The play had little significance during an exhibition game blowout victory for the Knights, but a move that Isaiah Sykes (Detroit, Mich.) made on Aug. 13 at McGill indicates that the sophomore guard might be ready for a breakout season for UCF in 2011-12. After spending his freshman campaign at small forward, Sykes is expected to see time at point guard this year, and the play during the exhibition game showed that he might be up for the task.
With UCF leading by nearly 40 points, Sykes grabbed a steal late in the fourth quarter. After crossing the halfcourt line, he nearly caused a back-pedaling defender to fall with a behind-the-back dribble, and then found a cutting P.J. Gaynor (Jacksonville, Fla.) with a behind-the-back pass that resulted in a dunk for the small forward. The play drew cheers from the fans in attendance at the game in Montreal, and hoots and hollers from the UCF bench, as the Knights were amazed by the impressive play.
Although the play had quite a wow factor, the move showed that Sykes is clearly confident with the ball in his hand, and could be an option at the backup point guard spot behind A.J. Rompza (Chicago, Ill.) for head coach Donnie Jones. Sykes played in 32 games as a rookie and averaged 4.0 points in 16.4 minutes of action. He shot 56.3 percent overall, but most of his buckets came in the paint off of offensive rebounds or in transition.
During UCF’s three games in Canada, Sykes exhibited that he can get to the basket with the ball in his hand, and also find open teammates. He averaged 3.0 assists to go with 12.0 points and 4.7 boards as he split time at point guard and on the wing. Sykes believes that the time with the ball in his hand will help him as he attempts to master a new position.
“It gives me an upper-hand on getting ready,” he said. “It makes me more confident with the ball in my hand, and knowing the plays and different spots where everybody needs to be.”
Jones said numerous times when the Knights were north of the border that he was pleased with Sykes’ play leading the team. The head coach, who is entering his second season in Orlando, also knows that Sykes can be an asset in numerous ways for the Knights.
“We think that he is Mr. Versatility,” Jones said. “He can play a lot of different positions. He can do a lot of different things for us.”
And judging from Sykes’ impressive play in Canada and the sensational move at McGill, more time at point guard is probably in his future.