Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Guard" the Future!

Speaking of Joe Keller, the book "They Played their Hearts Out" describes his practice of crushing teams using a press defense he called the "Fist". The book details how his team would full court press teams and humiliate weaker guards. I see the same happenings in local basketball.

There is such a large gap in talent locally, blowouts occur often. This seems to be a local and a state practice; to pad stats by pressing weak guards. Here is the problem. The practice of getting cherry picking lay ups off of steals does not translate to the Division 1 level.

A few years ago, one of the best local teams went undefeated in pool play of AAU Nationals. Pool play included weaker teams that could be pressed into uncontested lay ups, just like some local high schools. However, as soon as this team reached the meat and potatoes of the event, bracket play, they were romped and sent home early. Bracket play included players that can play and coaches that could coach. Uncontested lay ups are hard to come by and half court basketball IQ was needed.

Anyone watching women's college basketball with an unobjective eye will see that pressing plays little part in the overall scheme of things, with most teams. Texas A&M is the obvious exception. With no 10 second back court count, breaking the press is relatively simple in most cases. Pressing serves a different role at that level. Speeding up game pace, preventing long shot clock possessions and causing the periodic turnovers are what the press accomplishes at that level.

I have a theory that will be unpopular and controversial but here it goes. Too many Texas high school and club teams play styles that do not translate to college! Again, many prominent Texas basketball players play in programs that fail to prepare them for the set driven offensive systems of college. Additionally, too many Texas coaches oversell their players in a quest to brag about producing BCS kids.

How many elite Texas guards are shining at elite levels today? Meighan Simmons and Odyssey Sims are the exception, not the rule. I had a major college coach tell me that he agreed with my opinion, but only in regards to wing players.

Wing players that do not posses an ability to knock down 3 point shots consistently struggle at the next level. Slashing against set defenses is pretty difficult at the elite level. A good portion of slashing wings dominate high school with coast to coast drives and steals in the open court. When these players get to college, they realize that they do not "own" a great skill, as this D1 coach phrased it.

(Side note: Baylor wings get more opportunities than most wings to play in the open court. Brittany Griner allows them to be more aggressive than most teams because of how many shots she blocks(changes) and her domination of the boards. Add a super quick PG, in Sims, and the Baylor wings have more opportunities to eat in the open court and pressure the ball.)

In a conversation with a club coach, she claimed that she has a player that is a BCS caliber kid. This kid has decent size for a guard but main attribute is athleticism. I asked, what position will she play at a BCS school? This coach responded via text, "She can play the one if she works on her handle. She can play the two if she works on her jump shot. She could play the three if she was two inches taller". OK!!!!! A lot of ifs for an upperclassman. She "owns" no skill that translates to the next level outside of being athletic. That is the problem! Too many coaches leave kids ill prepared for college and over sell them to programs that they can not thrive in.

It seems that too many college coaches are using the 15 scholarship cushion to stash athletic kids on the bench. Find a BCS roster that is heavy on Texas kids and you will find athletic kids riding the pine. Now this does not seem to apply to Texas Bigs. Griner, the Ogkumikes, Carolyn Davis, Kelsey Bone, Cokie Reed are just a few Texas Bigs that are playing prominent OFFENSIVE roles at the BCS level.

I am not bashing Texas kids, I father, coach and train kids in Texas. I am saying that WE must guard the future of our Guards.

Texas is on par with ANY state in terms of talent. Top 25 schools like Baylor, Texas A&M, Texas Tech have an overwhelmingly Texas roster. Time will tell if Texas guards and wings are being prepared to contribute OFFENSIVELY in college systems. A popular sentiment among former players is that the WNBA is political. It may be. It seems to favor set driven guards with high basketball IQ. If that is the case, we may want to start implementing set driven basketball skills and basketball IQ if we want our local guards to burn in college and have a chance in the league. The "Fist" philosophy of Joe Keller did not work with the boys and it is not apparently working for the betterment of our girls!