Tuesday, December 29, 2015

There's skill and body development but what about adding basketball IQ?

Why has the last couple of high school classes in northern California had so little impact at the D1 level thus far? Let's expand on that premise and attempt to offer some reasons.

Here's the group of freshmen (with apologies to anyone overlooked) in alphabetical order:

Paris Austin, Boise State
Noah Blackwell, Long Beach State
* Marquese Chriss, Washington
Armani Collins, Portland State
* Jesse Hunt, Eastern Washington
Matt O'Reilly, Lehigh
Josh Patton, Sacramento State
Ivan Rabb, California
* Colin Russell, Portland
Isaiah Thomas, Northern Arizona
Anthony Townes, Pacific
Jeff Wu, Sacramento State

First off, note the small number for Northern California and thus the difficulty in landing a D1 scholarship. Plus, just Austin, Blackwell, Chriss, Rabb, Townes and Wu are even on the court for 12-15 minutes a game or more although it should be noted that playing time averages are somewhat inflated due to early season scheduling of DII and NAIA opponents. Only three, Blackwell, Chriss and Rabb have provided truly impactful contributions thus far.

Even a number of the talents two years out of high school are struggling this season as a year earlier the signees were:

Jonathan Galloway, UC Irvine - Galloway redshirted in 2014-15 and now is playing 13 minutes a contest

A.J. John, Pepperdine - John is at 12 minutes an outing

Lake Lutes, Air Force - not seeing Lutes as having played this season

Cam Oliver, Nevada - Oliver is proving to be an exception

* Malik Pope, San Diego State - Pope is shooting 28% overall in 2015-16

Mason Stuteville, Sac State - Stuteville is playing 6.8 minutes a contest

Gabe Vincent, UC Santa Barbara - Vincent started right away last season as a frosh and also this one having advanced from 26 minutes per game to just under 34 now

* D.J. Wilson, Michigan - Wilson is averaging 8 minutes a game after a medical redshirt season

Temideyo Yussef, Long Beach State (injured, hasn't played this season)

To get on the court, young bodies must be built stronger, endurance extended, existing skills honed further and new ones developed, new roles accepted and possibly most importantly, the learning of how to defend at the college level is foremost. That's a plate stacked pretty high.

Is it that these two classes were just part of an overall down cycle of talent in Nor Cal? Or is this really the norm?

The answer is impossible to determine without a long term statistical analysis but there are other factors to consider.

* High school coaching is more and more built on a foundation of winning, or else. Sound familiar? That's also the longtime lament about spring and summer travel ball.

* With a prep focus on short term game-planning and preparation, just where does bettering a player fit here?

* Other elements are players having an over-inflated sense of their current ability and either not feeling the need to work all that hard or not fully understanding what hard work actually is. That, combined with a lack of awareness of what it involves in order to compete at the four-year college level, is becoming more and more of a roadblock. The guess here is that prep coaches could bring in Cuonzo Martin or Johnny Dawkins to talk about how difficult it is to become a solid contributor, let alone a mainstay, on a college team and the impact would still be minimal.

* This is impossible to quantify but what about the idea that talents today appear to have shorter attention spans so that only so much can be shown on the court and on tape in a session before an over-saturation, eyes-glazed-over level is reached?

* There certainly are plenty of skill trainers around even if the argument is made they vary in levels of aptitude and effectiveness. The opportunities to better shooting, passing, dribbling and rebounding skills are there for the taking with the appropriate selection.

* But who teaches how to defend, especially how to play college level defense? That is, how to guard your individual opponent plus when and how to rotate when the ball swings to the other side of the court, how to close out on a shooter, etc?

* Just as important though is who teaches basketball IQ, how to 'see' the game, what to look for and when? Does anyone? But would kids want to take part in such a skill building, especially if it involved viewing tape and not necessarily being out on the court to a large degree?

There's the old business saying "find a niche and fill it" and building better basketball IQs is a wide open opportunity. It would probably have to be incorporated alongside on-the-court hoop skills advancement in order to have any chance of being successful but it's a natural pairing.

So who is going to jump in and offer just that?

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