A Closer Look At What Kihei Clark Brings Back To Virginia

 

Virginia
Virginia guard Kihei Clark drives against Boston College. ~ Photo by Mike Ingalls/TheSabre.com

When dissecting the Virginia basketball roster, it has been clear that guard depth may need to be prioritized for the 2022-2023 season. On Monday night, UVA addressed that concern when it announced that Kihei Clark would return to the program and use the “Super Senior” eligibility year allowed by the NCAA due to the pandemic.

Clark brings significant experience back to the team with the decision. In four years with the Hoos, he posted 1,082 points, 368 rebounds, 539 assists, and 113 steals to go with 274 turnovers. He became just the fifth player in school history with 1,000 points and 500 assists in his career this past season. He ranks fifth on the program’s all-time assists list. He’s received All-ACC recognition three times (third team in 2019-2020, honorable mention team in 2020-2021 and 2021-2022).

By keeping Clark in the fold, Virginia answered depth concerns created by other roster management questions. The Cavaliers lost outbound guard transfers in consecutive seasons when Casey Morsell left for NC State in 2021 and Carson McCorkle left for Wofford and Malachi Poindexter left for Illinois State in 2022. Those exits along with the expected departure of Kody Stattmann left only Reece Beekman, Armaan Franklin, and Chase Coleman as upperclass options on the roster.

The Hoos also did not pick up a high school guard that fits the full point guard or combo guard mold. Incoming freshmen Isaac McKneely, Leon Bond, and Ryan Dunn along with sophomore Taine Murray could soak up perimeter minutes, but none would be purely natural options in a point guard type of role.

In other words, the roster had depth concerns for experienced perimeter minutes overall or for point guard minutes specifically if foul trouble or injury situations arose. In a way, Clark is like adding a graduate transfer to the roster from within to try to tackle those issues vs. mining the transfer portal for a similar player.

As expected, Clark’s return sparked plenty of conversation on the message boards and beyond. That’s the tale of Clark’s career really. Like all players, he has flaws. Like many players, he has strengths. Those two spectrum ends just seem to get debated surrounding Clark more than most players.

Ultimately, Virginia is keeping a guard with the following numbers. Over the past three seasons when he moved into a full-time starter role, Clark has averaged 10.1 points, 4.9 assists, and 3.1 rebounds along with 2.4 turnovers per game. He has ranked in the top 10 in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio in each of the last three seasons. I’m guessing if a nameless guard committed to the Hoos from another school with those numbers, it would be mostly celebrated.

Those are some surface level stats, though. Considering that UVA plays a low number of possessions, efficiency and advanced stats are important as well. What do the numbers in the Synergy Sports data say?

Clark has developed into a solid spot-up threat (catch-and-shoot situations or playing out of a catch-and-shoot situation), has mostly been a good pick-and-roll ballhandler, and has grown in transition on limited opportunities. He has been less successful shooting off of screens and playing in isolation. He has not always put multiple categories together successfully in the same season.

Here is the year-by-year breakdown of the last three seasons:

Kihei Clark Synergy Stats - Offense

SeasonSpot-UpPick/Roll BallhandlerTransitionOff ScreensIsolation
2019-2020
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