Defend, Run, Share. These are the three pillars of head coach Connor Johnson’s coaching philosophy. On Monday night, Military Appreciation Night in Delaware, the Blue Coats ran, defended at times, and shared at times against the Greensboro Swarm.

Just one day after the 76ers defeated the Swarm’s parent club from Charlotte, the Coats held on to defeat the Swarm behind excellent efforts from Xavier Munford, Marial Shayok, and Haywood Highsmith. 

Shayok continues to shine

The G-League is rife with athletic players who are transitioning from a larger role they enjoyed in college. Often you see players, outside of centers, who are trying to learn a new position as they move up in competition. Marial Shayok is an exception to that rule. As a senior for Iowa State, he was a first option offensively. So far, he has played exactly that role for the Blue Coats as well. He has scored 30 plus in back-to-back games to start the season and is shooting extremely efficiently as well. Shayok, a 6’5″ shooting guard, has a simple role on offense, get buckets.

More impressively, Shayok has just 6 turnovers to go with 75 points in the young season. Three of those turnovers came in a very shaky initial shift in the season opener. Shayok is a certified bucket-getter, and much of what he does should translate to the NBA level. In fact, Shayok hit a three pointer in the corner as time expired in the half to give the team a lead. Corner threes are a must for wing players hoping to contribute for the Philadelphia 76ers. It is early, but all indications are that Shayok is an excellent second round find.

“Mar’s (Shayok) a very talented offensive player…We have to find ways to use him effectively… make him more efficient. you can’t take them five dribbles to score… [He] is a talented shotmaker from all levels. I think that’s a skill that can translate very quickly.”  -Connor Johnson

Xavier Munford Settles In

The Blue Coats’ lack of depth at the point guard position has left Xavier Munford in a bit of an odd position. He is an elite scorer at this level, but ultimately the role of a point guard is to make others better. Munford was able to add 6 assists to 36 points on 9/18 shooting. He also added 2 steals and 6 rebounds for the team and was key down the stretch. Aside from a rough first half in the season opener, Munford has been very good offensively.

“Just taking what the defense is giving me.”  -Xavier Munford 

Highsmith Is Lone Bright Spot Defensively

Haywood Highsmith, in some ways, is the perfect counterpoint to Shayok. His defense is a lone bright spot on a Blue Coats team that has generally struggled to stay in front of their man and avoid penetration. Despite a roster stacked with rim protectors, the Swarm scored a significant number of their points at the rim. The Blue Coats’ big men, Norvel Pelle and Christ Koumadje, had as many fouls as blocked shots. 

Highsmith, however, was able to generate steals and transition offense for the Coats. As the game entered the second half, Highsmith began to dominate on both ends. He began initiating offense for the team on many possessions and was able to create good looks for his teammates. His activity on the glass and conditioning allowed him to continue to press, run, and find teammates as the game came down the stretch. 

Consistency is often what separates an NBA player from a G-Leaguer, and Haywood Highsmith has consistently been the security blanket for Connor Johnson. Just 14 months from a professional tryout, Highsmith has consistently improved game after game. He is quietly a dominant professional basketball player.


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