previously, so he’s on the right track here. There’s really not much else to add here until we see him step on the court next year and check in on the strength improvement and see him apply in it a game setting when attacking the rim and defending.
This is a category I normally won’t include in these reports, but since it’s an area of concern I’ll briefly touch on some things here. His FTr was an abysmal 10.4% and he only attempted 24 free throws in 31 games. He also only shot 66.7% at the line, which he’s definitely better than and I won’t look into much. I’d put a hefty amount of cash down on him improving his percentage next season from the charity stripe, that’s not the concern here though.
The lack of free throw attempts is what’s alarming and an area he’ll need to improve in next season. This goes back to adding strength and embracing contact. Seeking it out. He can slip by defenders and make impressive finishes at the college level, but in the NBA some of those moves won’t cut it.
NBA scouts will be closely watching his free throw rate, frame and playmaking this upcoming season. If he can gradually increase in all three phases and he continues to shoot the lights out and make big plays then his draft stock will undoubtedly skyrocket.
Hyland figures to be “the guy” at VCU next season, and after spending time off the bench and playing a limited role as a freshman, I believe he’s going to take full advantage of the increased workload and have a breakout season.
With a pair of senior starting guards in Marcus Evans and De’Riante Jenkins graduating, it looks like Bones will be the primary creator for a team that also lost Marcos Santos Silva to Texas Tech on the transfer wire.
VCU is entering somewhat of a rebuilding year after all of the aforementioned key losses plus a couple other senior contributors, but with Hyland leading the pack they could be a sneaky A10 team that has the ability to upset some teams if Hyland gets hot and receives enough help from his supporting cast.
There is no official term that I’m aware of for “league pass alert” for college players, but if there was, Nah’Shon Hyland would 100% be on my list.
ICYMI, here’s my scouting report on UConn guard James Bouknight.
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