After moving from Conference USA to the AAC in 2014, the East Carolina Pirates struggled with the jump in competition. One bright spot in an otherwise forgettable 14-19 campaign came in the form of freshman combo guard B.J. Tyson, who led the team in points, field goal percentage and free throw attempts.
Offensively, Tyson is a gifted scorer. Despite not starting a single game as a freshman, Tyson led his team in total points (12.5 per game) and carried the Pirates with an impressive 19.9 points per 40 minutes, which ranked sixth best among all freshman prospects. Tyson is a deceptive lefty with advanced ball handling skills and phenomenal footwork, both of which enable him to get to the rim at ease.
Tyson has a quick first step and shows dexterity with both hands around the basket. In general, he's at his best when he puts the ball on the ground and drives to the hoop. Tyson averaged 7.7 free throws per 40 minutes as a freshman, third best among all freshman prospects, and converted on 71.4% of his attempts once there.
While Tyson gets into the paint frequently whether off the dribble or playing off ball he's not the most efficient scorer once he's there. Per Synergy Sports Technology, Tyson converted on 55-of-128 (42.9%) of his shots inside the paint as a freshman. His ability to get to the free throw line nullifies this concern somewhat, but that won't be easy to do against higher level competition, so improving his finishing ability will be something scouts want to see him do as he matures and gains experience.
Outside of the paint, Tyson's offense is somewhat limited. He is a work-in-progress from the perimeter, hitting on just 19-of-59 (32.2%) of his three pointers as a freshman. When defenders are near, his slow release forces him to rush and release low-arcing line drives. Tyson also has a bad habit of attempting jump shots from just within the three-point line, which are generally not very efficient looks even for the most gifted of scorers. With time and space, however, Tyson has a nice arc on his shot and actually looks capable of becoming a consistent floor spacer if he can ever speed up his release (Tyson hit 40% of his 15 unguarded catch-and-shoot jump shot attempts last season). He also shows promise as an off the dribble shooter, which is something that can be honed into a more polished weapon as he continues to see more offense playing on the ball.
For that to happen, Tyson's court awareness will need to improve, especially since right now he's essentially a combo guard trapped in a point guard's body. He averaged just 2.3 assists per 40 minutes, and posted a -2.71 pure point ratio as a freshman. While he's a bullet in the open floor and converted on a strong 64.8% (46-of-71) of his transition opportunities, he showed tunnel vision on the break and would surely benefit from developing his instincts as a floor general.
It's somewhat difficult to evaluate Tyson's defense at this point, considering East Carolina's dedication to the zone. To his credit, Tyson does have an active crouch when he is tasked with defending on ball and has the speed and quickness to stay in front of his opponent. Tyson's closeout speed on shooters is adequate, but he did appear confused or lost with where his responsibilities lied within the zone at times, and he did not force a huge amount of turnovers either at just 1.1 steals per-40.
Tyson will catch NBA teams' radars because his scoring instincts and ability to get to the free throw line. He still has a lot of work to do to improve his all-around offensive game. As a sophomore, he'll need to demonstrate a better court awareness by increasing his assists while lowering his turnovers. Most importantly, however, Tyson has to show improvements with his perimeter shot. Regardless, with a year of experience under his belt, he should take a big leap as a sophomore.