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Stanford Basketball Player Profile: Marcus Sheffield

His freshman season showed promise on both sides of the ball. Can Jerod Haase use Sheffield to his strengths?

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at California John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
Stanford sophomore wing Marcus Sheffield
Stanford Athletics

Marcus Sheffield’s freshman season saw him slowly get added into a significant role for the Cardinal. As Stanford entered the Pac-12 Conference schedule, Sheffield had a 12 game stretch where he averaged 24 minutes per game.

Then, for whatever reason Johnny Dawkins had, Sheffield had a fall from favor in the rotation. During the final 5 games of the 2015-16 season Marcus Sheffield was only playing 8 minutes per game. This despite Sheffield 37.8% shooting from behind the 3-point line — the best of any Stanford player averaging at least 1 attempt per game.

As a refresher, let’s take a look at Sheffield’s statistics from his 2015-16 freshman season.

Season Games Played Minutes Played FG-FGA FG% 3FG-3FGA 3FG% FT% eFG% Rebounds per game Assists per game Steals per game Points per game PER (Player Efficiency Rating)
2015-16 28 447 39-100 39 17-45 37.8 70.2 44.5 2.3 1 0.5 6 12.6

A solid starting point.

A dynamite athlete, Sheffield is most comfortable when the Cardinal were out in transition. The problem? Stanford was one of the nation’s slowest pace of play teams last year.

The Cardinal were the nation’s 283rd slowest team. Something that hurt most of the players on the Stanford roster. In fact, Stanford was the nation’s 30th best transition offense team in the country last season. So, they didn’t exactly play to their strengths.

Perhaps most impacted by the lack of transition offense was Marcus Sheffield. Sheffield in transition was absolutely lethal. Particularly, when he was the ball handler on the break. Of every basketball player in America only 50 were better than Sheffield at generating points with the ball in their hands. He scored or was fouled on the shot on all of these opportunities except for one, which resulted in a turnover.

If Jerod Haase looks to have the Cardinal running, Sheffield will have more of an opportunity to shine.

In the half court offense, Sheffield was average overall as a freshman, but definitely showed good aspects to build upon.

Sheffield was stronger on the catch and shoot than he was at pull up jumpers and driving to the hoop. The key for Sheffield will be having his teammates finding him open and placing a good pass.

In 2015-16, he showed that when he is open, he makes opponents pay. When Sheffield was unguarded on the catch and shoot, he was excellent. He had an eFG% of 79.4%. That’s crazy good. Among the best marks in the NCAA. If the offense finds him, Marcus will knock down his shot. The good news is that Jerod Haase is certainly dreaming up ways to get Sheffield open. This will be important.

The reason it will be important for Sheffield to be open? When he was guarded, he was poor. Really poor.

When Sheffield was guarded on the catch and shoot, he had an eFG% of 31.6%. That’s the 5th worst of any player in the Pac-12 Conference.

But, the positive is that Sheffield is hitting the shots that are open. Give him a couple more years at the Division 1 NCAA level and he will start to drain those tougher guarded jumpers.

Defensively Sheffield was first-rate when place in the man-to-man. He was below average in zone defense scenarios.

Sheffield exhibited the ability to hinder and lock down his assignment — so long as he was only expected to focus on his man. When Sheffield needed to cheat off his man to provide help, his ability to relocate and recover is still a work in progress.

Essentially, when Sheffield needed to defend with his athleticism, he was able to do so with great success. As he needed to communicate with teammates and read different scheme situations, he was vulnerable. This could be a product of inexperience, needing to support overmatched teammates, and poor coaching. Team defense is really difficult. Sheffield had a tough time with it as a freshman.

But again, Sheffield showed that he does have the ability to stop his man from scoring. So, if he can clearly understand what is expected of him in the team concept, he will be able to challenge more shots. This is good because when he does challenge shots — his opponent tends to miss at a fairly high rate. This aspect of his game should also come along in the next few seasons.

His transition excellence and the promising building block of a potentially great catch and shoot option in the half court, the offensive future of Marcus Sheffield looks promising. His ability to create stops on defense is also encouraging, Sheffield just needs to get comfort and trust within a team defensive concept. When and if he does get there on the defensive side of the ball, he will be a vital playmaker. His forced turnovers generate deadly fast breaks.

With all things considered, it isn’t hard to see that Marcus Sheffield is one of the cornerstones of the improved future of Stanford basketball. He just needs to be used in a way that is most beneficial to his skills. How Jerod Haase utilizes the sophomore wing will be one of the most interesting things to discover during the coming season.