Although he didn’t reach the status of go-to-scorer or bonafide starter, senior Gavin Skelly earned a solid role in the rotation in his senior season, whether starting at the power forward spot or being the first player off the bench. He shot the ball well from three, and, per usual, brought a ton of energy to the game.
The following numbers are taken from KenPom.com
The numbers below show improvements in many aspects of Skelly’s game this past season. After gradually increasing his minutes per game throughout his career, Skelly finally surpassed the halfway mark with an average minutes played percentage of 54.1 percent this season. Although his time on the court jumped significantly from last season, he stayed fairly similar to his 2016-2017 statistics. His sophomore-to-junior jump was bigger than his junior-to-senior.
The three areas in which Skelly made the greatest improvements other than the aforementioned time on the floor were three-point field goal percentage, defensive rebound percentage and steals. Although his three-point percentage, which was 39 percent this season, fell in comparison to his sophomore year — in which he neared 45 percent — he took 47 more attempts. Skelly took four more attempts than that his junior year, but his percentage was almost a whole 10 percent lower than this season at 30. Although his offensive rebound rate fell slightly in comparison to last season, he made up for it on the defensive boards with an improvement of around 3 percent.
Among the four main frontcourt players — Skelly, Aaron Falzon, Dererk Pardon and Barrett Benson — Skelly had the second highest free throw percentage and number of field goal attempts. Perhaps more meaningful is his differentiation in scoring at the rim and at the two-point jumper. The further from the basket Skelly was, the more often his looks were assisted, unsurprisingly. The amount of times Skelly was assisted mid-range and from behind the three-point line in comparison to his finishes at the rim was over 20 percent and over 40 percent greater, respectively. This trend shows that Skelly’s role wasn’t that of a play-maker Bryant McIntosh type. Rather than aggressive drives or post-up moves, Skelly’s offensive strength was being a threat from outside the paint — he had the highest three-point field goal percentage on the team.
Skelly was versatile. Just because the majority of his success didn’t come from inside the paint doesn’t mean he couldn’t score from there. He’d lay low just enough to throw down an explosive dunk on some poor, unsuspecting defender, just as he did in the Michigan game. He used his height to his advantage both offensively and defensively, with his long wingspan allowing him to grab steals and block shots. He wasn’t the main scoring contributor, but he posted seven games in double-digits, including back-to-back 14 point performances early in the season. Although his starts dropped off in the middle of the season, he regained his spot in the starting five for the majority of the remainder of the season.
Although Skelly posted decent strong numbers across the board, he was not the go-to player in really any area. He was a solid defender, but not great; he tended to foul often. He knocked down shots on the perimeter, but he wasn’t the one depended on to take the clutch shot most of the time. Skelly’s free throw percentage was a mediocre 71.4 percent, placing him right in the middle of the pack. He had just the seventh highest possession percentage and shot percentage. He was the third highest defensive and offensive rebounder. None of those are necessarily bad things, but it just reinforces that he wasn’t a stand-out player in comparison to his teammates in each specific category, which is not to discount his overall impact and ability to contribute in some fashion across the board.
Although Skelly’s time as a college basketball player is over, he has created some speculation about a fifth-year season on the football team. Whether it’s a rumor or not, his dedication to Northwestern sports and Big Ten athletics is impressive. Can he do it? Will he do it? It seems unlikely, but I guess we’ll see.
The Bottom Line:
Skelly may not have posted outstanding statistics, but he will be missed next season. His overall presence on the floor was beneficial to Northwestern. With the loss of two soon-to-be transfers Rapolas Ivanauskas and Isiah Brown, the loss of the seniors will be that much more impactful for depth purposes. His ability to contribute offensively in all areas of the floor is a skill that the Wildcats will need to replace. Not to mention Skelly was a part of the historic March Madness appearance and his contributions to the school’s first NCAA tournament will not be forgotten anytime soon.