Statistically, potential transfer Mark Lyons would help KU


Our own Gary Bedore reported Wednesday that Xavier point guard Mark Lyons will be transferring to either Kansas, Kentucky or Arizona, and because of the new NCAA rules, he will be eligible to play next season as a senior.

Because the 6-foot-1, 190-pound guard has already played three years at Xavier, this gives us a chance to break down his numbers to see what kind of impact he might have for KU if he picks the Jayhawks.

Before we get started, I think it's important to note that I'm only going to be looking at Lyons' stats in this blog. Obviously, the guard — who played prep school at Brewster Academy, the alma mater of both Thomas Robinson and Naadir Tharpe — will join a new school with some baggage.

The reason Lyons is leaving Xavier is because of a falling out with XU coach Chris Mack, as the story linked says "the guard repeatedly tried to take over games by driving into crowds of defenders or taking long shots."

Lyons also was suspended two games following the ugly Cincinnati-Xavier brawl on Dec. 10, 2011, and didn't help his cause with his postgame comments (He's No. 10 in the video and the second one to talk at the postgame press conference).

Obviously, KU coach Bill Self is aware of what's above and is willing to accept it if Lyons is planning on visiting campus, so let's look at some of the numbers.

Mark Lyons vs. Tyshawn Taylor

After looking at his profile, I couldn't help but notice how similar some of Lyons' numbers were to that of Tyshawn Taylor.

So instead of trying to conceptualize the type of player that Lyons is, I figured we'd compare his numbers last year to that of a player that KU fans know well*.

* — One thing to keep in mind with this exercise: These numbers don't take into account both teams' strength of schedule. According to, KU played the nation's No. 1 schedule last season. Xavier still faced a good slate on its own, finishing with the 30th-best schedule, according to KenPom. It's just something to be aware of when we compare the two players. All stats from

OK, let's explain the statistics above. Offensive rating is simply a measure of a player's individual efficiency, or the points per possession he creates himself. One point per possession is considered average.

Offensive rating is used hand in hand with possession percentage, which is a measure of what percentage of a team's possessions a player ends while he's on the floor. Basically, this measures how involved in the offense a player is. Average possession percentage is 20 percent.

Shot percentage is the percentage of shots taken when a player is on the floor. Again, average is 20 percent.

From the numbers, we can see Taylor and Lyons played similar roles for their respective teams last year. Both were well-above-average offensive players that took on a huge offensive role for their teams.

The two players did this in different ways. Lyons shot more often than Taylor, but despite his reputation in the article above, this didn't stop him from being an efficient player while he was in.

Taylor, though he shot less, burned a higher number of possessions on turnovers.

Turnover rate (which shows what percentage of a players' possessions were used on turnovers) shows Lyons to be a much more secure ball-handler than Taylor.

So how did both players obtain their efficiency offensively? Let's take a look.

First off, the two players had nearly identical three-point numbers:

Both players helped their teams when shooting three-pointers, making them at a high percentage without taking too many (and yes, we're looking at the whole season and not just Taylor's NCAA Tournament shooting).

Let's look at a few more stats.

This is where Lyons lags behind Taylor just a bit.

Though Lyons took 56 fewer twos than Taylor last year, he was only a 44.4 percent shooter from two-point range (NCAA average last season was 47.8 percent).

Lyons also wasn't as good at getting to the free-throw line, though he was a significantly better shooter than Taylor when he got there.

Taylor also was easily the better passer last year, handing out assists on 29.7 percent of KU's field goals, while Lyons dished out less than a-fifth of his team's assists while he was on the floor.

Lyons' effective field-goal percentage (a number that gives 1 1/2 credit for three-pointers because they're worth 1 1/2 times the points) also is lower than Taylor's, though as we mentioned earlier, his efficiency is still about the same because of his much lower turnover number.

Defensively, with the statistics we have, the two appear to have about the same net impact, though they contribute in different ways.

Lyons helped his team much more on the glass, especially on the defensive end (a 10.3 percent defensive rebound percentage would have ranked fourth on KU last year, behind only Robinson, Jeff Withey and Kevin Young).

The two players' steal numbers are almost exactly the same, while Lyons also blocked one percent of the two-pointers taken against his team.

The one big advantage Taylor had over Lyons was his ability to avoid fouls. Though Lyons fouled out of just two games last season, he had four fouls in eight other contests.

Bottom Line

Though Taylor had the better year last year against tougher competition, Lyons' production wasn't far off from KU's senior point guard.

In 2011-12, Lyons was a gifted three-point shooter who was able to play at a high level without turning it over often, though he shot far too many two-pointers considering his poor percentage from inside the arc.

Defensively, Lyons gave Xavier a boost on the boards but oftentimes found himself over-aggressive and in foul trouble.

If he came to KU, the senior would immediately provide experience and scoring on a team that could need it with the departures of Taylor and Robinson.

Though Lyons' high shot percentage will need to be toned down a bit, he could be a nice one-year stopgap for the Jayhawks if Self doesn't believe that Tharpe is ready for a starting role.

Lyons would come with some off-the-court questions discussed earlier, but as far as immediate help goes, Self will have a hard time finding a bigger impact player at this stage in the basketball calendar.


Jason Montgomery 9 years, 8 months ago

Why would we want this guy. Do we need someone to fill Tyshawns shoes and start throwing punches at the football team?

Terry Sexton 9 years, 8 months ago

In Coach we trust. If the staff thinks Lyons is a fit, he probably is.

John Dalke 9 years, 8 months ago

Don't need him. Just keepin' it real yo!

Alohahawk 9 years, 8 months ago

Mahalo, Jesse, for the great stat breakdown. Your timing is good, too. Any data that effectively adds to the off-season discussions on, especially in this case, such a heated and debatable recruit/transfer is very welcome. Probably won't change many opinions on Lyons, but definitely illustrates why Self is considering him.

Jeff Kilgore 9 years, 8 months ago

"Mahalo" -- I want to use this in passing speech, but first, I probably ought to know what it means.

I'm on the side of take him. I have no trouble believing that Coach Self and Mark already understand what Self accepts and what he does not accept. Plus, if Lyons has any hope to play in the NBA, he wants a fresh start and wants to be remembered as a good basketball player first, and for that, you can't blame him for wanting to be a Jayhawk!

Alohahawk 9 years, 8 months ago

Aloha, jkilore. "Mahalo" is the Hawaiian word for "Thank you." As far as I know, it does not have any dual meanings. Unlike "Aloha", which can mean: "Hello", "Goodbye", and "I love you" (or just "Love"). Use it with all your friends and acquaintances and you're bound to impress a few. I used to represent a nationwide company as their island account exec., and the home office was located in L.A.. Whenever I called them the first word I said was "Aloha". They never had to ask who was calling, and they got a kick out of hearing it. There are a number of Hawaiian words used internationally, but "Mahalo" hasn't received as much attention as "Aloha", or perhaps, "Kapu" (which is Hawaiian for the Tahitian word, "Taboo". So now, you're one akamai haole, brah. (Hawaiian for "smart white skinned brother/sister"). That's your Hawaiian lesson for today. That'll cost you a beer, if or when you visit the islands. :>)

As for Lyons, time heals all wounds (or most of them anyway). And after reading the above by Jesse, I'm more in favor of, than against him.

Stephen Johnson 9 years, 8 months ago

Mahalo. For the Hawaiian lesson. I'm sure I'll find an opportunity to you it.

hawk316 9 years, 8 months ago

Alohahawk, I used to live in Hawaii and remember well that some tourists thought "mahalo" meant "trash," because they would see the word on public trash cans on the beach.

Suggestion: If you haven't done so yet, go out to breakfast at "Eggs and Things" in Waikiki I loved that place!

Alohahawk 9 years, 8 months ago

"Eggs and Things" was one of the first breakfast places I went to eat when I arrived almost 37 years ago. I had heard of it before I moved to the islands. One of my KU professors recommended it and, if I remember correctly, said the owner was originally from Kansas (The state, I'm not sure if the owner attended KU.) And yes, they have great food, reasonable prices, and a large following. When I arrived, they were located on a little side street (Ena Road), years later moved around the corner onto Kalakaua Avenue (the main drag through Waikiki), and are now located at 343 Saratoga Road (close to the Waikiki post office). Have to admit, since I live in downtown Honolulu, it's been a while since I ate there. Ahh, brings back fond memories of my youth. Those were the days.

9 years, 8 months ago

Great analysis, Jesse. One thing to keep in mind is TT was a senior this season with Lyons being a junior. Who's to say Lyons couldn't enjoy the same level of improvement between his junior and senior years like TT displayed? Another thing to be mindful of, this kid is about to graduate from Xavier, so I would speculate he is fairly bright. My guess is HCBS sees these things and more to be interested in pursuing him.

VaJay 9 years, 8 months ago

tx - that's a great point about the potential for improvement. While it's good that he'll be graduating & shows some scholastic expertise by juggling sports & a degree, the big question for our coach is how much baggage is he truly bringing with him. Maybe, just as Tyshawn had to grow out of some things, this kid can too.

tbbucboy21 9 years, 8 months ago

I want Eliah starting at the point next year no matter what. Hes earned it and showed flashes of greatness. He will be absolute stud PG next year. If lyons comes in to back him up then fine cant hurt

Jayhawk1958 9 years, 8 months ago

I still EJ is better at the two guard. We need another starter in the backcourt with the experience Lyon brings. Tharpe could back him up at PG.

Sam Finocchiaro 9 years, 8 months ago

touche. i've liked lyons statistically all along. character could potentially hurt us. but i honestly think he has "learned his lesson" and he looks athletic and plays that way. it would be great to have him, and i hope he choses us

Jayhawk1958 9 years, 8 months ago

I'm sure Self will read the riot act that he gets only one more chance. Txrockchalk, interesting point about TT growth from Junior to Senior.

9 years, 8 months ago

Thanks, Jayhawk1958. Even if he doubles his production though, it won't matter if we don't get him. Just a "what if" I suppose. Wondering where we rank on his list - - it seems like AZ would be the front runner based on his prior relationship with their coach.

Geezer 9 years, 8 months ago

Two important things to keep in mind. He played along side Tu Holloway who was really the "point guard". And he would be in front of guys that we already have, BMac and Tharpe, that probably would benefit from more playing time next year. I'm fine if we get him as he may make next years team a little better but if we don't it's not a big deal.

Evan Ridenour 9 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

John Randall 9 years, 8 months ago

Your comment shows an inexcusable disrespect for our players and our coaching staff – "team cancer" and KU basketball form an obvious oxymoron. Neither the coaches nor the players would allow that to develop.

Evan Ridenour 9 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

dylans 9 years, 8 months ago

Being kicked off of a team has sobered up several big headed players - Michael Jordan comes to mind. I don't know if he is worth the risk, but if no better player is available until next season why not gamble on him? If he is a team cancer kick him off the team. Problem solved. You get the best of both worlds a rival doesn't get him and Bill was able to fully evaluate his skills and weigh them against his detractions.

Jeffrey Nichols 9 years, 8 months ago

Let me join Eride in pointing out that KU basketball, while much beloved and borderline religious, is not above discussion and circumspection. Your comments KU62 are the kind that make me think of KSU, OU, and MU fans - not a good KU fan. All things KU are not perfect, and Tyshawn is the perfect example. Acting as though the basketball program is infallible is akin to the ostrich response - stick your head in the sand and assume all things in the KU world are perfect because you can't (read "won't") see anything bad.

I for one trust Self's judgment on these things - he is beyond reproach in putting together basketball teams. If he thinks it can work, then it can work. I love nothing more than watching successful KU basketball teams. But Lyons was extremely thug-like at Xavier, a program that was an embarrassment to college basketball last year, and a healthy dose of caution and concern should be assumed, if not desired. You can't change a Tiger's stripes (unless you slip off to the SEC).

Todd Mobray 9 years, 8 months ago

I think our only chance is if KY and AZ are both out of schollies anyway. Miller already got him once and needs a PG. He also seems to have a temperament that fits Cal better than Self.

Troll_or_AntiTroll 9 years, 8 months ago

What are you talking about? The kids at KY were universally praised this year for playing team ball.

VaJay 9 years, 8 months ago

Interesting take on your choices Ralster. I was never sold on Selby & always felt he was out for #1 above all other things. He was also very (-underline that) young. If this kid Lyons says the right things to Self - And means it! - then I'd go with Lyons in a heartbeat. I see him as a backup to EJ that can outperform a still green Tharpe, who I think needs another year of seasoning. It's unlikely Lyons will attain close to the level of Taylor, who could break anybody down in a heartbeat, but he'd be a solid backup & we wouldn't lose much with him coming off the bench.

Kristen Downing 9 years, 8 months ago

The Arizona coach will get him again. Too much attitude for my taste with zero KU love developed over time. Bad combination.

JJHawq 9 years, 8 months ago

agree. the kid can flat out play. I also like his twitter comments - he's very positive!

he's not as tall or fast as TT, but i think he has a better shot. Lots of upside for Naadir!!

kubball99 9 years, 8 months ago

+1. Agreed with all your comments. Not only can the kid flat out play, but he can flat out shoot the ball. I think there are big things ahead for Tharpe, but he needs to do some work in the offseason to make sure he sees significant minutes next year. My opinion is that you let Tharpe develop over the summer and during the first half of the season. I would rather see Self develop Tharpe than bring in Lyons for one year. With Greene and Frankamp (and potentially Freeman), Tharpe is going to need a lot of experience to keep his spot.

Probably the biggest reason I would rather see Tharpe is that you've got a kid who wanted to come to KU and be a Jayhawk. For Lyons, KU is only a means to an end: getting to the next level. Not to mention Lyons has some other baggage (albeit somewhat minimal).

I'll deal with the growing pains of Tharpe, but give me him over Lyons.

Sam Constance 9 years, 8 months ago

Let's not get carried away here. I agree that Tharpe will be a big-time contributor for Kansas, although I'm not sold on him taking a monumental leap forward between last season and this season.

Just for some perspective on the RR to Tharpe comparison, keep the following in mind:

1) Tharpe played 5.5 mpg this year on a team that was known as much for it's lack of depth as for anything else. Existing players he had to compete with for minutes were Tyshawn, EJ, Travis and...

2) Robinson played 10.1 mpg his freshman year for a team that already had Aaron Miles, Keith Langford, Michael Lee, Jeff Hawkins and JR Giddens at the guard positions

3) Tharpe was the 90-somethingth rated player coming out of HS

4) Robinson was the 27th-rated player coming out of HS

5) Robinson was technically asked to play "out of" position, since he came to KU as a SG. That learning curve might've had something to do with his freshman struggles.

6) Naadir has been slotted at his natural PG position this whole time.

Again, I'm not writing off Tharpe, but I think it's inaccurate to draw parallels between he and Russell Robinson in any way other than the notion that both came in and struggled their freshman year.

Mick Allen 9 years, 8 months ago

I think that Nadir has to make significant improvement in 2 areas of his game to earn significant playing time next year. The first area that needs work is defensively. At 5 10 you would hope he would have the quickness to keep his man in front of him. Often times last year he was beat off the dribble, allowing his man in the lane requiring one of the bigs to provide help. Ty was a great on ball defender. While Nadir does not possess the physical strengths that Ty has, ie height, reach etc., he needs to at least keep his man in front of him and work on his lateral quickness, because as we all know if you are continually getting beat off the dribble you won't see the court much for Coach Self. Secondly, at Nadir's size one would hope he has handles and would take of the ball. That was not always the case last year. He looked uncomfortable against pressure and was picked too many times off his dribble. Some of this can be explained by his lack of playing time and resultant lack of confidence. Consequently, if Lyons has his head on straight, I can see him being a valuable addition if he is willing to accept a supporting role. If his aspirations are to play in the NBA, and I'm sure they are, a supporting role might not showcase his abilities to the extent he feels necessary.

JayHawkFanToo 9 years, 8 months ago

Let's think this Lyons thing through.

Lyons is looking for a school where he can rehab his image and log enough time at the PG to impress NBA scouts. The only position he can play in the NBA is PG. At Xavier, playing behind Tu Holloway did not help his cause, as the scouts were looking at Holloway and not him.

To play at KU, he will need to have assurances that he will get substantial time at the PG; he will not get that from HC Self. Kentucky has the UNC State PG coming in and he would have to share time with him; if he needs him, the squid will tell him what he wants to hear, He would get plenty of playing time at Arizona as it lost its primary PG and Miller is the coach that originally recruited him to Xavier.

He will play at Arizona.

PAjayhawk22 9 years, 8 months ago

I agree, makes the most sense in many areas

Scott Smetana 9 years, 8 months ago

Good analysis. I think we're good with or without him.

Jesse, please update us from time to time with a graph showing the weight and bench press improvements of Young and Withey.

theboehr89 9 years, 8 months ago

Jesse, I usually respect what you have to say. And this article is no exception. Good stuff, keep it up!

REHawk 9 years, 8 months ago

Promising stats; iffy disposition; negative experiences at Xavier.. If Mark Lyons chooses to visit Kansas, Bill Self will kickstart high caliber machinery toward the goal of judging whether the positives outweigh the negatives. If he does sign on and manage to compete successfully for playing time, he will definitely assure NBA scouts that he is capable of applying his talents bigtime in a well disciplined format, fitting quickly into a winning program guided by a coach who measures out short leashes to individuals who persist in "not getting it." Mark might play more minutes at Arizona; but, at season's end, will he advance far enough in the NCAA Tournament to showcase his substance? If he plays for, and thrives under the tutelage of Bill Self, he is bound for a good shot at the Final Four, and stands a better than average chance of playing a significant role on a nationally celebrated 9th consecutive league championship squad. A win/win situation for Kansas and Mark Lyons...IF the kid is capable of adjusting to and sustaining a co-operative positive team commitment and attitude when the road turns rough and rocky, as it is bound to do over a series of some 30 contests.

Sam Constance 9 years, 8 months ago

Given the nature of Xavier coach Chris Mack's comments about Mark Lyons, I don't know how anyone can put much stock in them.

They sound, not like an mentor giving a measured and objective take on one of his former pupils, but like someone who is still unhappy about the falling out between the two of them. If I had to guess, I'd say that Mark Lyons and Chris Mack never got along, perhaps as a function of the fact that Lyons was a Sean Miller recruit and never bought into the new regime.

Either way, I don't think you can look at a flippant comment about "driving into traffic and throwing the ball away" from someone who's supposed to be the "adult" in that relationship as anything more than sour grapes. Let's not forget that even though the players were the guys who got into the brawl, some culpability must reside with the coaches of those teams, for failure to instill proper discipline.

Does that mean Lyons won't be a problem? I have no idea. I'm not saying Mack's comments absolve Lyons of his own culpability, just that they probably aren't an entirely objective evaluation of what Lyons brings to the table.

prusso25 9 years, 8 months ago

I am not worried about his attitude. Scrappiness is great as long as it doesn't result in fights. Channeled aggression is great on the court. I think Self is the perfect guy to keep this kid in line. Hope we land him!

prusso25 9 years, 8 months ago

I am not worried about his attitude. Scrappiness is great as long as it doesn't result in fights. Channeled aggression is great on the court. I think Self is the perfect guy to keep this kid in line. Hope we land him!

Mark Lindrud 9 years, 8 months ago

Lyons seems to be talented and if we got him I personally want him backing up EJ. Tharpe shows flashes but he still is very erratic. I do hope he gets more time this year like 10 minutes a game which would be a step in his development, but that is if Lyons is here. Otherwise I'm good with Tharpe getting more minutes. I think we have enough new guys as it is that we don't need him.i prefer to give minutes to develop our young nucleus. We shall see since Self is our leader and I am faithful to him, especially after what he did this year. Rock Chalk!

jaybate 9 years, 8 months ago


Gary breaking the story and your doing this elaborate stat breakdown that arrives at the conclusion that Lyons is a player with Tyshawn Taylor type production, plus the fact that Lyons comes from Thomas and Naadir's academy tells me less about how good Lyons is and more about Self thinking he is: a) likely to sign Lyons; and b) thinking some pre-emptive spin will help off-set signing a player with this much baggage.

Here's how I read the stats you presented.

On an inferior team, Lyons produced some numbers approaching Tyshawn's, but he wasn't nearly as efficient offensively, because he is only 6-1 and can't finish at the iron, or get j's off as effectively as Tyshawn at 6-3.

Lyon's also fouled vastly more than Tyshawn did, despite having played the point for 3 seasons, where as Tyshawn only played the point for two seasons.

And Lyon's slightly better rebounding numbers mean almost nothing, since Lyon was not playing with a human vacuum cleaner like Thomas, and a footer, like Jeff, both of whom left precious few caroms for Tyshawn.

Conclusion: Lyons is probably a good get because of the:

a) knees issues with EJ;

b) the doubts about Naadir's short legs and slow feet; and

c) the likelihood that Anrio Adams will be a Pre-Shirt, i.e., someon who will take his first season to get eligible.

So: Lyons--baggage and all--is likely to sign with KU, because KU likely has the most potential need at the point of his listed schools.

But Tyshawn was a rare and gifted long and athletic point guard, who had a great senior season, after a rocky retrofit at learning the point as a junior.

Mark Lyons is a WYSIWYG on the wood (not as good as Tyshawn) with a lot of baggage off that will require quite a bit of faith to believe he will not blow up next season with Self on him and the greater intensity of competition that KU plays over the course of a season.

Hence, the need to prepare fans for Lyons.

But ever since I heard Self say flatly that EJ was going to be just fine after his surfer to clean up bone particles inside his knee, I figured there might be more trouble inside that knee than was being let on and that Self felt it was important to downplay EJ's injury problems to keep from being extorted for PT promises, and perhaps other incentives, by the guards he was trying to recruit.

All the above said, Lyons would fill a serious need. He would also add a player with a NYC profile, where Norm is trying to recruit. And if Naadir and Thomas and the academy coach vouch for him, Self is going to take a flyer on him under the circumstances.

Curtis Stutz 9 years, 8 months ago

jaybate, don't forget when you compare those rebounding numbers that without TRob talent on the d-glass Xavier had to rebound defensively as a team more which would have cut Lyons' chances at fastbreak hoops dramatically compared to TT's. Could be part of the reason he didn't shoot as well from 2.

Someone had mentioned it on an early article involving Lyons and I'll reiterate, even if you like the current roster for next year what happens if we have an injury to EJ or Tharpe? If Lyons goes to KU he will most likely start, he's a proven D1 CBB player, EJ may prefer to share PG duties again like he did last year (I have no idea) and KU gets full use of that scholarship and gets it right back to recruit the large pool of talent considering KU in next year's class. It's a big win for Self if he can convince Lyons to play at KU. I understand and feel similarly to people who are so excited to see EJ run the team and watch him control the game, but I don't know that it'll make for a better team. I do hope that EJ has a lot of input, like the loyal fans have stated, guy is coming into his 4th year, he's been patient, been a team player, shown he has great talent, at this point it's his backcourt and if he isn't comfortable with Lyons that would be a huge factor for Self I'm sure.

Jeeveshawk 9 years, 8 months ago

Obviously Tyshawn Taylor was alot better than Mark Lyons, but what I would like to see is an analysis of Elijah Johnson vs Mark Lyons, so see who would start as PG if we got Lyons. I think I would go with Elijah, although he averaged 5 less ppg. Although Lyons did play behind Tu Holloway, Elijah played behind an even better pg in Tyshawn Taylor. Then when you look at who else was taking up the offense for XU: Kenny Frease, and compare him to Thomas Robinson of Kansas, you almost have to think that that is worth about 5 points in Johnsons favor. The last factor that must be considered is that Elijah plays against much tougher competition and is much better at defense, which seals the deal that Elijah is also better than Lyons.

kgreg01 9 years, 8 months ago

HE IS NOT GOING TO COME HERE and sit on the bench and back up EJ. He's going to a school to start at PG. He stated he desires to be one and could not be one at X bc Tu Holloway had that role. The only way I see him coming here is if Self is 1) willing to keep EJ at the 2 and promise him such during recruiting.

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