Sykes has Rookie Season Among Program's Best

Courtesy: Green Bay Athletics
         
Release: March 22, 2012
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Sykes' 335 points were the most by a Phoenix freshman in 23 years.

By: Andrew Gavin (@GBGavin)
GreenBayPhoenix.com

GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Last March, GreenBayPhoenix.com highlighted the season of freshman Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.) after the big man scored the most points by a Phoenix freshman in 10 years. Now just a year later, another freshman deserves his season touted as one of the best rookie campaigns in Green Bay history after scoring more points as a freshman since Tony Bennett in 1988-89.

Freshman Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) arrived in Green Bay in June 2011 at 17. At the time, he was the nation's youngest player fighting for minutes. By the team's opener on Nov. 11, he was the Phoenix starting point guard. On Dec. 30, he turned 18 and began a stretch of basketball that drew the attention of many around the Horizon League.

In the final 17 games, Sykes led the Phoenix in scoring at 14.7 points per game while dishing out 4.8 assists and shooting 49.7 percent from the floor. The Chicagoan scored in double figures 15 times, including a stretch of 10 games in a row, and scored 20 or more points three times.

In the regular season finale against UIC in his hometown, Sykes led a Phoenix win by scoring a career-high 27 points and adding six assists, a performance that earned him co-Horizon Player of the Week honors.

Sykes was the league's top freshman, leading the conference with averages of 11.2 points, 3.4 assists and an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.5-to-1. In league play, Sykes was eighth among all players in scoring (13.8), third in assists (4.5) and tied for first in assist-to-TO ratio (2.0). He was named to the Horizon League All-Newcomer Team and was the runner-up for Newcomer of the Year honors.

The season that the young point guard compiled was among the best by a freshman in Green Bay's Division I history. Sykes' 335 points were the third-most by a freshman in the Division I era and the most since Bennett scored 516. His 101 assists were the third-most in school history by a freshman, behind only Bennett's 138 and Gary Grzesk's 118 in 1992-93.

The top-5 Performances from Sykes' freshman campaign:
5. Jan. 14 vs. Wright State: Sykes completed an improbable comeback from 17 points down by sinking two free throws with 3.0 seconds left to give Green Bay a 57-56 win at the Resch Center. He finished with 16 points.

4. Milwaukee (x2): Sykes showed he enjoyed playing against a rival, hitting 10 field goals and scoring 20 points at Milwaukee on Jan. 7 before going 10-of-14 from the field for 25 points against the Panthers at home on Feb. 4.

3. Feb. 14 vs. Youngstown State: The freshman was part of a historic double-double combination against Youngstown State, posting 17 points, 10 assists and zero turnovers in a win over YSU. Sykes' 10-assist game was the first by a Phoenix player since Rahmon Fletcher had 10 against Vermont on March 18, 2009 and the first 10-assist game in a Horizon League game by a Green Bay player since Feb. 3, 2007.

2. Jan. 28 vs. Butler: In leading Green Bay to a win over Butler on ESPNU, Sykes scored in three different jerseys during a game in which he left three times due to a collision. As he scored 16 points against Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year Ronald Nored, Sykes' "bloody good game" on a national stage brought a lot of attention. Watch highlights of the game. Watch Sykes score in all three jerseys.

1. Feb. 25 at UIC: Sykes saved his best game of the year for his homecoming, scoring 27 points against UIC in the Windy City as Green Bay swept a Chicago road weekend for the first time. He scored 14 points in the final eight minutes and also tallied six assists in the game. Watch highlights of the effort.

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