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Billy Garrett, Jr. Takes The Reins One Last Time

Billy Garrett, Jr. is set for another all-conference season as the surrounding team prepares for life without him.

NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Drake Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

DePaul men’s basketball is in a down period, having just completed their 7th 20-loss season in 8 years. But in the midst of the struggle, Billy Garrett, Jr. - now a senior - has been a steady presence at point guard over the past three seasons. He’ll have one last season to leave an indelible mark on Blue Demons basketball history as they work towards the future.

Billy Garrett’s 2016 numbers align with what he produced in his first two seasons on-campus. Last year he averaged 12.6 points, 3.5 assists, 2.5 turnovers, 2.9 rebounds, and 28 minutes per game in 30 appearances (a starter in all of them).

Garrett’s best game had to be his 19-point, 10-assist, 3-steal performance against St. John’s in late February. He also put up 22 points and 7 assists in a win over Norfolk State during the Paradise Jam down in the US Virgin Islands, 20 points and 8 assists in a loss at Seton Hall, and 20 points and 7 assists in a win over George Washington in December.

It is well established at this point that Garrett is a bona fide playmaker and scorer. He normally utilized the drive to kick out to open shooters or to pull paint defenders towards him so he could sneak it to a teammate under the basket. He helmed the 295th scoring offense in the country, so there were more than a fair amount of would-be assists that were negated by missed shots and turnovers. Yet he was still able to finish 7th in the Big East in assist percentage.

Garrett’s driving ability got him to the free throw line often. His .490 free throw rate was third-highest on the team, first among Blue Demon guards. Billy had four games of double-digit free throw attempts, including a 12-for-12 outing in a January loss at Georgetown. He shot 81.9% from the line on the year, which was actually a 1.3% drop-off from the previous season.

Speaking of drop-offs in shooting, Garrett had his worst year from three in 2015-16. Billy fell from 32.7% his sophomore year to 27.7% last season. This was in the context of a team-wide drop-off in treys from 35.2% down to 34.3% on the year. The setback could have been from the transition to head coach Dave Leitao’s new offense. The returnees having a full year to learn and the young players being assimilated into the system right away may help the team, and Billy, get their outside shot back.

Big East coaches expect DePaul to finish dead last in the conference this season. Those same coaches are expecting great things out of Billy Garrett, Jr.. Garrett was named to the Preseason All-Big East Second Team, joining Isaac Copeland, Luke Fischer, Khadeen Carrington, and Angel Delgado.

His own coach also expects great things. Dave Leitao stated in a Media Day interview with A Lot of Sports Talk that given Billy’s many talents, he would look to expand his role on offense this season.

“Hopefully I can get him in a place on the court that gives him a little bit more success. And that’s just not team success, that’s individual. He’s obviously a very important part to our team, but he’s got a lot of versatility - as I mentioned before - that we need. So getting him off the ball, having him think more about being a scorer than he has before is something we’re going to try to do with him”.

Getting Garrett off the ball more is beneficial to DePaul. This would expand their offense, and give opponents another part of Billy’s game that they have to scout and defend. The addition of grad transfer Chris Harrison-Docks and the developments of Erten Gazi and Devin Gage will be key to helping facilitate Billy’s off-ball opportunities.

2016-17 is shaping up to be a big year for Billy Garrett, Jr.. He will still be a huge part of the offense, perhaps in new or additional ways. But in the context of eight new scholarship players - four freshmen, two eligible transfers, and two more in waiting - he will serve as a bridge between an era of struggle and one of rebuilding, potential growth, and a little hope.