LAFAYETTE — University of Louisiana at Lafayette junior guard Kasey Shepherd stopped by men’s basketball coach Bob Marlin’s office a couple of weeks ago seeking some guidance about his role on the team.
Marlin pitched an idea and Shepherd was receptive.
“He came by my office and we talked about the possibility of coming off the bench,” Marlin said. “That was something that he wouldn’t mind doing.”
A starting gig seemed like a logical progression for Shepherd coming into the season based off his scoring ability alone. He averaged 8.2 points in just under 17 minutes per game last season.
Five games into the season, Shepherd has yet to start a game, but his ability to score provided the Cajuns with a spark when they needed one.
“From an offensive standpoint, he can really be effective (from the bench),” Marlin said.
Shepherd drained a 3-pointer with two seconds remaining in the first half against Oral Roberts last week, giving his team an 11-point lead and a shot in the arm. The Cajuns went on to snap a three-game losing skid by hammering Oral Roberts 76-52, thanks in part to Shepherd’s scoring skills.
Shepherd matched his career high with 22 points off the bench. He drilled seven of his eight shot attempts, including four of five from deep. He still has some work to do as a player. Shepherd is splitting his time at the two guard positions because he sometimes gets too careless with the ball.
“His decision-making is good, but he hasn’t executed some of the decisions, so therefore he’s had too many turnovers,” Marlin said.
Junior forward Shawn Long missed the Oral Roberts game with an injury that has hampered his play so far this season, but Marlin sounded optimistic that Long was on the right track to return.
“He’s had a bone bruise and tendinitis in his foot and it’s really bothered his mobility,” Marlin said. “His lateral movement has not been very good, and (neither has his explosiveness). He’s starting to get some of that back.”
Marlin wanted to hold off on setting a timetable for Long’s return, however.
“He practiced Sunday and yesterday and looked good. We’ll see how he is today. I think the rest did all of our guys some good, especially him.
Marlin likes what he’s seen out of true freshmen Bryce Washington and Johnathan Stove so far.
“They’ve both done well,” Marlin said. “They’re certainly cerebral players that understand the game and are quick to pick up what we’re trying to do on both ends of the court.”
Stove, a graduate of Christian Life Academy in Baton Rouge, has put up double digit scoring efforts in three of the Cajuns first five games, a mark surpassed only by senior Brian Williams.
Washington, a St. Augustine graduate, is averaging 5.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in a little more than 21 minutes per game off the bench.
“I’m excited about what they’ve done, they both have started games and have played well at times during games,” Marlin said.
Senior guard Xavian Rimmer hasn’t blossomed statistically yet this season, and he’s going to have to pick up his play in certain aspects of his game. But Marlin said there is a reasoning behind his slow start.
“He’s been a key focal point of the scouting report for the other team as a perimeter shooter,” Marlin said. “His percentage is low to date, but he will get that up.”
Rimmer is averaging 6.2 points per game on 35.7 percent shooting, including an ugly 21.4 percent mark from the 3-point line. He is the only Cajuns player to have started all five games this season.
“He’s been very good in some other areas too that don’t show up on the stat sheet,” Marlin said.