Watching Bruno Skokna play for Loyola, you probably would not expect he was a freshman if you didn’t know better. The 6’4″ guard possesses some rough spots, but he plays with a poise and grit that emits a veteran vibe.
Skokna received his first career start in Wednesday’s 77-64 win against Wright State, his 10th college game. Coach Porter Moser put him on the floor as a result of matchups and injuries. 6’9″ Maurice Kirby junior had started the team’s first nine games, but Wright State’s small, perimeter-oriented lineup led Moser to keep him on the bench. 6’6″ wings Donte Ingram and Matt Chastain were both out with injuries, so Moser went extra small with the 6’4″ Skokna.
“It definitely felt great,” Skokna said on getting his first start. “I hope there will be plenty more in the future.”
The 19-year-old freshman delivered with 9 points — a career-high against Division I competition — along with 4 rebounds and a steal in 26 minutes. At times, Skokna also drew the difficult assignment of guarding Wright State leading scorer Mark Alstork, who entered the day averaging 21.6 points. Alstork finished the game with 13 points on 4-of-15 shooting and three turnovers.
Skokna looked loads more comfortable than in any other outing this season. He finished a pair of difficult drives at the rim with his left hand, shots he had missed a handful of to date.
“You can see he’s got a tremendous first step,” Moser said. “He’s quick, he’s strong. He’s just got to let the game come, get other guys involved up top and not try to just force everything. The last couple of games he’s looking more comfortable. He’s letting the game come to him, and he’s making some nice plays.”
With Ingram, the team’s top rebounder, out for the second straight game, Skokna has stepped in for 10 rebounds during his absence. Skokna said the entire team emphasized rebounding with Ingram out, but he admitted with a laugh that some of the success is simply good fortune.
“I’m just trying to hop in because everybody’s blocking out, and I’m the one who is probably guarding the fastest guy who’s going back [to play defense] so I don’t have to block out,” Skokna said. “And I just grab the boards, so it’s pretty easy. ”
While Skokna’s offensive rating through eight Division I games sits at a lowly 69.6, that number has steadily improved. He has posted 127, 99 and 111 offensive ratings in Loyola’s last three games. Skokna entered Loyola known for his outside shooting ability, and that is the part of the game where he has struggled most so far, shooting 20.8 percent from 3-point range.
“You guys haven’t even seen what Bruno can do,” junior guard Clayton Custer said after Wednesday’s game. “Bruno is an unbelievable player. He dominates some practices. He makes plays for other people, he’s a really good passer. He shoots the something out of the ball in practice. It’s going to be a matter of time before he’s out here just dominating. Today was a step in the right direction.”