UB coach Reggie Witherspoon is temperamental when it comes to playing freshmen – they’re better off not seen or heard from until further notice – but circumstances sometimes force his hand.
Take Jarryn Skeete, who is playing out of necessity for the University at Buffalo and would still be serving his apprenticeship behind junior Jarod Oldham if not for a broken left wrist which could sideline Oldham for the season. The injury thrust Skeete into the starting lineup and – at least initially – he doesn’t appear to be out of place.
“His understanding is good and I think his vision is good,” Witherspoon said after UB’s 84-64 victory over Notre Dame College on Friday before 2,162 at Alumni Arena. “Like most freshmen, he’s still holding on to what worked for him prior to coming here – and some of that will work here – but some of the things have to be done differently and he has to adjust to that. In most cases he had a lot of success before coming here, and we have to get him adjusted to the college game.”
The Bulls (5-8) lost a lot in Oldham. He emerged as a starter as a sophomore and led the Mid-American Conference in assists. Long, rangy and athletic, he was the team’s top perimeter defender and improved his scoring to the tune of 10.1 points a game.
“With Jarod being out, we not only had to juggle the point guard but all that it affects,” Witherspoon said. “Up until then we were starting both Jarryn and Jarod because we wanted to preserve some leadership know-how coming off the bench in Tony [Watson]. We thought we had that worked out and Jarod got hurt.”
Witherspoon had to start another guard alongside Skeete and Raphell Thomas-Edwards made his first start against Washington State with mixed results. On Friday, former walk-on Richie Sebuharara was a starter due in large part because of his effort in practice.
Meanwhile, Skeete has played with a sense of urgency over the last 10 days, knowing he has to play well for UB to be successful.
“I have to be more mature and fill in [Oldham’s] shoes quicker,” said Skeete, who finished with 10 points, three assists and one turnover in 22 minutes on Friday. “I have to learn everything faster and take more responsibility.”
So far, the transition has been smooth. Skeete jumps just high enough on his shot to slide a dollar bill underneath his feet but the shot is feathery. He’s smooth and plays within Witherspoon’s system. If Oldham is fire, Skeete is ice. He’s also a rare breed at UB.
He is the first freshman to run the team since Byron Mulkey during the 2006-07 season when he replaced sophomore Eric Moore. Before that, it was Turner Battle, a four-year starter from 2001-05.
The 6-foot-3, 175-pounder from Brampton, Ont., was ranked the 39th best point guard from the Class of 2012 by ESPN.com. After playing three seasons at Cardinal Leger near Toronto, Skeete transferred to Wasatch Academy in Utah for his senior year where he averaged 18 points and 5.5 assists.
“I have to learn the things that worked in high school that won’t work here, I have to pick up those things faster and change them,” Skeete said.
Even aspects off the court like postgame interviews. After Friday’s game, Skeete came into the media room at UB and said, “Never been in here.”
He may need to get used to it.
Javon McCrea scored 17 points to lead the Bulls Friday. McCrea added five rebounds, five blocks and three assists.