In many ways, Anthony Myers-Pate doesn't fit the profile of a career backup.
Last season, the Robert Morris point guard averaged a little less than 24 minutes per game and made notable contributions for a team that won a regular-season conference championship. In the 2010-11 season, he set a program record for a freshman with 116 assists.
But from a perception standpoint, he is faced with the task this season of replacing Velton Jones, one of the most decorated players in program history.
While Myers-Pate has been a productive player for the Colonials for three years, he has had to take on a different role this season -- one in which he is the sole veteran presence at a position that is responsible for the team's larger offensive success.
"Ant has to settle in and understand what we need for him to do for this year's team," coach Andy Toole said of Myers-Pate. "There were times last year where he and Velton were on the floor a lot together. His freshman and sophomore year, they were on the floor a ton together.
"They're both good guards who can defend, who can make plays, who can get in gaps, who can make shots. Those are the kind of players you want on your team to win games."
The early returns on the transition presented some reason for concern. Few, if any, expected Myers-Pate to be the kind of scorer Jones was, but his statistics through the first four games of the season fell well short of his career numbers.
After a 87-49 loss to Kentucky last Sunday, Myers-Pate was averaging just 1.5 points and had missed nine of his first 13 shots (a .307 field-goal percentage).
Those shortcomings became more of a concern after promising freshman guard Kavon Stewart was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.
But in Thursday's victory against Texas Arlington, Myers-Pate had a breakout performance, posting season highs in points (10) and assists (9). He also made all six of his free-throw attempts in the final minute of play to help the Colonials fend off the Mavericks, a sign of a seasoned player who can be counted on in crucial situations.
"[Assistant coach Michael] Byrnes told me toward the end of the game 'It's your team now, it's the time where [Jones] would step up and take control of the game,' " Myers-Pate said. "He said I did a good job."
Even while he struggled to score, Myers-Pate was still effective in the most crucial aspect of being a point guard -- setting up scoring opportunities for teammates while limiting mistakes. After dishing out 16 assists to just seven turnovers in the team's first four games, he improved his assist-to-turnover ratio to 2.77-to-1 after the Colonials' most recent win.
Additionally, his assist rate -- an advanced metric that measures how many shots are made off assists while a certain player is on the court -- puts him among the top 130 players in Division I.
Even as his statistics improve, the transition to his new responsibility continues for Myers-Pate -- a process in which he matures into what he hopes will be an integral piece on a contending team.
"My job is to keep my team happy," he said. "That's why I'm out here, to keep everyone else happy and make sure everyone else is successful."
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.