Shizz Alston Jr. is currently the sixth most efficient passer in the entire NCAA. He has an assist to turnover ratio of 10.5 and through four games, has turned the ball over only twice. In 141 total minutes played, Alston has racked up 24 assists to that pair of turnovers, and the confidence of the sophomore guard continues to grow as each game passes by. None of the other five players ahead of Alston in the assist-to-turnover ratio standings nationally have played as many minutes as he has, and this tremendous efficiency from the underclassman is a telling sign of just how much positive progress he has gone through in such a short amount of time.
“His assist-to-turns are really good,” Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said of Alston after Temple’s 88-67 win over Manhattan on Sunday. “Everybody is comfortable playing with Shizz and now he’s really starting to understand what his role is.”
More and more, it is becoming clearer that the “role” Dunphy mentions references Alston’s increased job in the backcourt, as many of the Owls’ pieces are missing due to injury, including fellow sophomore guard, Trey Lowe and senior captain, Josh Brown.
In fact, Alston is playing very similarly to how Josh Brown played last season when Brown was thrusted into the primary rotation after the point guard position was left vacant following the graduation of Will Cummings. By the end of last season, Brown was eighth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio and was the main reason why Temple, as a team, ended their 2015-16 campaign ranked third in the nation in fewest turnovers per game.
Alston is doing more than just finding his team open looks though.
During Temple’s blowout win against Manhattan, Alston was able to score a career high 17 points on an efficient 7-of-11 shooting from the floor. His scoring came, in large part, thanks to his court awareness, constantly finding open holes in the Jasper’s zone defense. For several possessions, Alston would cut to dead spots around the high-post and free throw line area to nail open mid-range shots. Alston was also able to fill in every single stat in the boxscore except for turnovers.
The second year guard was able to grab three defensive rebounds, record two steals, and reject a shot at the rim for a block. When the season started, Alston made known that this kind of all around play was how he wanted to contribute to the team.
“I told myself, when I’m not scoring, I have to do other things to help my team,” Alston said after the Owls first game of the season earlier in November. “I feel like that gives us some energy. My blocks, and my steals...give us some life.”
Before the season began, Fran Dunphy noted that he had different expectations for Shizz Alston Jr. this year, but did not really specify what those expectations were. With his recent efficient play, the Owls and coach Dunphy should now be looking forward to how Alston can continue to run the offense with a continued confidence and efficiency, while also playing reliable defense against opposing guards.
“He played very well. He’s got a better sense of who he is right now,” Dunphy said. “It was not an easy freshman year for him. I think he picked up a lot tonight...he came of age, and as we move forward, he’s going to be expected to do even more for us.”
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